Saturday, October 22, 2016

2016 Clinton-Trump Edition: Does the World Series Winner Predict the Outcome of the Presidential Election?

2016 Clinton-Trump Edition: Does the World Series Winner Predict the Outcome of the Presidential Election?

by Bill Staples, Jr.

Author's note: Back by popular demand, this is an update to my blog post published during the 2012 election

Question: Is there a correlation between the winner of the World Series and the outcome of the Presidential Election?

Answer: It's not definitive, but more often than not, when the National League wins the World Series, a Democrat wins the Presidential Election; when the American League wins, a Republican wins the Presidential Election.

Let's look at the data:

TABLE: World Series Winners and Presidential Election Winners, 1908-2016
YearWorld Series WinnerLeaguePresidential Election WinnerPolitical PartyAL=Rep. NL=Dem. Correlation
2016 PredictionCUBS WIN!NLClintonDemYes

2016 Scenarios: If the Cubs and Clinton both win in 2016, then of the 28 elections held between 1908 and 2016, there will have been a correlation (AL = Rep.; NL = Dem.) between the World Series winner and the Presidential Election 60.7% of the time (17 for 28).  If the Indians and Clinton win in 2016, then the percentage drops to 57.1% (16 for 28).  (Note: Experts say Clinton has a 91% chance of winning the election.)

BTW, the first World Series held during an election year was back in 1908, when the Cubs last won it all. Republican William Howard Taft won the election, but its worth pointing out that the Republican party of 1908 is nothing like the Republican Party of 2016. In 1908, the Republican Party platform still reflected the values set forth by of the "Party of Lincoln". Taft also ran as a continuation of popular two-term (1901-1909) President Theodore Roosevelt, who was also a "Lincoln" Republican.

In my original blog post, I stated that the World Series-Presidential Election coincidence could be explained by the simple laws of probability (and coin flipping).

Some people would like to think that National Pastime is somehow connected to the pulse of the Presidential Election. But most likely it’s not.

I would say that once we reach 70% then someone might be able to argue that the winner of the World Series IS a strong predictor of the presidential election.

Hopefully we will have a decisive answer -- and winner -- by Wednesday, November 9, 2016.


About the author

Bill Staples, Jr., is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) in Arizona, chairman of the of the SABR Asian Baseball Committee, board member of the Nisei Baseball Research Project, and a past speaker at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He received the 2011 SABR Baseball Research Award for his book: Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer (McFarland, 2011). Learn more at

Monday, January 18, 2016

Matsumoto & Zenimura: U.S.-Japan Baseball Ambassadors

Matsumoto & Zenimura: U.S.-Japan Baseball Ambassadors

PHOTO: Takizo "Frank" Matsumoto (left) and Kenichi Zenimura (right), Japan, 1924.

On January 18, 2016, the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame announced five new membersMasaki Saito and Kimiyasu Kudo, a pair of former MVP hurlers, and Kihachi Enomoto, Masatake Yamanaka, and Takizo Matsumoto

For those with an interest in Japanese American baseball history, Takizo Matsumoto is a noteworthy and fascinating selection. 

Matsumoto was born in Japan but moved to the U.S. as a toddler and was raised in Fresno, CA. There he changed his name to "Frank" and went by the last name "Narushima" after his mother remarried. Frank Narushima was a multi-sport athlete at Fresno High School who excelled at both baseball, football and track. In 1919 he co-founded the Fresno Athletic Club, which would later become one of the most successful Nikkei teams on the west coast. In 1920, Kenichi Zenimura moved from Hawaii to Fresno, and there he and Narushima/Matsumoto developed a life-long friendship and, mutually-beneficial relationship that would help each other operate as successful ambassadors between the U.S. and Japan. 

