The Secret History Of Black Baseball Players In Japan : Code Switch : NPR – To start, we need to go back to the 1920s, when professional black baseball teams played around the country in a network collectively called the Negro Leagues. One of these teams was the Los Angeles White Sox, managed by a black railroad worker named Lonnie Goodwin who is recognized today as one of the greatest baseball managers of his era. His team was all black, except for one member — a Japanese second baseman — and it played in Central LA’s White Sox stadium along with a local Japanese squad called the L.A. Nippons.
The L.A. White Sox had more contact with Japanese-American players in 1925, when they lost a match against a Japanese team called the Fresno Athletic Club. That squad was managed by a Hiroshima-born mechanic named Kenichi Zenimura, whom sports historians would later refer to as the father of Japanese-American baseball. Perhaps over the customary cold beers and cigars he liked to enjoy after a win, Zenimura pitched Goodwin a new venture. Over the previous few years, Zenimura had been rounding up groups of Japanese-American ballplayers to tour Japan to develop the game back home. Might Goodwin be interested in bringing some of his players along for the next tour?