Japanese American Monument at Gila River

On Sunday Nov. 6, 2011, my son Josh and I helped clean up the Japanese American Monument at the Gila River Indian Community.

Organized by JACL leader Ted Namba, over 30 volunteers made the 20+ mile trip to Gila to help paint the monument and pick up trash. In addition to the community service efforts, the morning included talks and presentations by Mas Inoshita, Arizona Japanese American patriarch; Ken Koshio, Taiko Drummer; and myself.

Below are some photos taken by OASIS magazine publisher George Nakamura and video I shot of Ken Koshio on the taiko drums.

It was an honor to help take care of the Japanese American monument that was constructed almost 70 years ago. Below is an excerpt from the Gila News-Courier in 1943 that details the construction of the monument. Most likely the photo depicts what the structure looked like on December 28, 1943, without the wooden boards that listed the 400 names of the Japanese American soldiers from Gila River.

December 1943 also saw considerable progress on the construction of the Rivers Honor Roll monument being built by the U.S. servicemen’s parents and relatives associations. According to Kenji Arima, advisor for the monument, the project was almost half-way done by the end of 1943. “The hardest part of the job will be the construction of the name plate which will contain more than 400 names when completed,” stated Arima. Relatives of servicemen were asked to help build the monument.

Source: “Monument Half Finished,” Gila News-Courier, December 28, 1943, pg. 4

Arizona Major League Alumni (AZMLA) Awards Dinner, 2011

On Friday Nov. 4, I attended the Arizona Major League Alumni Awards Dinner. There I saw Roland Hemond receive the AZMLA Lifetime Achievement Award, and also had the pleasure of meeting female umpire Perry Lee Barber. Barber has experience officiating in Japan and is also colleagues with Kazuo Sayama, Japanese baseball historian who I referenced in my book for the 1927 tour to Japan of Zenimura's Fresno Athletic Club and Lon Goodwin's Philadelphia Royal Giants.

Photo: Roland Hemond and Perry Lee Barber
Photo: Me and Perry Lee Barber

Here's what the SABR press had to say about the event:


SABR Member Roland Hemond Receives AZMLA Lifetime Achievement Award

Friday Nov ,4 2011 -- In recognition of his decades-long effort to support those in need, Roland Hemond received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arizona Major League Alumni during the third annual AZMLA awards dinner on Friday night in Tempe, Arizona.

"Roland is one of the most respected men in baseball," said Arizona Fall League director Steve Cobb, who presented the award to Hemond. "He has earned that respect, I believe, by helping others succeed and helping those who have fallen on hard times."

Earlier this year, Hemond became the second recipient of the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.

Laurel Prieb, a member of the SABR Advisory Board, delivered the keynote speech at Friday's dinner, which was part of the weekend festivities during the SABR Arizona Fall League Conference. He recounted the exciting end of the regular season and postseason in Major League Baseball, and said the offseason is becoming just as much fun.

Attendees also took in the "Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience", an exhibit at the Arizona Historical Society Museum in Tempe that puts Arizona’s rich spring training history on display. SABR member Bill Staples Jr. was on hand to sign copies of his book, Kenichi Zenimura: Japanese American Baseball Pioneer, and passing out baseball cards of the World War II internment camp survivor.


CA Tour Recap: Kenso Zenimura & "Fibber" Hirayama

Photo: Left to right: Kenso Zenimura, me, Fibber Hirayama, October 9, 2011, Clovis, CA

The people of Central California were great. Everywhere we went my family and I were treated well. In addition to seeing familiar friends like Kenso Zenimura and Kerry Yo Nakagawa, I was able to meet Satoshi "Fibber" Hirayama for the first time. Fibber is awesome, so kind, so gracious and great with the kids (Josh and Ali) too. Fibber was an all-star outfielder with the Hiroshima Carp during the 1950s. According to him, his career in Japan was made possible by Kenichi Zenimura:

“(Coach) Zenimura was a constant student of the game. He always looked for the little details. He would beat you with speed, bunt, double steal. It was a very fast and aggressive style of baseball. He was the best at teaching those principles. His sons were already stars with the Hiroshima Carp, so I went to join them soon after. The reason I was able to go to Japan and have a great career was because of Mr. Zenimura’s faith in me.” - Satoshi "Fibber" Hirayama