story of Japanese American players, coaches, teams, and
leagues has very nearly been a lost chapter in American
and baseball history. Only today is it being rediscovered,
to the benefit of America, baseball, and Japanese Americans
reason for this rediscovery is the traveling exhibition
Diamonds in the Rough, which tells the story of
Japanese Americans in baseball through words, images, and
memorabilia. The exhibition, opened in Fresno, California,
in 1996 and has since been viewed in cities and towns across
the nation as well as at the National Baseball Hall of Fame
and Museum in Cooperstown. Also in the 1990s, a number of
major-league teams, as well as the Hall of Fame, have given
belated recognition to surviving Japanese American players
of pre-World War II days. Now in their eighties and nineties,
these venerable heroes once again stand in the limelight
and hear the cheers of baseball fans.
story, and the story of their ancestors and descendants,
is a tale of a great journey, full of hard-won victories,
devastating setbacks, and new triumphs. The travelers on
this journey are known by names designating the generations
of Japanese immigrants and their descendants:
first-generation Japanese immigrants
second-generation Japanese Americans
third-generation Japanese Americans
fourth-generation Japanese Americans
Japanese Americans of all generations
of their story is wrapped up in baseball. If we were to
dissect a Nikkei baseball, we would find that the center
epitomizes the core members of the Issei and Nisei generations,
the pioneers who created a culture.
fiber and strings would represent the communities, weaving
their identities, loyalties, and cultural affinities around
their teams and players.
leather skin would symbolize the physical and mental toughness
developed by the Issei and Nisei who endured the travails
of settlement in a new land and the eviction and internment
of World War II.
stitching bonds the Issei, Nisei, Sansei, and Yonsei together
and seals these family spirits for future generations.
this symbolic baseball is being passed on to new generations.
It carries with it history, wisdom, and pride of their ancestors.
May they cherish this unique memento and embellish it with
their own skills, discipline, courage, determination, and
sportsmanship, on and off the baseball diamond. May they
carry on the one-hundred-year legacy of Japanese Americans-working
hard, keeping faith-and playing ball.