"The Neighborhoods of Baseball" Symposium, Saturday, June 22, 2013, Los Angeles, CA

If you are in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 22, please join Kerry Yo Nakagawa and Bill Staples, Jr., of the Nisei Baseball Research Project at this special one-day event. It is free and open to the public.

DOWNLOAD: Bill Staples' Presentation (5MB, PDF)


The Baseball Reliquary, in conjunction with the Latino Baseball History Project and Plaza de la Raza, will sponsor a day-long symposium, "The Neighborhoods of Baseball," on Saturday, June 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  The symposium will include a variety of thematic panel discussions designed to document and interpret the role that amateur, semi-professional, and professional baseball has played in the history and development of the Mexican American, Japanese American, and African American communities of Southern California.

The symposium, which is open to the public and free of charge, will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Margo Albert Theater at Plaza de la Raza, 3540 N. Mission Road, Los Angeles, CA 90031.


Full Press Release:


Date & Times: Saturday, June 22, 2013, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Location: Plaza de la Raza, 3540 N. Mission Road, Los Angeles, CA 90031
Information: (626) 791-7647 or terymar@earthlink.net
Directions/Parking: (626) 993-4094

            The Baseball Reliquary, in conjunction with the Latino Baseball History Project and Plaza de la Raza, will sponsor a day-long symposium, “The Neighborhoods of Baseball,” on Saturday, June 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  The symposium will include a variety of thematic panel discussions designed to document and interpret the role that amateur, semi-professional, and professional baseball has played in the history and development of the Mexican American, Japanese American, and African American communities of Southern California.
            Organized by Baseball Reliquary Executive Director Terry Cannon, and Latino Baseball History Project advisers Tomas Benitez and Richard Santillan, “The Neighborhoods of Baseball” will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Margo Albert Theater at Plaza de la Raza, 3540 N. Mission Road, Los Angeles, CA 90031.  The symposium is open to the public and free of charge.  A box lunch will be available at nominal cost to all attendees.
            Three panel discussions will feature themes that have been explored over the years through programs, exhibitions, and books sponsored by the Latino Baseball History Project, but the symposium will offer a broader, cross-cultural perspective on how the Mexican American, Japanese American, and African American communities of Southern California were impacted by baseball; how their experiences differed and paralleled each other in the development of their communities and identities; how they engaged and interacted with each other through the lens of community baseball; and how baseball was a factor in defining identity (including gender issues and attitudes) and the process of Americanization.
            The three panel discussions will explore the impact of baseball in terms of “Community & Identity Building,” “The Players’ Perspective,” and “Labor Relations.”  Following the three panels will be a wrapup roundtable discussion looking at “Future Possibilities for Research.”  Panel/discussion moderators will be Jorge Iber, Professor of History and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Texas Tech University; Samuel O. Regalado, Professor of History, California State University, Stanislaus; Mark Ocegueda, PhD student in History, University of California, Irvine; and Richard Santillan, Professor Emeritus, Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.  As of this date, confirmed panelists/speakers include Cesar Caballero, Margaret Villa Cryan, Christopher Docter, Alice Gomez, Daryl Grigsby, Bob Lagunas, Susan Luevano, Kerry Yo Nakagawa, Al Padilla, Armando Perez, Bill Staples, Bobby Umemoto, and Sandra Uribe.  Additional panelists may be announced shortly.
            The festivities will begin at 9:00 a.m. with welcoming remarks from Cesar Caballero, Dean of the John M. Pfau Library at California State University, San Bernardino, home base for the Latino Baseball History Project.  Dean Caballero will be followed by Dr. Samuel O. Regalado, author of Viva Baseball! Latin Major Leaguers and Their Special Hunger and Nikkei Baseball: Japanese American Players from Immigration and Internment to the Major Leagues, who will deliver the symposium’s keynote address.
            Following the panels and roundtable discussion, the day’s festivities will conclude with a book signing between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., featuring several of the author/historians present.  Richard Santillan, co-author of all three Arcadia books published in conjunction with the Latino Baseball History Project – Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles, Mexican American Baseball in the Inland Empire, and Mexican American Baseball in Orange County – will sign copies along with his fellow authors.
            For additional information on “The Neighborhoods of Baseball” Symposium, please contact Terry Cannon, Executive Director of the Baseball Reliquary, by phone at (626) 791-7647 or by e-mail at terymar@earthlink.net.  For directions and parking information, contact Tomas Benitez by phone at (626) 993-4094.
            “The Neighborhoods of Baseball” Symposium is made possible with support from Cal Humanities, an independent non-profit state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  For more information, visit www.calhum.org.  The symposium is also made possible, in part, by a grant to the Baseball Reliquary from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.