Back in 2007 the Nisei Baseball Research Project submitted a proposal to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame nominating Kenichi Zenimura for enshrinement. In that proposal the NBRP not only focused on Zenimura's accomplishments, it highlighted the importance of Narushima/Matsumoto as well. The recent addition of Matsumoto to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame is a great honor for this important and overlooked figure in U.S.-Japan baseball history.  Matsumoto's enshrinement is a sign of hope that his counterpart in the U.S., Kenichi Zenimura, who also served quietly behind the scenes as an ambassador between two baseball-loving nations, will someday receive the same honor.

Below is a timeline of Matsumoto and Zenimura's lives, highlighting their individual paths and intersecting collaboration. In addition to sources from Kerry Yo Nakagawa with the NBRP, Professor Kyoko Yoshida of Keio University contributed research to the timeline as well (see KY NOTE).

Takizo Matsumoto (1901-1958), a.k.a. Takezo Matsumoto, Frank Matsumoto, Frank Narushima.

Kenichi Zenimura (1900-1968), a.k.a. Kenichiro Zenimura, Jacob Zenimura, Ken Zenimura, Zeni.


Kenichi Zenimura born in Hiroshima, Japan. In 1907 he moved to Hawaii with his family.

Takizo Matsumoto born in Japan.  When he was a toddler his family moved to Fresno, California and shortly after their arrival Matusmoto’s father passed away. His widowed mother, Kiyo Matsumoto, remarried restaurant owner Hichiza Narushima, a man 14 years her senior.[1] Afterwards, young Takizo took on both an American first name and his step-father’s surname to become Frank Narushima.

In Honolulu, Zenimura became a diminutive (five feet tall, 105 lbs) star infielder and catcher with the champion Mills High School squad and the semi-pro Honolulu Asahi.

In the states, Narushima became a star athlete at Fresno High School (FHS), excelling in football (halfback and end), baseball (outfielder) and track (sprinter). 

Along with FHS teammate Al Sako and pitcher Ben Shintaku, Narushima forms the Fresno Athletic Club Japanese American baseball team, sponsored by the local athletic club of the same name.

In April 1920 Zenimura moved to the U.S. and joined the F.A.C. He was originally on his way to play ball in Iowa when his cousin Katsuo “Jimmy” Hirokawa, also an F.A.C. team member, encouraged him to stay in Fresno with the team.

Narushima and Zenimura are F.A.C. teammates for the 1920 season.

Narushima attends the California Institute of Technology for two years.

Zenimura travels back to Hiroshima to coach the Koryo High School baseball team. On this squad is his cousin, Tatsumi Zenimura. After one season, Zeni returns to the states.

(KY NOTE: Narushima entered Koryo High School of Hiroshima when 22. Joined their baseball 
club. His club mates include Tatsumi Zenimura.)

Narushima decides to move back to Japan to learn how to speak his native tongue with plans on returning to the U.S. in two years.  His plans change.  At the end of two years (1924) he becomes proficient enough in Japanese and enters Meiji University. Once established in Japan, he changes his name back to Matsumoto.

While in Honolulu returning from Japan, Zenimura forms the All-Hawaiian All-Stars and barnstorms the Western U.S. He encourages several members of the team to stay in Fresno and join the F.A.C.

Zenimura and the F.A.C. tour Japan; Zenimura and Matsumoto reconnect in Japan when the F.A.C. plays the Meiji squad.

Nisei club San Jose Asahi, led by team captain Russ Hinaga, tours Japan. Upon their return San Jose player “Duke” Sera extends an offer on behalf of Waseda University of $15,000 to Babe Ruth to tour Japan.

Tatsumi Zenimura, Kenichi’s younger cousin, joins the Meiji nine; Matsumoto is the team manager (see 1929)

Zenimura and the F.A.C. tour Japan for the second time; joining them is the Philadelphia Royal Giants (PRG), an all-star Negro League squad led by Biz Mackey and Andy Cooper. Zenimura’s business relationship with PRG manager Lon Goodwin dates back to 1925.

Zenimura plays in exhibition game with Ruth and Gehrig in Fresno on October 29 (PHOTO)
Narushima and Meiji come to the US for tour; while in Fresno, Meiji and F.A.C. combine squads and take on to defeat a local semi-pro team.  This appears to be the first-ever Nisei and Japanese University combo lineup.[2] (PHOTO: Matsumoto /Narushima front row, far left, in hat.)

