The Negro Leagues Are Major Leagues. The Nikkei Leagues Are ...

Montage Image: Background - Fresno Athletic Club Japanese American all-stars with Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth; Overlay: Negro Leaguers who competed against Japanese American baseball teams.
... Still Ignored.

On December 16, 2020, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that it was formally recognizing seven Negro Leagues as major leagues and adopting the statistics of the more than 3,400 players in those leagues from 1920 to 1948 into the official record. This is great news as the recognition for Negro Leagues baseball is long overdue. 

What most baseball fans don't know is that many of the Negro Leaguers now considered major league caliber players, also competed head-to-head against the Nikkei (Japanese American) Leagues. 

Here's a brief list of Major Negro Leagues players (featured in the above image) who competed against Nikkei Leagues teams:  

And below is a list of the known games between the Nikkei League teams and major-league caliber players. 

7/2/1923Fresno, CAFresno Athletic ClubOakland Pierce GiantsHarold Yellowhorse Morris11-7Fresno Athletic Club
9/6/1925Los Angeles, CAFresno Athletic ClubLos Angeles White SoxRobert Fagen, O'Neal Pullen, Joe Cade5-4Fresno Athletic Club
7/4/1926Fresno, CAFresno All StarsLos Angeles White SoxRobert Fagen, O'Neal Pullen, Jesse Walker9-4Fresno All-Stars
7/5/1926Fresno, CAFresno All StarsLos Angeles White SoxRobert Fagen, O'Neal Pullen, Jesse Walker4-3Fresno All-Stars
4/15/1927Tokyo, JapanFresno Athletic ClubPhiladelphia Royal GiantsRobert Fagen, O'Neal Pullen, Jesse Walker, Biz Mackey, Andy Cooper, Rap Dixon Frank Duncan9-1Royal Giants
10/29/1927Fresno, CALarrupin' Lou'sBustin' BabesBabe Ruth, Lou Gehrig13-3Larrupin Lou's
4/27/1928Fresno, CAFresno Athletic ClubHilldale Royal GiantsFrank Warfield, Bill Holland, Pud Flournoy, Jesse Hubbard, George Carr, Tom Dixon12-7Royal Giants

In that last game, Nikkei star outfielder/pitcher Johnny Nakagawa (above photo, far left next to Lou Gehrig) recorded a 5-for-5 day at the plate, with two triples and three singles against major league pitchers Bill Holland and Pud Flournoy. 

Nikkei baseball historians are often asked if men like Johnny Nakagawa, Kenichi Zenimura, Fred Ishikawa and Harvey Iwata (all the players featured in the photo with Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth) could have competed in the majors.

With the MLB announcement that 3,400 Negro Leagues players are now considered major-league caliber players, I think the evidence suggests that the answer is "Yes".

That said, I don't think all Japanese American ballplayers should be considered major-league caliber. But the same could be said for many of the pre-integration white major leaguers who by today's standards most likely would not have made it past the minor leagues.

The enduring legacy of Japanese American baseball is not reflected in the results of an old box score but in the inclusion of Asian players on major league rosters today.

Japanese Americans played a major role in building "Baseball's Bridge Across the Pacific" which opened the doors for players from all of Asia -- not just from Japan -- to compete in North America. 

And it is for this legacy that Nikkei baseball pioneers like Steere Noda (Honolulu, HI), Frank Fukuda (Seattle, WA), Kenichi Zenimura (Fresno, CA), and Cappy Harada (Santa Maria, CA) -- each of them U.S. citizens -- deserve to be recognized in the National Baseball Hall of Fame for their efforts as international baseball ambassadors.

The most appropriate avenue for honoring these individuals is through the National Baseball Hall of Fame Classic Baseball Era Committee which recognizes Pre-1980 players, managers and pioneers. Unfortunately, as the rules stand today (in 2024) Japanese Americans are not eligible for inclusion in the National Baseball Hall of Fame -- only those associated with MLB and the Negro Leagues are eligible. 

The Classic Baseball Era committee will meet in December 2024 to determine who will be enshrined in 2025. 

That same month, sports writers will get the opportunity to cast a vote for Ichiro Suzuki, his first year on the ballot. Barring any unforeseen events, Ichiro will become the first player born in Japan to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. 

So, perhaps it's fitting that 2024 also marks the 100th anniversary of the 1924 Immigration Act (aka The Johnson-Reed Act) that banned immigration from Asia entirely (a policy revised in 1952).

Had Ichiro been born 70 years earlier (1904 vs. 1974), he would have been banned from signing a contract to play professional baseball in the U.S. (such was the case for several members of the Dai Nippon Giants in 1935).

