I was honored to host the JACL National webinar “Play Ball: The Japanese American Experience and the National Pastime” on May 7, with panelists Kerry Yo Nakagawa of the Nisei Baseball Research Project (NBRP), Don Wakamatsu, the first Asian American manager in MLB history, and Brandon Zenimura, educator and great-grandson of Kenichi Zenimura, “The Father of Japanese American Baseball.” Our goal was to EDUCATE (about JA baseball history), CELEBRATE (accomplishments of JAs in the game), and ADVOCATE (for more opportunities for Asian Americans in the baseball overall).
I’d like to share two things:
1) The link to the webinar video archive is available on jaclaz.org
2) The following is a list of ways we ADVOCATE the powers of baseball (MLB and the Hall of Fame) to celebrate JA history and increase Asian Americans inclusion in baseball.
Throwback Jersey Games – Over the past decade we have submitted requests to teams and league officials asking for Japanese American heritage games where each team wears a throwback jersey of a pre-war team. These requests have been dismissed.
Civil Rights Game – In 2012, the NBRP asked MLB to expand the scope of the Civil Rights Game and honor the roughly 120,000 people of Japanese Ancestry who were unjustly incarcerated by the U.S. government during WWII. MLB and Commissioner Selig denied the request.
Honorary MLB Draft – In 2015, MLB held an honorary draft to honor Negro Leaguers. The NBRP asked for the same to done for Nikkei pioneers. That request was ignored.
MLB Official History Advisory Council – NBRP recommends a shift from a one-person role of “Official Historian” to a more inclusive and democratic approach with the creation of the MLB Official History Advisory Council, comprised of five (5) members each representing important and overlooked aspects of the game’s history; Negro Leagues Baseball, Latino Baseball, Asian American Baseball, Women in Baseball, and one seat At-large.
U.S.-Japan 150th Anniversary Patch – 2022 marks the 150th anniversary of U.S.-Japan baseball relations (1872- 2022). We proposed that MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) coordinate and in an act of goodwill and solidarity both wear the same patch on team uniforms.
Rename the Cy Young Award — MLB’s annual award for the top pitchers of the game is named after a known racist, xenophobe, and white supremacist. His anti Japanese and anti-Black views are well documented. Learn more at: www.zenimura.com
Permanent exhibit in the HOF – Since the early 2000s, the Nisei Baseball Research Project (NBRP) has asked the National Baseball Hall of Fame to honor ALL Asian Americans with a PERMANENT exhibit with the proposed theme of “Baseball’s Bridge to the Pacific: Asian Americans and the National Pastime.” As of today, no progress has been made on this request.
Inclusion in the Classic Baseball Era – Baseball pioneers who impacted the game prior to integration are considered for nomination in the HOF’s Classic Baseball Era Committee. As of today, only MLB and Negro Leagues players are eligible for consideration. We proposed that the criteria to be changed to accept all “historically marginalized players, teams, leagues and pioneer.” A rule change will allow for a nomination of Kenichi Zenimura to be accepted.
To learn more, visit my blog at zenimura.com or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.