(KY NOTE: At Meiji, he was a "manager," but this in Japanese means a student assistant to coaches and the real manager. It sounds that he wasn't a player but kept involved with the sports throughout. In 1929,  the Meiji team toured around the world.)

Matsumoto graduates from Meiji and joins the faculty teaching English and economics.

MLB Tour, Gehrig to Japan; no record of Matsumoto’s involvement of this tour, however later articles (see 1947) suggests he might have played a role as a translator for the visiting U.S. squad.

(KY NOTE: When O'Doul came in 1931, he (Matsumoto) was the translator. Moe Berg encouraged and helped him to go study at Harvard's business school in 1937. When he was back, he became a professor (later a board member) of Meiji Univ.)

Zenimura said, “I got a call from Japan to see if I could get Ruth to go to the island and play for a $40,000 guarantee. I contacted Ruth and he said he would go for $60,000. It was too much but a few years later he went and made a big hit.”[3]

Kenso “Howard” Zenimura, son of Kenichi, verifies that Frank was one of his father’s key contacts in Japan (the other being Nobuo Fujita, Big Six University pioneer). Kenso said, “Any time my dad went to Japan, or Narushima came to the U.S., the two of them would always get together.”[4]

The Philadelphia Royal Giants make a second tour to Japan; Mackey, Cooper and manager Goodwin return. Japanese historian Kazuo Sayama credits the ’27 and ’32 tours as important inspiration for the start of professional baseball in Japan.

Matsumoto gains the distinction of being the first person to introduce American football to Japan. On Thanksgiving 1934, a crowd of 36,000 people saw their first gridiron game in Japan between a team from the universities and a team of American and British players from the Yokohoma Athletic Club. [5]

(KY NOTE: He was also involved with many sports. He is actually an enshrinee of  the Japanese "American Football Hall of Fame." He was involved with the early college American football in Japan. You can see his photograph at: Japan's American Football Hall of Fame (class of 2004)

MLB Tour, Ruth and Gehrig to Japan; photos feature Matsumoto and Gehrig together in playful poses as though they are familiar friends (suggesting Matsumoto might have had a role in the ’31 Tour). (PHOTOS below)


Note: These photos appeared in the fall 2007 Sotheby’s auction catalog; description reads “Gehrig with Japanese official.” Zenimura’s son Kenso immediately identified Matsumoto with Gehrig when he saw the photo.

Newspaper publisher Matsutaro Shoriki is stabbed by a fanatic member of the “Warlike Gods Society” for being disloyal to Japan by sponsoring Ruth’s recent barnstorming tour.[6]

Matsumoto is named the leader of the Japanese Olympic Games Committee in preparation for the 1940 games in Tokyo. He traveled to Berlin (site of the 1936 games) and Los Angeles (1932 games) to study the operations of the games.

Matsumoto is named president of the World’s International Baseball Federation, comprised of 16 nations and Hawaii. Other board members include Steere Noda, founder of the Honolulu Asahi. “Leslie Mann of Miami, FL accepted invitation to his team to Japan next summer (1937). Similar invitations will be extended to the Hawaiians for a Japanese-American-Hawaiian series. Many nations are planning to send teams to the Panama sports carnival in 1938.” [7] 

Zenimura makes his third and final goodwill tour to Japan. He returns inspired by the promise of the 1940 Olympic Games and begins making plans for a return trip to Tokyo. He books sixty rooms in a Tokyo hotel and plans on bringing a team (or teams) back to tour in 1940. [8]

Matsumoto receives his MBA from Harvard.

(KY Note: Moe Berg encouraged and helped him to go study at Harvard's business school in 1937.)

Matsumoto is being groomed for the next Japanese ambassador to the U.S. when the war developed.[9]

Escalating war between Japan and China cancels 1940 Olympics in Tokyo.

