The Father of Japanese American Baseball, Eddie Vedder and a Ukulele

The new biography of Kenichi Zenimura, the Father of Japanese American Baseball, officially launched on July 5, 2011.

The following day my wife and I traveled to Long Beach, CA, for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) annual conference where I was scheduled to present on Zenimura’s career against Negro League teams.

It turns out that the first day of the SABR conference was the same day of the Eddie Vedder concert at the Long Beach Terrace Theater. Vedder, the lead singer of Pearl Jam, was playing solo to promote his new album Ukulele Songs.

According to, “…Vedder has taken up one of the most useful creative tools available: limitation. It's embodied in a little finger-strummed thing (ukulele) that the Pearl Jam singer picked up during a beer run in Hawaii nearly 15 years ago…"

I really enjoyed the evening of Eddie’s Ukulele songs. And coincidentally, fictional baseball legend Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh from the movie Bull Durham, aka Tim Robbins, was at the show too (my bet is that we were the only SABR members at the show ;-).

As Vedder played the image of Kenichi Zenimura strumming his ukulele on page 21 of my new book came to mind. There was something about the way Vedder was holding the instrument that struck me as odd and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Until it hit me … Vedder is right handed and his instrument was pointing to my right; Zenimura is also right handed yet his instrument points to my left in the photo. “Uh oh,” I thought, “my Zenimura photo is accidentally flipped.”

The error occurred because I have in my possession a catalog of rare photo negatives from Zenimura’s later years in Hawaii (1916-1920) and I scanned the image. It didn’t dawn on me to double check if Zeni was holding the ukulele the proper direction.

The good news is that the publisher McFarland prints the book in small runs (batches of 150 to 200 copies) so they were able to correct the image on the second print run, which they have already.

So what this means is that those who buy one of the first 150 copies will be the owner of a rare collectable, a version of the Zeni bio featuring what I am calling the erroneous “Eddie Vedder ukulele” photo on page 21.

As of July 19 there were only 50 or so remaining … so make sure to order your special edition “Eddie Vedder ukulele” version of the Zeni bio today.

You can find some good deals online here.