The decades-long anti-Asian sentiment that led up to the passing of the 1924 Immigration Act is the same mindset that prevented Asian Americans from having the opportunity to compete in MLB -- and the same dynamics that led them to form their own leagues and compete against Negro Leaguers.

Unfortunately, the ripple effects of the past are still felt today. We saw it in the scapegoating that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the rise in anti-Asian hate, and in the policies created by those designated as the keepers of our nation's baseball history. 

During his lifetime, Kenichi Zenimura used the game of baseball to fight bigotry and break down barriers. I suspect that his legacy will continue to do the same and eventually persuade the National Baseball Hall of Fame to modify the eligibility criteria for the Classic Baseball Era to include all people of historically marginalized baseball communities -- Negro Leaguers, Asian Americans, Latinos, Women, and religious minorities. 

But, sadly, that day is not today. 


Montage image credit: Background - Fresno Athletic Club Japanese American all-stars with Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, original photo Nisei Baseball Research Project, colorized version They Played in Color; Overlay: Negro Leaguers who competed against Japanese American baseball teams from

A History of Baseball in India, 1874-1947

by Bill Staples, Jr.

"If there was more baseball played in other countries, this world would be a better place to live." - Takizo “Frank” Matsumoto (1902-1958), International Baseball Ambassador


The original intent of this article was to focus exclusively on baseball in India; however, due to the complex geopolitical history of the area, the research touched on places that technically fall under the broader scope of the “Indian subcontinent” and “South Asia.” Not all South Asian countries are part of the Indian Subcontinent. For example, technically Afghanistan is not part of the Indian Subcontinent, but it is considered “South Asia,” along with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Thus, in the end, this article covers the history of baseball in South Asia and people of South Asian ancestry involved in the game, with the central focus placed on India.


The seeds for baseball in South Asia were first planted in 1874. Through the efforts of colonists in India from England, the United States, and Japan, community, commercial, and military teams were formed in the early 20th century, and games were later played through international and multi-ethnic league competitions well into the 1930s. Factors such as famine, poverty, political unrest, and war prevented baseball from being widely adopted by Indian nationals. Instead, British sports such as cricket, tennis, field hockey, and football (soccer) prevailed as the preferred sporting activities in India. Some historians suggest that the draw to cricket for the people of India was, in a way, an act of rebellion against British rule, as participating in cricket provided an opportunity for "the oppressed to beat the oppressors at their own game."1

The escalating military conflict between China and Japan in the 1930s, coupled with the global economic depression, brought about the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment in India, and by the early 1940s, virtually all Japanese evacuated the country. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the few Japanese civilians who remained in India were incarcerated by the government. After the U.S. entered WWII, the American military arrived, and the segregated Caucasian and African American troops brought the game of baseball with them – each declaring that they were the "first to introduce baseball to India."

In 1947, India gained its independence from Great Britain, and decades later efforts to establish a baseball presence were renewed, leading to the formation of the Amateur Baseball Federation of India (ABFI) in 1983, the governing body for baseball in the country. In 2023, Major League Baseball (MLB) declared India to be an "exciting growth market" and has made it a priority to establish a permanent brand presence in the country.

Between the efforts of the ABFI and MLB, the future of baseball in India looks promising. However, now that we have a better understanding and appreciation for the game’s richer and more complex history in South Asia, one can't help but think that this hidden international baseball legacy creates a potential future for India as a destination for teams, players, and fans from all over the globe.



At various times throughout the 1940s, U.S.-based newspapers reported that the game of baseball was “just introduced” to India by some pioneering American presence. On Sunday, November 1, 1942, a game was played in Calcutta between African American soldiers and local policemen. The press declared the contest “the first ball game ever played in this country.” The article below: 

Image: “Baseball in India,” The Record American, Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, Nov 2, 1942, 2.

Nine months later, Lieutenant Frank Wright of Florida organized a baseball game while stationed in India. At the time, Wright also told reporters that this contest was “the first-ever played in this part of the world…”

Image: “Baseball in India,” The Greenville News. Greenville, South Carolina, Aug 25, 1943, 9.

In fairness to members of both the U.S. media and military, baseball did appear to be non-existent in India at the time, so perhaps this gave the impression that it was never previously introduced. However, little did they know that the game existed in India roughly 70 years before WWII. In fact, baseball was played on Indian soil for decades by ballplayers from multiple nations, including Japan, Britain, the United States – and Indian nationals. 

With that, below is a timeline of baseball in India (and South Asia), including noteworthy social, economic, and political events that impacted and/or influenced its presence. The majority of the information was sourced from ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Times of India (1861-2010), and The Japan Times Digital Archive (1865-2017). It should be noted that this list is not exhaustive – it simply provides snapshots of the presence of baseball in India and is intended to serve as a springboard for future research of South Asian Baseball by other historians and baseball aficionados. 