Matsumoto becomes representative to the diet from the Hiroshima District.

(KY NOTE: After the war, he represented Hiroshima. In fifties, he played important diplomatic roles in a few cabinets (1952, 54, 57). It sounds that he had some conflicts with the top figures of the Japanese professional baseball. He was instrumental in resuming baseball games in Japan along with Cappy Harada.)

As a member of the House of Representatives, Matsumoto pitched a few innings against the House of Councilors in Tokyo. The House wins, 22 to 3.  The article also states: “… the former Fresnan (Matsumoto) was a close friend of Lefty O’Doul, San Francisco Seal manager; Connie Mack, manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, and the later Lou Gehrig. He served as interpreter for American baseball teams on tour of Japan.”

Zenimura negotiates contracts for his two sons Kenso and Kenshi to play for the inaugural Hiroshima Carp.

Hiroshima Carp team photo features Kenshi Zenimura and a man who closely resembles Matsumoto. (PHOTO) Q: Did Matsumoto have a role with the Carp?

Photo: 1954 Hiroshima Carp, Kenshi “Harvey” Zenimura and Matsumoto spotlight from image featured above.

Matsumoto visits U.S. as executive director of the Japanese Olympic Association; “visits many Japanese and American friends in Fresno for the first time since 1951 …” Later says, “Sure I know Harvey Zenimura and Fibber Hirayama, who doesn’t? They’re almost national heroes in Hiroshima. Each has his fan clubs. So do most of the baseball stars of Japan these days.”[10]

Matsumoto is Deputy Chief Secretary of the Japanese Diet; slated to be named Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines.[11]

Matsumoto joins Japan’s Premier Nobuske Kishi in four-day visit to America to improve relations between Japan and U.S. Serving as the Premier’s interpreter, Matsumoto plays in a golf foursome with President Eisenhower and Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut (father of U.S President G.H.W. Bush (Prez 41), and grandfather of G.W. Bush (Prez 43). Matsumoto also meets with Dulles and MacArthur, among others.[12]

November 1, Matsumoto dies of a liver ailment at age 57.[13]

November 13, Zenimura dies as the result of a car accident at age 68.


BILL STAPLES JR. of Chandler, Arizona is a baseball historian with a passion for researching and telling the untold stories of the “international pastime.” His areas of interests include Nisei and Negro Leagues history. He is a Board Member of the Nisei Baseball Research Project (NBRP; Fresno, CA), a non-profit organization founded to preserve the history of Japanese-American baseball history and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

[1] 1920 U.S. Census, Narushima Family, Fresno, California
[2] Sciots take beating at hands of All-Star Japanese Club, 10-3, Fresno Bee, April 15, 1929
[3] Zeni Recalls, Fresno Bee, May 20, 1962
[4] Interview with Kenso Zenimura, February 23, 2008
[5] Ex-Fresnan to Land High Post in Japan’s 1940 Games’ Program, Fresno Bee, November 20, 1936
[6] Overseas: Some Crank; New York Times, February 24, 1935, pg. E1
[7] 16 NATIONS FORM BASEBALL GROUP, New York Times, Aug 9, 1936, pg. S2
[8] Sport Thinks by Ed Orman, Japanese Baseball Playing Improves Greatly, Fresno Bee, August 11, 1937
[9] Sport Thinks by Ed Orman, About Matsumoto, Fresno Bee, October 29, 1947
[10] Former Fresno Japanese says 800,000 fans see Prep Baseball Playoffs, Fresno Bee, September 9, 1954
[11] FHS Graduate of 1920 May be Named Japanese Envoy, Fresno Bee, May 29, 1956
[12] Eisenhower takes Kishi out for Golf, New York Times, June 20, 1957
[13] Rites Pending for Ex-Fresnan, Fresno Bee, November 2, 1958

Friday, April 17, 2015

70th Anniversary: Butte High Edges Tucson Nine in 10th - April 18, 1945

Gila tops Tucson,
Unforgettable baseball,
Seventy years past.

