Baseball and Racism's Traveling Eye:
The Asian Pacific American Experience
JOEL S. FRANKS
Baseball has long played an ambiguous role in the construction of racial and ethnic relations in the United States. It has furnished a sense of commonality among diverse racial and ethnic groups and even equalized, in specific contexts, otherwise hierarchical power relations among these groups. Still, while baseball can mediate profound social and cultural differences, it can also exaggerate differences and help transform them into useful arguments for discrimination, exploitation, and marginalization.
Asian Pacific Americans have, accordingly, encountered baseball as a contradictory force in the United States. Asian Pacific American baseball merits attention from historians concerned with popular culture and sports. In the first place, only a few scholars have examined this topic. Second, aside from the work of Harold Seymour, most baseball historians ignore the multiethnic, multicultural experiences of Asian Pacific Americans, who might possess Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Asian Indian, Southeast Asian, or mixed ancestry. Instead, when such scholars look toward Asian Pacific Americans, they generally focus on Japanese Americans. Third, historians who explore Asian Pacific American baseball more closely will escape the East Coast bias of much of baseball history. This East Coast bias is admittedly understandable, but it tends to reduce race and ethnicity to white/black terms rather than consider seriously the experiences of Native Americans, Latinos, and Pacific Islanders, in