1737 - In the book, "A Compendious History of the Indian Wars," by Clement Downing, British soldiers stopped on Indian shores at the Gulf of Cambay and played cricket for recreation. (Note: historically known as the Gulf of Cambay, the Gulf of Khambhat is on the Arabian Sea coast of India, bordering the state of Gujarat just north of Mumbai and Diu Island.)

1858 - The Government of India Act resulted in the founding of British India, ruled directly by the Crown. 

1858 - Western powers, led by the U.S. and England, demand access to Japanese ports and markets, which results in Japan signing its first Treaty of Amity and Commerce and opening the ports to foreign traders. Japanese raw silks, teas, handloom textiles, paper, copper, coal and iron are exported, while Chinese, U.S. and Indian cotton yarn, mill-made cloth, woolens and other manufactures are imported to Japan.

1871 - British students in Nagpur, India, play cricket and rounders (an English predecessor to baseball) during holiday break.2

1871 - British Navy makes a stop in Calcutta and plays rounders.3

1872 - Japanese acrobats known as the Yeddo Royal Troupe play exhibition baseball in the U.S. against major leaguers in Washington, D.C. in July. They declare their intent to take the game back to Japan.

U.S. school teacher Horace Wilson introduces baseball to his students in Japan in the Fall.

1874 - Major League teams from Boston and Philadelphia introduce the game of baseball to England in August. Exhibition games are played on cricket ovals.4


In December 1874, S. Rose & Company, a London-based company, opened a location on 10 Medows Street in Bombay. Perhaps inspired by the recent goodwill baseball tour of England,  among the many items offered in their store catalog is “The American Game, Base-Ball,” comprised of “Polished Pine-wood box, containing four polished Base-ball clubs, two Base-ball balls, four Bags (which are filled with sawdust or sand) to form the four bases, four pegs, and the Base-ball manual, with the rules of the Game, and numerous illustrations. Complete, R28.”5

Image: ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Times of India (1861-2010), December 1874.

This item remained in the store catalog for several years and was also sold in Calcutta, suggesting there was a demand for the item in India.6


1875 - Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (1841-1910), tours India on an extensive eight-month tour starting in September. He endears himself to the locals for treating all people the same, regardless of their social status or color. In letters home, he complains of the treatment of the native Indians by the British officials: “Because a man has a black face and a different religion from our own, there is no reason why he should be treated as a brute.”7

Image: Albert, Prince of Wales, touring India, WikiCommons, colorized by the author via

1876 - At the end of the tour, Queen Victoria was given the official title Empress of India by Parliament.

1876-1878 - Famine kills an estimated 10.5 million people across India.

1884 - Baseball rules are modified to allow overhand pitching.  Per the original “Knickerbocker Rules,” previously the ball had to be thrown underhand like “pitching” horseshoes. 

1888 - Henry Hubert (H.H.) Swanston (born in Afghanistan in 1844) is a respected business leader in Galveston, Texas, who passes as African American and founded the Texas Colored Baseball League in 1888.8 He is also the manager of the Galveston Flyaways, the all-black team of that city. Upon his death in 1904, it is revealed that he is a relative of the Amir of Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman Khan.9 (Note: Swanston is a noteworthy figure, as his presence marks one of the earliest records of a person of South Asian ancestry involved in the game of baseball.)

1888-1889 - Albert Goodwill Spalding embarks on a world baseball tour with the Chicago White Sox and an All-American squad. India is listed on promotional collateral as a destination (see below) but the team does not play there during their five-month (November to March) tour. 


1889 - Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, declares that although baseball is enjoyable, it is inferior to cricket.10

1890 - At a meeting of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society on September 26, 1890, Jivanji Jamsehdji Modi delivers a paper titled, "The Game of Ball-Bat (Chowgan-gui) among the Ancient Persians, as described in the Epic of Firdousi." Modi explains that a game of "ball-bat, though not like that of cricket, was known to their ancestors, the ancient Persians." The game existed before the Sasanian period (224–651 CE) and the earlier Kayanian Dynasty.11

1890 - The foundation stone for the Sir Dinshaw Manckjee Petit Gymnasium on the Esplanade is laid, and plans for the gym to include baseball instruction.12

1890 - British soldiers based in India are unimpressed with efforts to introduce baseball in that country and explain why cricket and other British sports are preferred.13

Source:  "A Discouraging Opinion," The Sporting Life, December 27, 1890, page 1. 

