New Biography of Japanese American Baseball Pioneer Published


JEFFERSON, N.C. — McFarland (, a leading independent publisher of academic and nonfiction books,  announced the release of the new biography “Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer” on July 5.

Written by baseball historian and author Bill Staples Jr. and featuring a foreword by current Toronto Blue Jays bench coach Don Wakamatsu, the first Asian American manager in Major League history, the new biography delivers a thorough and fascinating account of Kenichi Zenimura (1900-1968), the man recognized by historians as the “Father of Japanese American Baseball.”

While Jackie Robinson and the Negro Leagues have been well documented, few baseball fans know about the Japanese American Nisei Leagues, or of their most influential figure, Zenimura. A phenomenal player who excelled at all nine positions, “Zeni” possessed a gift for using the game to transcend the ignorance and intolerance of his era.

As a player, captain, and manager, he worked tirelessly to export the American style of play in Japan, leading several goodwill trips to Asia and helping to negotiate tours of Japan by Negro League all-stars and Babe Ruth. One of the most fascinating chapters of Zenimura’s career occurred when he established a 32-team league behind the barbed wire of Arizona’s Gila River internment camp during World War II.

In anticipation of the Arizona centennial in 2012, the new Zenimura biography has been named an official Arizona Centennial Legacy Project by the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission (AHAC). The award recognizes the internment of Japanese Americans and Zenimura’s efforts during World War II as one of the most significant events of Arizona history in the past 100 years.

The bio was funded in part by a grant from the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) and also supported by numerous organizations during the three-year research phase for the effort, including the Nisei Baseball Research Project, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, National Baseball Hall of Fame, Baseball Reliquary, Japanese American Citizens League, Japanese American National Museum, Gila River Indian Community, and Arizona State University’s Asian Pacific American Studies Department.

“Initially I was drawn to Zenimura’s story because of the parallels between Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and attitudes towards those who look like the enemy,” said Staples. “In the end though I discovered that the story of Zenimura is about more than just a great baseball man; his life serves as an example of how it’s possible to achieve happiness and freedom in a world that is less happy and free.”

Staples added, “the story of Zenimura is more than just about 20th-century Japanese American baseball, it’s about the timeless and shared human condition. Anyone who’s had to overcome huge obstacles to achieve a dream or goal will relate to his story.”

Baseball-industry insiders offer the following praise for the book:

“Bill Staples, Jr. is a dedicated baseball historian, author and a meticulous researcher who utilizes 21st-century technology to root out the most obscure facts about his subjects. His work on Kenichi Zenimura is a groundbreaking effort.” — William F. McNeil, baseball historian, author, Sporting News-SABR Research Award winner (2007), five-time recipient of the Robert Peterson Award

“Staples’ tireless research and love for the game has resulted in ‘Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer,’ one of the great untold stories of our American pastime and an essential for any baseball faithful.” — Kerry Yo Nakagawa, historian, author, filmmaker, founder/director of the Nisei Baseball Research Project

“Hopefully (this book) helps transform a long-neglected chapter of baseball history — Nisei baseball history — into a well-chronicled saga for all fans of all races, creeds and colors to appreciate.” — Don Wakamatsu, former manager of the Seattle Mariners

Available in both soft-cover and eBook formats, “Kenichi Zenimura” can be ordered online via or through traditional online book retailers such as Amazon (, Barnes & Noble (, Walmart ( and others.