SABR member’s Japanese-American baseball project wins Arizona state award

From Weldon B. Johnson at the Arizona Republic on August 27, 2013, on SABR member Bill Staples Jr.:

A project with the goal of telling the story of Japanese-American baseball is being recognized by the Arizona Parks & Recreation Association next week.

During an Oakland A’s spring-training game last March, the Nisei Baseball Research Project commemorated the Japanese-American baseball league at the Gila River Internment Camp during World War II. That ceremony, which included three surviving players, was chosen Best Cultural Program by the parks association. The award will be presented at the association’s annual awards banquet Thursday.

Author and baseball historian Bill Staples, a Chandler resident, helped organize the commemoration. Staples also heads the Society for American Baseball Research’s Asian baseball-research committee and is a member of Chandler’s Parks and Recreation Board.

“From what they told me, it’s the first time a group other than a city group has won (the award),” Staples said. “We look at it as another opportunity to keep the story alive and let people know about what we did and honor the Japaneses-Americans and their baseball.”

More than 13,000 Japanese-Americans were held at the camp just south of Chandler during World War II. Baseball was one of the ways some people there coped with the confinement.

Three players from that league, Tets Furukawa, Masao Iriyama and Kenso “Howard” Zenimura, were honored at an Oakland A’s spring game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The ceremony made news in Japan.

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Related link: To learn more about the SABR Asian Baseball Research Committee, click here

Originally published: August 27, 2013. Last Updated: August 27, 2013.