1891 - Canadian Mission College, located in Indore in central India,  promotes the physical development of the students through "a trained instructor with the gymnasium, tennis court, cricket and baseball field ..."14

1893 - Mr. Riesuke Furugori leaves Japan for India to head the Bombay branch of Mitsui Bussan Kaisha (MBK), one of the largest importers/exporters headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.15

Source: Classified Ad 7 -- No Title The Times of India (1861-2010); Oct 5, 1899; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Times of India, 2.

1896-1897 - Famine kills an estimated 16 million people across India. 

1899 - The “American Pastime” continues to be promoted in Bombay by English export companies like Thacker & Co., Limited. The store carries “The Whitaker of Sport” which details the rules and instructions of many games, including baseball.16

1899-1900 - Famine kills an estimated 10 million people across India.

1905 - Cricket continues to be the sport of choice for India, as the average worker has little time for recreational play and little money for games that require new equipment. Furthermore, cricket is positioned as a sport of class and dignity, making it an aspirational activity for the masses.17

 Image: Students at the boy's school at Caunpore (now called Kanpur) play cricket, 1900-1910, colorized by the author via UMC Digital Galleries, General Commission on Archives and History of The United Methodist Church.

1906 - The British Baseball Association was founded in London.18

1906 - Prince Kamyarsinjhi, of Hyderabad, India, who has been touring America as part of a traveling circus, invites Charlie Murphy of the Chicago Nationals to bring an All-American team of 25 baseball players to India in the fall. The prince "has become an enthusiastic fan and avers that the game will become a prime favorite in his country where, owing to the great heat of the day, a short snappy game in the cool of the evening would draw tens of thousands from the millions of Hindoos of all classes and castes."19

1909 - The University of Washington baseball team tours Japan. Among their ten competitors was the Yokohama Cricket and Athletic Club, a multinational baseball team composed of "Chinese, Japanese, Kanakas (Hawaiians), a Hindu, an Englishman and one Yankee."20

1909 - Garry Herrmann, president of the Cincinnati Reds and chairman of the three-man National Commission that ruled major league baseball from 1903 to 1920, tells reporters, “In Asia we have Japan, the Philippines and Hong Kong … there is also some baseball in India, I understand but I have never heard directly from there.”21

1910 - The Mitsui Bussan Kaisha (MBK) company forms a baseball team in Tokyo, Japan, establishing a trend for the creation of company baseball teams in all of their MBK branch locations, including Bombay.22

Image: Early baseball in Japan (1900-1910), colorized by the author via UMC Digital Galleries, General Commission on Archives and History of The United Methodist Church.

1910 - U.S.S. Petral defeats U.S.S. Wheeling 7-4, during a brief stop in Bombay, India, on Sept. 9. At the time of this publication, this is the first known record of a game played in India.23

Image: Bombay Gymkhana, site of one of the earliest baseball games in India, where the U.S.S. Petrel team defeated the U.S.S. Wheeling club, 7-4, in 1910. Photo 

Note: According to 1910 U.S. Census Records, the winning pitcher was 23-year-old Charles August McDevitt, who completed a Census record on May 30, 1910, in California, as a member of the USS Petrel crew. McDevitt was born in Moore County, Texas in 1886 and died in Alameda, CA in 1966.24

Photo: U.S.S. Petrel baseball team (circa 1909-1916), Louisa Alger Collection, Naval Historical Foundation, colorized by the author via 

1912 - American soldiers and college students form a three-league team in Allahabad (present-day Prayagraj). The full article: 

According to the November number of Young Men of India, the game of American baseball continues to grow in popularity in Allahabad. The Men of the Central Branch of the Association, who belong to the "Royal Scots," have organized a team. They hope to interest other soldiers in the game. The league now includes three teams, and at least one match each week is played. The greatest difficulty is to find pitchers. To pitch a baseball requires much greater speed and skill than to bowl a cricket ball. The pitcher on the Christian College team is able to throw "curves," making it difficult for the other teams to hit the ball. If any other Associations are interested in this game, Mr. E.M. Moffatt of the Allahabad Association will be pleased to explain the rules of the game and the kind of equipment necessary.25

Image: Baseball action depicted in the British publication “First Impressions of Baseball,” The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, April 26, 1913, 371.

1913 - Sikh railroad workers from India are labeled "Hindu baseball fans" by the press when they take an interest in the national pastime as spectators in Marysville, CA, during the spring training practice of the Sacramento Sacts of the Pacific Coast League.26

1914 - The YMCA established a presence in Calcutta where they promote American sports like basketball, volleyball and baseball with the goal of helping to eliminate the caste system in India.27

1915 - The first box score featuring Japanese and English baseball teams competing in Bombay is recorded. The Bombay Gymkhana club defeated the Mitsui Bussan Kaisha (MBK) company team, 20-6, on Sunday, October 17, 1915. The lineups for both clubs are featured.28

Note: The inclusion of ballplayers of Japanese ancestry competing on the grounds of the Bombay Gymkhana in 1915 is noteworthy, as the policy only allowed for cricketers of European ancestry to play on the oval. Indian locals were allowed to work as servants at the facility. 

