William “Buck” Lai was reported by The Sporting News and the New York Times as being the first Chinese major leaguer, though that was a long stretch of the truth. While Lai is a Chinese name, Buck, who was born in Hawaii in 1894, was of mostly European heritage.
Signed by the Pirates in 1918 he played infield briefly in spring training for the Bucs. For the rest of the season, Lai played for Bridgeport in the Eastern League. Over the next decade, Lai played minor league and semipro ball in the New York area, starring for the semipro Brooklyn Bushwicks, where he attracted the attention of John McGraw. The Giants signed Lai in 1928 and Lai again played only in spring training.
Lai took an All-Hawaii team, consisted of semi-pro Hawaii League players, for barnstorming in the US and Canada in 1935, winning 47 games and losing 77 with 2 ties. The team was called the Chinese All-Stars on the mainland.
Buck wrote the popular Championship Baseball in 1954, which was used in the Dodgers’ system. His son, Buck Lai Jr., was the baseball and basketball coach at Long Island University, as well as a scout for the Dodgers.