Ichiro, Dice-K, Matsui, Okajima, Nomo – all names that most baseball fans are well aware of, and all names that come from Japan.
But the history of players with Asian ancestry goes much farther and deeper than just those who we see on the big league diamond today, which is the jumping off point for Joel S. Franks’ new work, Asian Pacific Americans and Baseball: A History from McFarland Publishing.
Franks takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of baseball in the Pacific Islands, pre-statehood Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, the Phillipines, as well as China, Japan and other Asian countries. Baseball found roots in numerous places throughout the Pacific Rim, and the book does a thorough job finding different footholds that baseball took root in. Whether it was internment camps, military bases, high schools, or other situations, the spread of baseball across the Pacific Ocean is a pretty remarkable story, and certainly a tough one to chronicle.
Franks takes on the task admirably – he uses a solid mix of newspaper and magazine articles, interviews, and other historical records to piece together a history of baseball in the Pacific Rim.
However, it is this area that sparks my one gripe about the book – it was hard for me not to get buried under the mountain of information that Franks offers. At times I felt like keeping track of all the names, places and accomplishments got to be a bit much. You might have the same experience – or if you’re more adept at keeping track of those kinds of things, you might have a much better experience.
Certainly to bring together over 100 years of baseball history in a region to which is was not native and which only resulted in select players assimilating into American organized baseball is a tough task to undertake. Franks has compiled a tremendous amount of information – some of which has already come in handy in recent discussions – his book will certainly be a tremendous resource for those who will further research in this area. However I think that the majority of readers would get a tremendous amount more from this book if it were to be slightly reorganized to help the readers see the connection to modern the modern day game.
Asian Pacific Americans and Baseball is a remarkable resource for those readers who want to get a much deeper look into the people that played baseball and the various places that the game developed.
The book is available for purchase via www.mcfarlandpub.com or by calling 800-253-2187.