Issei Baseball

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Issei Baseball

The Story of the First Japanese American Ballplayers

Robert K. Fitts

344 pages
28 photographs, 5 illustrations, 8 tables, 3 appendixes, index

Hardcover

April 2020

978-1-4962-1348-8

$29.95 Pre-order

About the Book

Baseball has been called America’s true melting pot, a game that unites us as a people. Issei Baseball is the story of the pioneers of Japanese American baseball, Harry Saisho, Ken Kitsuse, Tom Uyeda, Tozan Masko, Kiichi Suzuki, and others—young men who came to the United States to start a new life but found bigotry and discrimination.

In 1905 they formed a baseball club in Los Angeles and began playing local amateur teams. Inspired by the Waseda University baseball team’s 1905 visit to the West Coast, they became the first Japanese professional baseball club on either side of the Pacific and barnstormed across the American Midwest in 1906 and 1911. Tens of thousands came to see “how the minions of the Mikado played the national pastime.” As they played, the Japanese earned the respect of their opponents and fans, breaking down racial stereotypes. Baseball became a bridge between the two cultures, bringing Japanese and Americans together through the shared love of the game.

Issei Baseball focuses on the small group of men who formed the first professional and semiprofessional Japanese baseball clubs. These players’ story tells the history of early Japanese American baseball, including the placement of Saisho, Kitsuse, and their families in relocation camps during World War II and the Japanese immigrant experience.

 

Author Bio

Robert K. Fitts is the author of Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer (Nebraska, 2015), Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Baseball (Nebraska, 2008), and Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, and Assassination during the 1934 Tour of Japan (Nebraska, 2012), winner of the Society of American Baseball Research’s Seymour Medal.
 

Praise

“A book rich in detail, Robert K. Fitts’s Issei Baseball adds a valuable piece to the story of the Japanese people in America and is a noteworthy contribution to the legacy of the Issei and the game they loved.”—Samuel O. Regalado, author of Nikkei Baseball: Japanese American Players from Immigration and Internment to the Major Leagues

“Long before Ichiro Suzuki and Shohei Ohtani, Japanese Issei were trying to prove they were the best immigrant baseball players in America. During the Jim Crow era of Major League Baseball, a handshake and a victory on the field were their just reward. Rob Fitts majestically re-creates the mood of the era and sheds light on a glorious period of this epic American odyssey.”—Kerry Yo Nakagawa, author, filmmaker, and historian
 

“Rob Fitts is not only an esteemed baseball historian; he’s also one of the top writers in the game today. He excels at painting pictures with words and taking the reader on a journey back in time with his prose. Issei Baseball is an enjoyable read for true baseball fans.”—Bill Staples Jr., coauthor of Gentle Black Giants: A History of Negro Leaguers in Japan

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Recurring Japanese Characters
Introduction
1. Saisho the Dreamer
2. The National Pastime in Japan
3. The New World
4. Issei Baseball
5. Waseda Arrives
6. Waseda Tour Continues
7. Guy Green’s 1906 Japanese Base Ball Club
8. The 1906 Barnstorming Tour
9. The Mikado’s Japanese Base Ball Team
10. Nanka and the Japanese Base Ball Association
11. “Japanese Invasion”
12. Ballplayers and Diplomats
13. Barnstorming across America
14. End of a Dream
15. Japanese American Baseball Comes of Age
16. Incarceration
Acknowledgments
Appendix A: Schedules and Game Results
Appendix B: Known Issei Baseball Clubs, 1904–10
Appendix C: Partial Rosters of Selected Issei Teams
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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