-- Tets Furukawa, April 18, 2015

On Wednesday, April 18, 1945, the Tucson High baseball team traveled over 80 miles to Rivers, Arizona (a.k.a. the Gila River Relocation Center) to play Butte High. Coach Kenichi Zenimura and the Eagles knew the game against the reigning state champions was a special opportunity to prove to themselves and others just how good of a team they really were.

The Tucson Badgers were a strong team full of talent. Their line-up included Lowell Bailey, who in 1944 became just the fourth pitcher in U.S. high school history to finish a season with a perfect 0.00 ERA. Third-baseman Lee Carey won the first-ever "Louisville Slugger" trophy awarded by the Hillerich and Bradsby Company for leading American Legion national competition as the top batter in 1945. Carey and teammates Joe Tully and Bailey would eventually go on to play professional ball. Tucson was also graced with the leadership of legendary coach, Hanley “Hank” Slagle. Between 1942 and 1954, Slagle led the Badgers to a 52-game wining streak and 10 State Championships, more titles than any coach in Arizona high school baseball history.

The Butte High squad was a skilled and disciplined team as well, and fortune was with them on April 18, 1945. The Eagles won the exciting contest on a full-count, bases-loaded, two-out single down the third-base line hit by Zenimura’s son, Kenshi. Years later, Coach Zenimura called the game, "one of the most thrilling chapters in the history of Butte (Gila River) baseball.”

The Eagles win over the Badgers was an important and symbolic victory for all Japanese-American’s held behind barbed wire at Gila River. Perhaps more important than the outcome, the actions displayed and words shared afterwards demonstrated that there was no animosity at all between the two head coaches or their players. After the game both teams dined together, shared watermelon, and engaged in a cross-cultural exchange as the Tucson players were taught the finer points of sumo wrestling.

According to written correspondence between Slagle and Zenimura, the two attempted to schedule a rematch. Unfortunately, members of the Tucson community and school district were opposed the idea, citing the Japanese-American players as a potential security threat when leaving the Internment camp. Despite the fact that Internment teams in Arizona had previously received permission to travel as far as Montana and Colorado to play baseball, a second game in Tucson was denied.

Although the rematch on the field never happen, the highly competitive contest that did occur between the Badgers and Eagles has come to represent all that is good about the game of baseball. Time and time again we see how baseball transcends the barriers created by language, race, religion, and politics. 

In a nation deeply divided by world war, this single baseball game was a significant, and much needed, gesture of American brotherhood and goodwill.

On and off the field, during and after the game, the conduct of the coaches and players demonstrated graciousness in winning and losing, and a healthy respect for others. In essence, this ballgame – and all those involved in it – embodied the true definition of sportsmanship.

With that, the Tucson High vs. Butte High game that occurred during World War II on a Japanese-American Internment Camp is an important moment in baseball, Arizona and U.S. history – one that should not be forgotten.


1945 Butte High Eagles

1945 Tucson High Badgers



Butte High Edges Tucson Nine in 10th
Zenimura Comes Through to Upset State Champs

Desert Sentinel
Monday, April 23, 1945
by Ken Zenimura
Sports Section, Page 3

Playing an errorless defensive game, the undefeated Butte High Eagles, coached by Ken Zenimura, blasted a terrific rally in the last of the tenth frame to inflict upon the state champs from Tucson High their first defeat in three years in a ten inning thrill-packed baseball game on the 28 ball field by the narrow margin of 11-10 last Wednesday afternoon.

A Thrilling Finish
What the several thousand spectators witnessed in that decisive inning will be long remembered as one of the most thrilling chapters in the history of Butte baseball.  It was in the last of the 10th frame, the score was at a 10-10 standstill, two outs, bases loaded, and the count three and two, Kenshi Zenimura singles sharply to left field, scoring Shosan Shimasaki for the deciding run.

In accomplishing the above feat, the Eagles came from behind three times in the second, sixth, and eighth innings before tying the score at 10-10 which continued throughout the ninth and tenth.