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Bodhisattva at Bat: Baseball as Buddhist Practice for Kenichi Zenimura

I recently had the good fortune of presenting at a Buddhist conference comprised on both scholars and practitioners. Here's the official conference info:

The Pure Land in Buddhist Cultures: History, Image, Praxis, Thought (Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 2, 2013) at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The event served a dual purpose as The 3rd Annual Conference of the Buddhism and Contemporary Society Program and the 16th Biennial Conference of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies (IASBS).

And here's an abstract of my paper/presentation:

“Bodhisattva at Bat: Baseball as Buddhist Practice for Kenichi Zenimura”
Kenichi Zenimura (1900-1968) is recognized as “The Father of Japanese American Baseball” for his legacy as a player, manager and international ambassador. He was also a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist. During WWII he was among the 120,000 people of Japanese Ancestry sent to internment camps by the U.S. government. Behind barbed wire at Gila River, AZ, he constructed a ball field and organized leagues that gave his fellow internees a sense of hope and normalcy. In describing Coach Zeni one of his players said, “He indeed possessed a tremendous knowledge of baseball savvy, but above all, he wanted every player to become a better human being by realizing his responsibility and compassion for his fellow man.” For Zenimura, baseball was more than just a game – it was how he knew best to bring happiness into the lives of others, break down barriers to foster peace and understanding, and to minimize suffering in the world. This paper will reflect upon Zenimura’s career and demonstrate how he used the game of baseball as a vehicle for Buddhist practice.


I met a lot of wonderful people, many of whom asked where they could learn more and purchase the Zenimura book. With that, I'd like to offer a special price on the book for conference attendees.

Special Offer for 2013 Pure Land Conference Attendees
Special pricing and shipping for residents of U.S., Canada and Japan.
$23.99 USD + Shipping

And here's more information on the book for those conference attendees who did not get a chance to attend the session.

Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer
Bill Staples, Jr.
Foreword by Don Wakamatsu

McFarland, 2011
Print ISBN: 978-0-7864-6134-9
75 photos, appendices, notes, glossary, bibliography, index
282pp. softcover (7 x 10) 2011

About the Book
While the story of the Negro Leagues has been well documented, few baseball fans know about the Japanese American Nisei Leagues, or of their most influential figure, Kenichi Zenimura (1900-1968). A talented player who excelled at all nine positions, Zenimura was also a respected manager and would become the Japanese American community’s baseball ambassador. He worked tirelessly to promote the game at home and abroad, leading goodwill trips to Asia, helping to negotiate tours of Japan by Negro League All-Stars and Babe Ruth, and establishing a 32-team league behind the barbed wire of Arizona’s Gila River Internment Camp during World War II. This first biography of the "Father of Japanese-American Baseball" delivers a thorough and fascinating account of Zenimura’s life.

**Award Winner Winner, SABR Baseball Research Award**

About the Author
Bill Staples, Jr., is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), a board member of the Nisei Baseball Research Project, and a past speaker at the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He lives in Chandler, Arizona.

