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Through a Diamond
100 Years of Japanese American Baseball
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Through a Diamond
100 Years of Japanese American Baseball

By Kerry Yo Nakagawa
2001, 159 pages, hardback.
Book Description from Back Cover
Comment from the Front Cover Flap
About the Author

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Book Description from Back Cover

From the first organized Japanese
American team in 1903... the years of internment
when baseball was survival... the time when baseball once
again built a bridge across the
Pacific, Japanese Americans have
played ball.
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Comment from the Front Cover Flap

I have a mental image of Hideo Nomo. He's poised, motionless on the mound, arms extended high over his head holding the baseball in both hands. Slowly, he turns his back to the hitter then he recoils, firing a high fastball tbr strike three. I maintain that image along with others of Willie Mays losing his cap as he rounds first base, stretching a single into double, Hank Greenberg pounding a prodigious home run, Juan Marichal kicking his left leg high above his head in his windup, and Joe DiMaggio kicking the ground in disgust after being robbed of a World Series home run.

What all of these images have in common is that, while the players may have different facial features and skin color, they all represent the hundreds of immigrants and children of immigrants from around the world--including Asians, African Americans, Jewish Americans, Latinos, and Italian Americans--who excel in America's great common denominator, baseball. What is so special about my image of Nomo is that he is representative of the newest group of immigrants to have a significant impact on Major League Baseball, the players from Japan and Asia.

There is nothing new about the passion of the Japanese people, or of Japanese Americans for that matter, for the Great American Pastime. In this book, Through a Diamond, Kerry Yo Nakagawa chronicles the 100-year history of the Japanese fascination with the game, how it was exported to Japan shortly after the original rules of the game were codified, how the game grew in this country during the 1920s and 1930s, and how the game was nurtured in Japan by many of the legends of the American game, including Lefty O'Doul, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig.

Like black players of that time the opportunity for the Nisei to compete was limited to the formation of Japanese leagues throughout the Western United States and Hawaii, and they played against college teams, Negro league teams, and teams of barnstorming professional players like Ruth and Gehrig.

With great sensitivity and perception, Nakagawa describes how, during WWII, Japanese Americans became the only group of United States citizens in history to be imprisoned as a group solely because of their race. I can recall from my youth how, during these extremely difficult times for our people, these American internees would organize themselves into leagues and even travel from state to state to compete on the baseball diamond.

Through a Diamond is far more than a history of the experience of Japanese American baseball. It is a compassionate description of the immigrant experience of the Japanese people as seen through the prism of American's grand game of baseball.

-- Noriyuki "Pat" Morita
Celebrated actor of television
and motion pictures

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Background on Kerry Yo Nakagawa

While coaching his son's little league baseball team in Fresno, CA, Kerry Yo Nakagawa was initially inspired to embark on a personal exploration to preserve the legacy of Japanese American baseball and culture for future generations of Japanese Americans. It evolved into a full-time project and the Nisei Baseball Research Project (NBRP) was born.

Baseball, and sports in general, have been a large part of the Nakagawa legacy. In 1993 Kerry swam from Alcatraz prison to San Francisco, and in 1994 he played as an all-star for the National Champion Fresno Bandit semipro football team. He is also a black belt in the martial arts. His athletic family history includes his uncles Johnny, Lefty, and Mas, who competed with Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Lefty O'Doul.

His dedication to the NBRP project is well-respected and this compelling effort to record and present this story has drawn the attention and coverage of the media as well as major league baseball in the form of tributes to Japanese American players.

The NBRP exhibit, Diamonds in the Rough, has achieved international status and has been shown in such locations as the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the Japan of Fame and Museum in Toyko. Kerry's other visions to communicate this story include a documentary with actor Pat Morita entitled Diamonds in the Rough:Japanese Americans in Baseball, and a period film involving the discovery by a Yankee scout of a pitcher behind barbed wire in an Arizona detention camp.

He is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and he has appeared in such TV series as Hill Street Blues, Matlock, and Marcus Welby. His film credits span a variety of action and dramatic roles.

Kerry is a consultant to the prestigious Baseball Hall of Fame tour, Baseball as America. He is the project director for NBRP, curator of the Diamonds in the Rough exhibit, an independent producer/filmmaker, actor, researcher, writer, husband, and the father of two wonderful teenagers.

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