1916 - Vancouver, Canada, boasts the only Indian baseball player in North America in Ikball Singh, third baseman for the Dunbar Heights high school baseball team. The native of India knocked two home runs in a game, including one in the 9th inning with his team behind 11 to 10. His 3-run homer helped his team defeat the Point Grey school team, 13-11.29

Note: Iqbal Singh Hundal (b. 1902) left India for Canada in 1911 with his family, and spent two years living in the Hong Kong Sikh Temple awaiting immigration clearance, eventually arriving in Canada in 1913. After high school, Iqbal earned a BS degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington in 1925 and went on to become an aeronautical engineer in the United States. While in the U.S, Iqbal also served with the Air Unit of the Reserve Officers Training Corps. He also worked in the automobile industry in Oshawa, Ontario.30

Image: Ikball Singh Hundal, U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-2016, University of Washington, 1925, 86.

1918 - The increase in the Japanese population in Bombay leads to the formation of the Japanese Gymkhana and the creation of a new Japanese baseball team.31

1919 - Japanese defeat the Americans for the first time in Bombay baseball history.32

1920 - Toyo Menka Kaisha Ltd., or Oriental Cotton Trading, was founded in April 1920. It was formed to import raw cotton and sell textiles both domestically and abroad when Mitsui & Company spun off its cotton department. Mitsui did so because the cotton trade became very risky during the post-WWI era.33

1922 - Local leaders make a push for a multi-sport stadium in Bombay. The facility would include a "running track, bicycle track, football and hockey and cricket grounds," which could also be used for "Motor Gymkhanas, Japanese Baseball Matches, Junior Cricket Leagues and tournaments ..."34

1922 - Baseball is played at Lucknow Christian College by Indian students from all caste levels.35

1923 - Ambrose Kelly, director of the American Red Cross in Asia, is honored at the annual Founder's Day banquet, where he "is credited with introducing the American game of baseball in India." Kelly of Albany, NY, is a former college baseball star.36

1924 – Baseball was played by residents of the American colonies and visiting US troops at the Calcutta Cricket Club.37

1926 - Ford Canada gains distribution rights for the British colonies. In 1926, the first year of Ford’s direct operations in India, 4,152 Model Ts were sold. By 1930, the number of Fords sold in India increased to 5,107 (all imported); by 1935, these increased to 5,444 (by now, mostly assembled) and then to 7,011, by 1940.38

1926 - Americans defeat the Japanese 7-5 on the Bombay Oval.39

1928 - General Motors opens a plant in Bombay. General Motors (GM) assembly facility at Sewri, neighboring the Bombay Port, was inaugurated in December 1928, series assembly began in earnest in 1929, with several of the GM brands, including Buick, Chevrolet, Oakland, Oldsmobile and Pontiac, rolling off the lines.40

1928 - European residents of Mussoorie complain about members of “other communities” using their cemeteries for areas of recreation; activities include “playing baseball among the graves.”41

1928 - American and Japanese teams continue to compete on the Bombay Oval.42

1929 - The first baseball league in Bombay is established. The details: 

BOMBAY, March 28 -- The American game of baseball is gaining favor in Bombay. For some time in the past the American and Japanese communities here have played this game and quite a number of Englishmen have taken it up as well with the result that there are now sufficient players to make up several teams. 

In order to give the public an opportunity to watch a game, which is somewhat of a novelty, a series of practice games have been arranged. Teams were to be chosen from American, Japanese, and English players. If the game should become popular, the European Bombay Gymkhana proposes to form a baseball league. Naturally the leaders of this "movement" are the local Americans.43

1929 - Australian cricketers visiting India call baseball nothing more than “glorified Rounders” played by “degenerates.”  The full quote: 

"Cricket is not a game which can be treated as though it is like baseball. There is more than the difference between Cricket and the glorified Rounders at which degenerates boo and hoot in America than there is between the sublime and the ridiculous. Cricket ceases to be cricket if not played and watched, in a gentlemanly manner..."44

1929-1930 - Baseball teams from the US and Japan compete for the championship of Bombay. Teams competing in the 1929-1930 Bombay Baseball League include Americans, Bombay Gymkhana, General Motors, Japanese, Cathedral Old Boys, and Ospreys. The championship team receives the "Matsumoto Challenge Cup,” sponsored by S. Matsumoto (most likely Tsunetaro Matsumoto, an official with the Bombay Branch of the Mitsui Bank).

