Thursday , February 22 2024

Even Behind Barbed Wire, Fresno Baseball Legend Kenichi Zenimura Broke Barriers

Back in 1927, baseball legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig came to Fresno to play exhibition matches, sometimes playing with all Japanese-American teams. One of those players was Kenichi Zenimura, an immigrant from Japan. In a 1999 documentary film about him, “Diamonds In The Rough,” narrator and actor Noriyuki “Pat” Morita says that, “He’ll always be remembered as Zeni, ‘Dean of the Diamond.’” Those words, “Dean of the Diamond,” are memorialized on his gravestone. Kerry Yo Nakagawa, producer of the documentary and director of the Nisei Baseball Research Project described Zenimura as “always was ahead of everyone else in strategy.” Nakagawa adds: “Kenichi Zenimura could have played, I feel, major league baseball.” Zenimura coached and played baseball in Fresno before World War II. He built two fields, and even helped bring Babe Ruth to play in Japan. Baseball historian Bill Staples, Jr. wrote Zenimura’s biography. He considers Zenimura a civil rights pioneer. “He would go into towns where

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