But back in 1965, when Sachio Kinugasa began his long and illustrious career in Japanese pro baseball, biracialism was still a novelty, and usually an unwelcome one at that. Kinugasa’s father was a black GI stationed in Okinawa who abandoned him to be raised by a single mom. He was often the target of bullying.
Known for his humility and perseverance, “Iron Man” Kinugasa would join the Hiroshima Carp baseball team. Despite injury and advancing age, he played 2,215 consecutive games, beating Lou Gehrig’s record, an achievement he held until the record was again broken by Cal Ripken.
After his retirement, the Hall of Famer remained a baseball star, working as a commentator, teacher and promoter of the game.
Kinugasa rarely spoke about his father in public, but his American roots clearly loomed large. His role model was African-American superstar Willie Mays.
The New York Times quoted a former teammate, who noticed Kinugasa was burning the midnight oil to study English -- in hopes of going to the US to search for the father he had never met.
Revered by his native country, Kinugasa died of colon cancer in late April. He was 71.