1930 - Toyo Menka Kaisha (shipping company) defeats Rengo (news agency) 31-6, in an all-Japanese matchup played in Bombay.45

1930 - An All-India baseball tournament is proposed, featuring baseball teams from major cities across India including Lucknow, Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay.46

1932 - A modified version of baseball is proposed that utilizes less space.47

1933 – Chinese officials pressure India to cut ties with Japan.48

1933 - First Cricket test match played in India at Bombay Gymkhana on 15th December. Only Europeans were allowed to enter the club and the only Indians allowed were the servants. The restrictions were lifted for the Indian cricketers in the previous season (1932).

1934 - Female students from America attending Isabella Thoburn College in Lucknow, India, play baseball, basketball, tennis, and volleyball.49

1936 – Signs of anti-Japanese sentiment surface with protests against Japanese playing baseball near Shivaji Park.50

1936 – Softball is introduced in Bombay as “baseball’s little brother.”51

1936 - The Japanese Professional Baseball League was founded in Tokyo, Japan.

1936 - Sixteen nations are charter members of the Amateur Baseball Association formed at Berlin. The charter members include Japan, U.S., Mexico, Hawaii, the Philippines, Egypt, Belgium, Spain, Peru, China, France, England, Holland, India, Canada, Sweden and Germany. Takizo “Frank” Matsumoto, is named Executive Secretary of the ABA.52

1937 - Japanese baseball teams begin to disappear from the press in India.

1938 - India drops Japan as a favored nation.53

1940 - Exodus of Japanese residents begins in India. According to Akiyoshi Komata, chief of the MBK office at Karachi, “India has become an unpleasant place for Japanese residents. The British authorities there subject the Japanese to various forms of oppression.”54

1940 - Duane S. Hatch (aka Spencer Hatch) of New York, is documented in the book "Americans All Over," by Jerome Beatty, as being "the chief exponent of scientific agriculture and baseball in India, working under the Y.M.C.A. auspices."55

1941 - Games are played in Bombay by Americans to fund the war effort.56

1941 -Virtually all Japanese in India, including consular officials, leave the country. A few civilians remain behind.57

1941 - Roughly 200 Japanese are incarcerated in India after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Among them is Buddhist monk Kesho Tenzaki, a follower of Mohandas K. Gandhi, for the past four years.58

1942 - Property of Japanese businesses located in Bombay is auctioned off.59

1942 - U.S. Negro Troops play a game of baseball against the Calcutta police. Note: The lineup is not printed, so we don’t know if the police officers are European or South Asian. 

1943 - A negro baseball team called the “Bengal Tigers” play in Calcutta.60

1944 - US troops turn to softball and rely on reports from the U.S. about major league baseball for their fix of “The National Pastime.”

1944 - In the summer of 1944, the Maharaja of Patiala invited two U.S. GI teams to his summer palace high in the foothills of the Himalayas for a game of baseball on his cricket oval.61

1944 - The global baseball program of the National Baseball Congress (NBC) is founded by President Ray Dumont of Wichita, KS. He announces that E.J. Gubbay, a wealthy Calcutta sportsman, is named India commissioner of baseball for the NBC. Gubbay and Dumont plan to start a global, twelve-nation baseball program after WWII.62

1945 - Baseball in Bombay now has an exclusively North American presence, with U.S. military and Canadian teams competing in organized leagues.63

1947 - The nation of India gained independence from the United Kingdom on August 15, 1947. On this day the provisions of the Indian Independence Act transfer legislative sovereignty to the Indian Constituent Assembly.

1947 - In October, the Indian cricket team travels to Melbourne, Australia. Indian officials state that their shared love of cricket with Australia led to strong international relations between the two nations.64



At the time of this writing (July-Nov 2023), ballplayers like Arjun Nimmala (shortstop, #11 overall draft pick by the Blue Jays in 2023) and Kumar Rocker (pitcher, #3 overall draft pick by the Texas Rangers) are the pride of South Asians who follow baseball.

But there are other rising stars, like pitcher Karan Kuldeep Patel (b. 1997) in the Chicago White Sox organization, a 7th-round pick in 2019 from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Interestingly, according to a quick search on, there are seven (7) active players with the surname Patel competing at the college level today. Inspiration for future ballplayers of Indian ancestry is everywhere now.  

In the age of the Internet, many are aware of the reality show “Million Dollar Arm” which produced Indian-born pitchers Rinku Singh (b. 1988) and Dinesh Patel (b, 1989). Both were signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008 and declared the first players born in India to play professional baseball. In fact, when Karan Patel was drafted, the India Times wrote, “Cricketer’s son is the first player of Indian origin in US Major League Baseball,” suggesting that he was the first Indian-American in the game. 