Close-up on the 10th
Then came the decisive inning.  Lowell Bailey who hurled masterfully for Tucson was replaced by relief chucker Joe Tully.  Lead off Shimasaki drew a base on balls and Osada followed, reaching first safely on a fielder’s choice. As Hasegawa was grounding out, the runners advanced to second and third.  All runners held base as Katakoka flied out to right.  Nishino was given an intentional walk filling the bases. Then Zenimura came to bat and Tully delivered three consecutive balls followed by two consecutive strikes.  With all runners advancing, Zenimura came through to annex another victory for Butte High.

Receiving excellent support, Tets Furukawa, though touched for 19 safeties on his mound debut, took his fifth straight victory.

Fukai and Ushiro hit 3 for 5 apiece for the Eagles while Lopez, Carey, and Weinstein did likewise for the visitors.

Box Score


Tucson High

Butte High


Friday, February 27, 2015

Shunzo Takaki, 2B/OF, University of Pennsylvania, 1907

Shunzo Takaki
Positions: Second base, Outfield
Bats: Unknown, Throws: Right
Height: 5' 7", Weight: 160 lb.

Born: January 1, 1883, Tokyo, Japan
Schools: Hitotsubashi University (formerly known as Tokyo Higher Commercial School); University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
Degree: BS in Economics (1908)
Other Sports: Tennis, Gymnastics, Football
Occupation: Executive, Mitsui & Co (1908 to 1919)
Died: January 29, 1919, New York, NY (age 36)


Shunzo Takaki was a multi-talented student athlete who earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) in three short years while lettering in multiple sports: tennis, gymnastics, football and baseball.  

As both a second baseman and outfielder for the Penn varsity ball club in 1907, Takaki is believed to be the first person of Japanese ancestry to play baseball for a mainland U.S. college. For years, Goro Mikami was commonly recognized as the first collegiate player when he suited up for Knox College (IL) in 1913. We now know that this was six years after Takaki’s letter-winning season at Penn. 

It's also worth noting that for many years Mikami was recognized as the first person of Japanese ancestry to play professionally in the U.S. with the All-Nations team of 1915. He no longer holds this distinction either, as baseball historians now recognize the barnstorming Guy Green's Japanese ball club of 1906, some nine years before Mikami, as the first professional players of Japanese ancestry in the U.S.

1907 Quaker Baseball Team. Photo from the Collections of the University of Pennsylvania Archives.

The son of Japanese naval physician Baron Kanehiro Takaki, 21-year old Shunzo arrived in the U.S. in 1904 to attend the World’s Fair in St. Louis and to represent his home country in an exhibition tennis tournament.

He impressed the locals with his tennis play and was invited to compete in a state-wide tournament. In 1905 Takaki enrolled in Penn where he achieved immediate success in social circles and as an athlete in tennis, gymnastics and as an infielder with the freshman baseball team.

In September 1905 he was invited to try out for the Penn football squad as a 5’ 7”, 160 lb defensive end. He experienced a season-ending injury by breaking his ankle during a practice, and was eventually forced to give up his gridiron dreams when he was diagnosed with an enlarged heart in 1906.

In the spring of 1907 he made the varsity baseball team and got off to a fast start offensively (scarce box scores suggest he batted over .300), and contributing solidly on defense at second base and the outfield. 

Unfortunately, “the grim face of misfortune” turned its eyes yet again on Takaki. In a game against Niagara University (Lewiston, NY) on April 17, 1907, Takaki successfully stole second base but broke his hand after it was stepped on by the opposing shortstop. After a few months on the disabled list he returned to the lineup and helped the club finish the season with an 18-15 (.545) record. It appears that despite the injuries, Takaki contributed enough to earn a varsity letter for the season.

After graduation in 1908 Takaki joined Mitsui & Co. in New York as an assistant manager overseeing the trade of raw silk between the U.S. and Japan. On October 9, 1909, he married Tatsuo Mitsui, a young woman whose father was the head of the mining division of Mitsui & Co. The press reported that had a net-worth of over one million dollars (a value over $26 million in 2015).

