JANUARY 14, 2021 — Kazuo Sayama, a prolific baseball historian and SABR member, was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Katsuji Kawashima, who managed Japan’s national team to a silver medal during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Sayama, who joined SABR in 1983, is the author of numerous articles and dozens of acclaimed books on Japanese baseball history, including Gentle Black Giants: A History of Negro Leaguers in Japan (1986); The Mystery of “Jap Mikado”: First Japanese in American Professional Baseball (1996); and An Inside History of US-Japan Baseball (2005). He also appeared in a 2006 PBS documentary film about Japan’s iconic Koshien high school baseball tournament.
Gentle Black Giants was translated into English and re-published in 2019 by Bill Staples Jr., chair of SABR’s Asian Baseball Committee. Sayama traveled more than 6,000 miles to attend the 1983 SABR convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he met Negro Leagues historian John Holway and began his pioneering research into the Philadelphia Royal Giants’ tours of Japan between 1927 and 1934. Sayama later contributed an article, “‘Their Throws Were Like Arrows’: How a Black Team Spurred Pro Ball in Japan,” for SABR’s Baseball Research Journal in 1987.
“Baseball is all about timing, and Sayama was indeed the right man in the right place at the right time to capture this story. He interviewed several Japanese players who remembered vividly and fondly their games against the visiting Negro Leaguers,” Staples said.
Originally published: January 15, 2021. Last Updated: January 15, 2021.