However, others signed pro contracts before these recent ballplayers – but this occurred before the age of the Internet, so few know they even existed. They are: 

Ranbir Singh Grewal (b. 1967), pitcher, second-generation Indian-American, born in Yuba City, CA, attended California State University, Fresno, and was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 26th round of the 1990 MLB June Amateur Draft. 

Manish “Manny” Patel (b. 1972), an infielder, born in Vanesa Gujarat, India, attended Yale University and was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 30th round of the 1993 MLB June Amateur Draft.

Ballplayers of South Asian ancestry were selected in the MLB draft in the early 1990s, yet their place in history has gone largely unnoticed. That said, it really is amazing what little we know about events that occurred BEFORE the Internet. The same is true for many of the events in the timeline of baseball in India dating back to 1874. 

It’s also fascinating that there was a significant Japanese baseball presence in India before WWII, as I think there are some interesting parallels between baseball in East and South Asia. For example: 1) the Western colonial influence; 2) the competition between imported baseball and an existing sport (judo or kendo in Japan, cricket in India); and 3) the perception that Asian athletes lack the abilities to compete at an elite level.

In 1910, pitcher Cy Young told The Sporting Life that athletes from Japan were “too small to be big (league) players.” The future hall of famer added, “That's the trouble with all foreigners. Base ball will always be an American game." 

More than a century later, the greatest player in MLB is Japan-born Shohei Ohtani – and baseball is anything but just “an American game.” (And how fitting would it be for a pitcher from Japan to win the Cy Young Award?)

Baseball is now the “International Pastime,” and I suspect that it is just a matter of time until MLB’s greatest star will be a ballplayer of South Asian heritage. 


Image: Recreational programs were established in India and Pakistan during the 1950s to introduce baseball to children during their formative years.65


Research conducted by: 

Bill Staples, Jr
Baseball historian, author
Chair, SABR Asian Baseball Committee
Chandler, Arizona