Over the next decade both his professional and personal life flourished. His leadership role with Mitsui & Co. expanded to include importing rubber, chemicals and business development in the emerging aviation industry. 

On January 1, 1919, Shunzo celebrated his 36th birthday, entered his 10th year of marriage, and was enjoying life as the father of four beautiful children. Twenty-seven days later it would all come to an end.

According to reports Takaki was struck by a Fifth Avenue bus on Riverside Drive Tuesday (Jan 28) and died Wednesday (Jan 29) in St. Luke's Hospital. Some local papers questioned the nature of the accident and initially reported his death as a suicide. Officials quickly addressed the misinformation in the press:

Police Blotter Entry Says Death Was Accidental
“An entry in the police blotter as the West 125th Street Police Station records the death (of Shunzo Takaki) as accidental ... Assistant Superintendent J.C. Gardner denied he had reported the death as a suicide to Medical Examiner Holman, as stated in some evening papers."
-- Source: The Evening World, January 31, 1919, pg. 16

As expected, the community expressed their sadness with the passing of their friend and colleague. Industry publications such as The Paint, Oil and Chemical Review; The India Rubber World; and The Annual Report of the Silk Association of America, honored Takaki by posting his obituary and personal reflections in the spring of 1919. One sentiment common in all tributes included his love for sports and passion for building a cultural bridge between the two countries he loved:

“Shunzo Takaki always took an active part in athletics in this country as well as in Japan, especially in tennis and baseball ... (He) was loved by his friends for his hearty support in business, social and international affairs, and especially it was his desire to create equal friendly relations between Japan and the United States."



Research Note:
A special thanks to Nisei baseball pioneer Tets Furukawa and baseball artist and historian Gary Cieradkowski for (indirectly) introducing me to Shunzo Takaki. In a recent post to his blog The Infinite Card Set, Cieradkowski asked a thought-provoking question about Shumza Sugimoto, an outfielder from Japan who, according to articles from the spring of 1905, participated in a tryout for the New York Giants. He asked, “Did Shumza Sugimoto even exist in the first place?” Gary says “no” (read why).

I think Sugimoto did exist. Despite our different perspectives, I think Gary’s question is very important, and helped me gain a better insight into the mysterious ballplayer whose true identity I believe was “lost in translation”.

In my opinion, Shumza Sugimoto was a real person, but I don’t think that his first name was “Shumza.”  Instead, I think that the name “Shumza” is a misinterpretation of Sugimoto’s true first name, either Shunzo or Shinzo. Here's why.

In a conversation with Tets Furukawa (a fine historian in his own right), I asked, “In your opinion, if the first name ‘Shumza’ was a mistranslation of a Japanese first name, what do you think is the correct first name?” Tets responded, “Shumza doesn’t sound like a real name in Japanese … and if it was a real name it would be a woman’s because it’s feminine, ending with the letter ‘a’.”

Tets then shared this insight, “You know, it reminds me of someone I once knew whose first name was Shunzo.” He added that both Shunzo and Shinzo are more common names for males and, that in his opinion, this most likely was the name of the mysterious Sugimoto of 1905.

Inspired by Gary’s question, and armed with Tets’ personal insight, I hit the newspaper archives and searched for “Shunzo AND baseball” … and was immediately introduced to the multi-talented athlete and college baseball pioneer, Shunzo Takaki.

Research can be a funny thing. Sometime in our efforts to learn more about a certain topic, we get introduced to (and sidetracked by) fascinating individuals and interesting anecdotes. At first they appear to be distractions, but I think if you stay open to the creative possibilities, they just might provide some insight into your primary research effort.

Such is the case with Shunzo Takaki. His story not only introduces us to a fascinating human being who might very well be the first person of Japanese ancestry to compete with a U.S. college baseball team, I believe he brings us one step closer to confirming the identity of the ballplayer who impressed John McGraw in the spring of 1905, quite possibly named Shunzo Sugimoto.