Sunday, November 2, 2014

Watch rare footage from 1927 of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig playing a game with Japanese-American All-Stars

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Before Travis Ishikawa was hitting walk off homers, before Kurt Suzuki found his place behind the plate, there were the Nisei Leagues. Nisei, which refers to second generation Japanese-Americans, weren't yet welcome in professional baseball, so, across the west coast, they carved out teams of their own.
During a 1927 barnstorming tour, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played an exhibition game with some of the league's All-Stars in Fresno, Calif. The Nisei League team played with Gehrig's Larrupin' Lous, defeating Ruth's Bustin' Babes 13-3. Though they can't tell you what "larrupin'" means, the Nisei Baseball Research Project can show you the only existing footage of that day:

Just because you can't watch the whole game doesn't mean you can't get a sense of what it was like. Here's Nisei Leaguer and "Dean of the Diamond" Kenichi Zenimura's recollection of the game:
"The first time I got up, I got a single. I was very fast and took my usual big lead off first. Ruth glanced at me and said, 'Hey, son, aren't you taking too much of a lead?' I said no. He called for the pitcher to pick me off. The pitcher threw and I slid behind Ruth. He was looking around to tag me and I already was on the sack. I think this made him mad. He called for the ball again. This time he was blocking the base and he swung his arm around thinking I would slide the same way. But this time I slid through his legs, and he was looking behind. The fans cheered. Ruth said,'If you do that to me again, I'll pick you up and use you as a bat, you runt."
But Ruth must not have held much of a grudge -- Zenimura had a large part in setting up his trip to Japan in 1934.

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