Orlowitz: ‘Gentle Black Giants’: Diplomacy, sport, and Japan’s early love for baseball

From Dan Orlowitz at the Japan Times on June 29, 2019, with SABR member Bill Staples Jr.:

In a sport with as much history, tradition and documentation as baseball, rare is the opportunity that followers of the game are presented with something truly unknown.

“Gentle Black Giants” offers such an occasion, pulling back the curtain to reveal a little-known chapter of Japanese baseball’s early years and the impact that a collection of Negro Leagues players had on its development and eventual professionalization.

Co-author Bill Staples Jr.’s passion for Japanese American baseball relations emerged through researching his own book on Kenichi Zenimura, the player and manager regarded as the father of Japanese American baseball. Zenimura was known not only for arranging Japan tours in the 1920s and ’30s, but for organizing a baseball league for interned Japanese Americans at the Gila River War Relocation Center during World War II.

“Three years after September 11, I felt that a lot of the stories and themes I was seeing (were along the lines of), ‘if they look like the enemy, they are the enemy.’ I sensed that my country was moving in the wrong direction and we were about to repeat history,” says Staples. “I wanted to dive in and really understand the Japanese American internment experience and to see what lessons I could learn from it for myself and for my community.”

Read the full article here: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2019/06/29/books/diplomacy-sport-japans-early-love-baseball/#.XSUZQnt7mlM

Originally published: July 9, 2019. Last Updated: July 9, 2019.