About McFarland
McFarland is a leading independent publisher of academic and nonfiction books. McFarland is especially known for covering topics of popular appeal in a serious and scholarly fashion, and for going to great lengths to manufacture our books to the highest standards and library specifications (both print  and ebook). Many of them have received awards as outstanding reference or academic titles. McFarland is recognized for serious works in a variety of fields, including pop culture, sports, military history and transportation, among other topics.

Once again, it was a pleasure meeting everyone at this fascinating and informative conference and I look forward to the next time we meet again. If you need to contact me for any reason, here's my info -- phone: 602-614-0538 or email billstaplesjr[at]gmail[dot]com. Thanks.

p.s. Don't forget to vote for Zenimura for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Buck O'Neil Award. 

p.p.s. Many people have asked where they can learn more about Japanese American Baseball. The following are excellent resources/materials.


Nisei Baseball Research Project

The Densho Project (archive of internment materials)

Children's Books

Baseball Saved Us

Barbed Wire Baseball

A Diamond in the Desert


Motion Picture

American Pastime


Diamonds in the rough: The legacy of Japanese American Baseball (DVD)

TV Asahi Japan (2011)

NHK Japan (2011)
(Archive: right column, 4th from bottom)
(Zenimura details)


Japanese Friendship Garden Lecture Series, Sunday, May 19

Download: Presentation (PDF, 4MB)

Event summary from the Japanese Friendship Garden:
America's favorite pastime is the topic of our last Garden Lecture of the season on Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. in the Garden. Author Bill Staples, Jr. performed a great deal of research into this chapter of Japanese-American baseball history. Join us as he presents information from his book, Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer. Bill's love of the game is obvious as he brings together two cultures and provides details of Japanese life during war-time incarceration. We look forward to seeing you!

Facebook event summary: https://www.facebook.com/events/560506900649444/

Video: Japanese Friendship Garden featured on Ch. 12

Book Signing at Sibley's West Downtown Chandler

Arizona Spring Training 2013
Book Signing @ Sibley's West
Friday March 22, 2013
6:30 pm to 8 pm

It's Spring Training so How About Some Baseball? Bill Staples Jr., award-winning baseball historian and the author of the book "Kenichi Zenimura: Japanese American Baseball Pioneer," will be signing books and meeting with baseball fans from 6:30-8 pm.

Sibley's West: The Chandler and Arizona Gift Shop
72 S. San Marcos Place
Chandler, AZ 85225

Video: Baseball Behind Barbed Wire at Zenimura Field

The 70th Anniversary celebration of Zenimura Field included three days of events: 1) The Oakland A's Tribute to Japanese American Baseball on March 7; 2) A presentation at the Huhugam Heritage Center at Gila River on March 8; and 3) A presentation at the Chandler Sunset Library on March 9. During the two presentations we share the news clip "Baseball Behind Barbed Wire" from KOLD TV13 (Tucson) that highlights a 1945 game that Kenichi Zenimura called "the most thrilling moment at Gila." Below is that news clip. Take some time to watch it. It is informative and inspiring.

And if you have not already, join your fellow Japanese American Baseball enthusiasts on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/niseibaseball. 

Video: Oakland A's Celebrate Zenimura Field 70th Anniversary

The Oakland A's Tribute to Japanese American Baseball on March 7, 2013 -- the 70th Anniversary of Zenimura Field at Gila River, AZ -- was a success.

According to the Oakland Tribune: The A's saluted the three remaining Japanese Americans who built Zenimura Field, a baseball facility at the Gila River Internment Camp that opened 70 years ago. The camp was about 40 miles south of Phoenix, and the three -- shortstop Masao Iriyama, second baseman Kenso Zenimura and pitcher Tets Furukawa -- all threw out first pitches.

Said A's reliever Hideki Okajima, "I was honored to be here to salute what they did." Shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima said he knew the history, and called the celebration "a very good thing."

Phoenix-based photographer George Nakamura was kind enough to create this photo-montage video of the game. The soundtrack features "The National Anthem" by Yuko Elliot and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" by Ken Koshio.

