Gentle Black Giants: A History of Negro Leaguers in Japan, Now Available

Award-Winning, Baseball History Classic from Japan Now Available in English

FRESNO, Calif. (April 20, 2019) — The Nisei Baseball Research Project (NBRP), a non-profit dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of U.S.-Japan baseball relations, is pleased to announce the release of Gentle Black Giants: A History of Negro Leaguers in Japan.

Originally written in Japanese by award-winning baseball historian Kazuo Sayama in 1986, the classic book is now available to English readers for the first time ever through the NBRP Press, the publishing house of the NBRP. The new edition was made possible through a team of translators, editors and authors assembled by Bill Staples, Jr., baseball historian and NBRP board member.

Gentle Black Giants celebrates the legacy of the Philadelphia Royal Giants, a Negro League team that included future Hall of Famers Raleigh “Biz” Mackey, Andy Cooper, and Wilbur “Bullet Joe” Rogan, and all-stars Herbert “Rap” Dixon, Frank Duncan and Chet Brewer. 

Between 1927 and 1934, the Philadelphia Royal Giants embarked on several goodwill tours across the Pacific—to Japan, Korea, China, the Philippines and the Hawaiian Territories. As African-Americans, they were relegated to second-class citizenship in the U.S., but abroad they were treated like kings. Unlike the previous tours of major league stars who ridiculed their opponents through embarrassing defeats, the Royal Giants made the games competitive, dignified and enjoyable for opposing players.

In the newly translated edition, Sayama and Staples chronicle the tours of the Royal Giants and demonstrate that without the skills and humanity displayed by the Negro Leaguers, Japanese ballplayers might have become discouraged and lost their love for the game.  Instead, the experience of sharing the field with these “gentle, black giants” kept their spirits high and nurtured the seeds for professional baseball to flourish in Japan.

Baseball-industry insiders offer the following praise for Gentle Black Giants:
  • Gentle Black Giants is a pioneering book that vividly presents African-American ballplayers’ striking impact on Japanese baseball. — Kyoko Yoshida, baseball historian, Ritsumeikan University
  • Today’s MLB players are standing on the shoulders of the Nisei and Negro Leagues pioneers who transcended prejudice by playing the game in the U.S. and elevating the sport in Asia as pre-war goodwill baseball ambassadors. — Kerry Yo Nakagawa, founder, Nisei Baseball Research Project
  • Staples does an excellent job of presenting Kazuo Sayama’s Gentle Black Giants to English readers for the first time. Hopefully this project helps foster a greater appreciation for the global impact of the black athlete and their positive influence on the history of professional baseball.” — Raymond Doswell, Ed.D., Vice President/ Curator, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
  • Sayama and Staples have provided a window into that story and opened the door for more to be discovered. They make a compelling argument for the importance of Negro Leaguers in pushing for the formation of professional baseball in Japan. Every baseball researcher and fan should have this book on their shelves. — Leslie Heaphy, PhD, baseball historian, Kent State University, SABR Vice President
To purchase Gentle Black Giants: A History of Negro Leaguers in Japan, visit Amazon.com.

About the authors:

Kazuo Sayama is the author of over 40 books. He is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and the Sports Literature Society. He is the winner of the Ushio Nonfiction Award, Wakayama Prefecture Culture Award, Mizuno Sportswriter Award, Joseph Astman Award, and Tweed Webb Award.

Bill Staples, Jr. is a board member for both the NBRP and Japanese American Citizens League-AZ Chapter, SABR Asian Baseball Research Committee chair, researcher for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, SABR Research Award winner, and past speaker at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Howard Kenso Zenimura, the son of Japanese American baseball pioneer Kenichi Zenimura, graciously signed on to write the foreword to the book before his passing in November 2018. His father served as a catalyst in the Royal Giants’ first tour to Japan in 1927, whereas Kenso is recognized as one of the first Americans to play for the Hiroshima Carp of the Nippon Professional Baseball league.

Additionally, several historians whose areas of expertise include Negro Leagues and/or early Japanese baseball history also contributed to the book. The all-star lineup of contributing historians includes editor Gary Ashwill, and authors Bob Luke, Ralph M. Pearce, Dexter Thomas and Kyoko Yoshida.

Book cover: FRONT | BACK

About the Nisei Baseball Research Project:
The NBRP is a non-profit founded in 1996 by Kerry Yo Nakagawa to preserve the history and legacy of Japanese American baseball, which includes the building of baseball’s bridge to the Pacific between the U.S. and Asia. To learn more about the educational activities of the NBRP, visit niseibaseball.com.  

Contact:
Bill Staples, Jr.
602.614.0538
billstaplesjr(at)gmail(dot)com

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