  1. Benjamin Eastman, Michael Ralph, and Sean Brown, eds., America's Game(s): A Critical Anthropology of Sport (Taylor & Francis, 2007).
  2. "The Bishop's School, Nagpore: Distribution of Prizes," The Times of India (1861-2010), Mumbai, India, September 29, 1871, 3.
  3. "Jack Ashore: Entertainment Given to Sailors at Calcutta," The Times of India (1861-2010), Mumbai, India, January 6, 1872, 3.
  4. Multiple Classified ads, The Standard, London, England, August 7, 1874.
  5. S. Rose & Co. Classified Ad, The Times of India, Mumbai, India, December 11, 1874, 1.
  6. S. Rose & Co. Classified Ad, Indian Statesman, West Bengal, India (Calcutta), June 29, 1875, 1.
  7. Miranda Carter, George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2011), 119.
  8. "Colored Baseball-ist," The Galveston Daily News, April 14, 1888, 5.
  9. "Minor Matters," Palestine Daily Herald (Palestine, TX), September 6, 1904, 2.
  10. The Times of India (1861-2010), April 2, 1889, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Times of India, 5.
  11. Jiv Anji Jamshedji Modi, Asiatic Papers Papers Read Before the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (1877),
  12. "The Sir Dinshaw Manockjee Petit Gymnasium: Institution G.C.I.E., LL.D., Governor of Bombay Empress of India," The Times of India (1861-2010), Mumbai, India, January 17, 1890, 6.
  13. "A Discouraging Opinion," The Sporting Life, December 27, 1891, 1.
  14. "The Viceroy's Visit to the Canadian Mission, Indore: To Her Excellency Lady Lansdowne," The Times of India (1861-2010), Mumbai, India, November 28, 1891, 5.
  15. Classified Ad 7 -- No Title, The Times of India (1861-2010), October 5, 1899, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Times of India, 2.
  16. Classified Ad 7 -- No Title, The Times of India (1861-2010), Mumbai, India, October 5, 1899, 2.
  17. "Cricket in India: A History of the Game," The Times of India (1861-2010), June 12, 1905, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Times of India, 8.
  18. The Times of India (1861-2010), Mumbai, India, May 8, 1906, 3.
  19. The Butte Daily Post, Butte, Montana, July 17, 1906.
  20. "Baseball Popular With Japs' Baseball Features," The Evening Telegram, Salt Lake City, UT, January 1, 1909, 14.
  21. Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the Evening News, November 24, 1909, 9.
  22. The Japan Times, May 27, 1910 (Meiji 43), 2.
  23. "Our American Visitors: A Baseball Match," The Times of India (1861-2010), September 10,
  24. 1910, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Times of India, 7.
  25. 1910 United States Federal Census for Charlie A McDevitt, California, Solano, Vallejo Ward 2, District 0194.
  26. Baseball in India, The Times of India (1861-2010); Nov 4, 1912; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Times of India, 5.
  27. The Sacramento Star, Sacramento, CA, Mar 17, 1913, Page 2. [URL:]
  28. Athletics Aid to India. Contests Break down Caste, Y. M. C. A. Official Says, Morning Oregonian, Tuesday, May 19, 1914, Portland, OR, Page: 13.
  29. Baseball in Bombay, The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India, Oct 23, 1915: 7.
  30. Vancouver Boasts Only Hindu Player in America, The Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Thu, May 25, 1916, Page 6.
  31. Research Guides: Asian Canadian History and Archives: South Asian Canadian Materials. [URL:]
  32. Baseball in Bombay: Bombay Gym. vs. Japanese Gym. The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 25 Oct 1918: 5.
  33. Base-ball in Bombay: Bombay Gym. vs. Japanese Gym, The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 22 Oct 1919: 7.
  34. History of Tomen Corporation – FundingUniverse. [URL:]
  35. A Stadium for Bombay: An Organisation Wanted to the Editor of the Times of India, McGrath, James. The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 14 Nov 1922: 5.
  36. The Wonderland of India, The Wonderland of India, Rockey, Helen M. and Hunting, Harold B. (Harold Bruce), 1922, 74. [URL:,-0.087,1.73,1.73,0]
  37. The Times-Union, Saturday, Dec 08, 1923, Albany, NY, 2.
  38. American World Fliers: Calcutta's Preparations Our Own Correspondent. The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 21 June 1924: 12.
  39. “Nehru & The Story of Indian Automobiles - I.” Moneylife News & Views. [URL:]
  40. Baseball in Bombay, The Times of India (1861-2010); Oct 15, 1926; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Times of India, 12.
  41. “Nehru & The Story of Indian Automobiles - I.” Moneylife News & Views. [URL:]
  42. Desecration of a Cemetery: A Mussoorie Complaint Our Own Correspondent. The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 05 July 1928: 5.
  43. Baseball in Bombay, The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 16 July 1928: 13.
  44. "Baseball Gaining Ground in Bombay," The Japan Times, March 28, 1929.
  45. The Australian Barrackers: Hobbs on Cricket Pests Le Flaneur. The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 25 May 1929: 22.
  46. Baseball in Bombay: Wins for Toyo and General Motors, The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 26 Aug 1930: 9.
  47. Bombay Baseball Association: Programme for Season, The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 04 Nov 1930: 9.
  48. Baseball to Suit Small Ground, The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 27 Apr 1932: 7.
  49. Mr. Eugene Chen: Wants Indian Boycott of Japan Shanghai, Apr. 3, South China Morning Post (1903-1941); Hong Kong [Hong Kong]. 13 Apr 1933: 12.
  50. The Baltimore Sun, 18 July 1934, Wed · Page 4.
  51. Classified Ad 18 -- No Title, The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 26 Feb 1942: 10.
  52. New Game Invades Bombay: Baseball's Little Brother, The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 05 Nov 1936: 4.
  53. Dallas Morning News, Sunday, Aug 09, 1936, 4.
  54. Tokyo Given Six Months' Notice of Change in Trade Status. The Washington Post (1923-1954); Washington, D.C. [Washington, D.C]. 12 Apr 1933: 8.
  55. Japanese in India: Returned Evacuees Say Their Trade Suffers Moji, Dec. 22 South China Morning Post (1903-1941); Hong Kong [Hong Kong]. 24 Dec 1940: 13.
  56. The Greenwich Journal and Fort Edward Advertiser, March 20, 1940, Page 5, Image 5. [URL:]
  57. Baseball Match to Aid War Fund, The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 01 Apr 1941: 10.
  58. Japanese Getting Out of India, New York Times (1923-); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]. 07 Nov 1941: 8.
  59. India Rounds Up Japanese; One Is Disciple of Gandhi, Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963); Chicago, Ill. [Chicago, Ill]. 10 Dec 1941: 3.
  60. Classified Ad 18 -- No Title, The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 26 Feb 1942: 10.
  61. Teams Lose Fear of Yankees: Exciting Tussle for League Honours, The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 08 June 1943: 3.
  62. India-America Relations (1942-62), Rooted in the Liberal International Order, by Atul Bhardwaj, 2018.
  63. India Plays Baseball, Livingston Enterprise, June 16, 1944, page 6.
  64. American Baseball Tournament: Bombay Championship, Sgt Bill Sullivan. The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 08 Jan 1945: 9.
  65. Civic Reception to Indian Team: Lord Wavell Criticised, The Times of India (1861-2010); Mumbai, India [Mumbai, India]. 30 Oct 1947: 10.