Two Public Events Scheduled to Commemorate Zenimura Field 70th Anniversary

This spring marks the 70th anniversary of when baseball behind barbed wire officially began in Arizona with the opening of the historic ball field at Gila River designed by "The Father of Japanese American Baseball," Kenichi Zenimura. To commemorate this anniversary, the Nisei Baseball Research Project has partnered with several organizations in Phoenix, including: The Oakland A's (spring training), the Gila River Indian Community, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) - Arizona Chapter, the City of Chandler Library and the Chandler Historical Society. The public is invited to participate in the following events:

Oakland A's Honor the Legacy of Japanese American Baseball
Thursday, March 7, 2013, 1 pm
Phoenix Municipal Stadium
5999 East Van Buren Street, Phoenix, AZ 85008 | Map Link

Event Summary | This spring training game between the Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners will honor the 70th Anniversary of Zenimura Field, marking the official start of baseball behind barbed wire at the Japanese American Internment Camp at Gila River, AZ. The game will feature a special national anthem and a first-pitch ceremony with former Gila River ballplayers Kenso Zenimura, Tets Furukawa and Masao Iriyama. The game will also feature Japanese American baseball trivia, contests and promotional giveaways. The Nisei Baseball Research Project, the non-profit founded to preserve the history of Japanese American baseball, will also offer an informational display.

To order tickets, visit http://www.OaklandAthletics.com/Spring
Note: Use promotional code JA70 to receive a $4 discount.

From Internment to Hope: Arizona Celebrates Japanese American Baseball
Saturday, March 9, 2013, 10:30 to noon
Chandler Sunset Library
4930 W. Ray Road, Chandler, AZ, 85226 | Map Link

Event Summary | Chandler’s Sunset Library will host a free presentation from 10:30 a.m. to noon on March 9, 2013, that will share first-hand accounts of an important time in Arizona history that combines the topics of war, politics, race relations, and sports. “From Internment to Hope: Arizona Celebrates Japanese American Baseball” will honor the legacy of Japanese American baseball and its connection to the State's history during World War II, when more than 13,000 Japanese Americans were confined at the Gila River Internment Camp, located south of Chandler.

Baseball historian, author, and Chandler Parks Board member Bill Staples will share the story of baseball at Gila River, and he will be joined by three former ballplayers in the camp – Kenso Zenimura, Tets Furukawa, and Masao Iriyama. These pioneers will share their perspective on camp life and how the game of baseball helped break down barriers between the internees and surrounding community, and created a sense of hope for those behind the barbed wire.

Learn more >>

Oakland A's Honor the Legacy of Japanese American Baseball - March 7, 2013

The Oakland A’s and the Nisei Baseball Research Project
Honor the Legacy of Japanese American Baseball
Thursday, March 7, 2013, 1 pm
Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Phoenix, AZ


March 7, 2013 marks the 70th Anniversary of the opening of the historic Zenimura Field and the official start of organized baseball played behind barbed wire at the Gila River Japanese American Internment Camp in Arizona during WWII.

The Oakland A’s have a long history of supporting the Japanese American community, and their game date and location marks the closest MLB site to the historic ball field, located approximately 40 miles south of Phoenix.
To receive $4 off Lower Box or Outfield Reserve
Please visit www.oaklandathletics.com/spring
Enter coupon code JA70 for the March 7 game
Bill Staples, Jr.
Board member, Nisei Baseball Research Project
Chairman, SABR Asian Baseball Committee

Visit the Nisei Baseball Research Project at the 2013 Matsuri Festival

The Nisei Baseball Research Project will have a booth at the Matsuri Festival, Sat. & Sun., Feb 23-24, 2013, in Phoenix, AZ. Booth highlights include sales of the award-winning biography "Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer" and an opportunity to enter a raffle to win an autographed Kenso Zenimura baseball (no purchase required).