The colour barrier

In baseball in Canada and the United States before the Second World War, there were separate leagues for players of African descent. One Nikkei fan remembers, “Satchell Paige, the greatest pitcher of them all, used to come to Vancouver often.” In their sport in the mainstream Canadian senior leagues the Asahis were the only team of colour.

Handling adversity

On the field, in the ballparks and in the sports pages, the Asahis faced unfair calls, hostile heckling and racist headlines. They were routinely called “Japs,” “Nips,” or “Little Brown Men.”

Asahi cool

In the New Canadian, “Harry Miyasaki relates ‘we never protested a call no matter how “raw” it was and if any of the players even showed the slightest disapproval of the umpire’s verdicts in way of facial distortion I “yanked” him immediately’ …”
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The colour barrier

In baseball in Canada and the United States before the Second World War, there were separate leagues for players of African descent. One Nikkei fan remembers, “Satchell Paige, the greatest pitcher of them all, used to come to Vancouver often.” In their sport in the mainstream Canadian senior leagues the Asahis were the only team of colour.

Handling adversity

On the field, in the ballparks and in the sports pages, the Asahis faced unfair calls, hostile heckling and racist headlines. They were routinely called “Japs,” “Nips,” or “Little Brown Men.”

Asahi cool

In the New Canadian, “Harry Miyasaki relates ‘we never protested a call no matter how “raw” it was and if any of the players even showed the slightest disapproval of the umpire’s verdicts in way of facial distortion I “yanked” him immediately’ …”

Switching leagues

The Asahis’ enduring popularity stemmed partly from their philosophy of playing on through whatever they encountered in the game. In 1929, unable to overcome uneven umpiring and teams with ex-pros and potential pro ballplayers, they left the Senior A League for the Terminal League.

Foul ball

Then, in the 1935 Terminal League championship series, the News-Herald reported: “Near Riot as Nippon Nine Wins … the Japanese fans tried to break through the wire netting and jump onto the field to protest a decision … for the first time in many years the Japanese players yelled their protest and the fans followed suit …”

Protest

Almost 5000 spectators at Con Jones Park were headlined “In Uproar Throughout the Final Fray.” The popular Asahis left the Terminal League, stating their dissatisfaction with the umpiring. Their departure precipitated the league’s folding the next season.

© National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Video - The Colour Barrier

Frank Moritsugu in "Watari Dori: A Bird of Passage." CBC Television

I was at a reunion of the Vancouver Asahi Baseball Team just the other day, at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre here in Toronto. And, ah, I went because I was a fan, not an Asahi player. And, ah, they were the team, Asahi, who showed us, at least in one area anyway, that they could be equal to or even superior to the white Canadians. You know, when I was a kid, I needed that reassurance, you know. Subsequently, hopefully you know, a lot of us have managed to prove to our own satisfaction that we can play the game, you know, and be accepted, you know, as part of them. But in those times when we were growing up, when we were told we were second class, ah, we needed the Asahi very much.

CBC Television
1973
© CBC Television


“Ready For B.C. Baseball Playoff,”

“Ready For B.C. Baseball Playoff,” Vancouver Sun headline August 7, 1926. The Asahis were awarded the Faye O’Neill Cup by default when their opponents refused to play for it.

Vancouver Sun
1926-08-07
© Vancouver Sun


Mike Maruno at Bat

Mike Maruno at bat, Powell Grounds, ca. 1939.

Courtesy of Pat Adachi
c. 1939
© Courtesy of Pat Adachi


Asahi player at bat

Asahi player at bat, Powell Grounds, ca. 1939.

Courtesy of Pat Adachi
c. 1939
© Courtesy of Pat Adachi


Roy Yamamura at bat

Roy Yamamura at bat, Powell Grounds, ca. 1939

Courtesy of Pat Adachi
c. 1939
© Courtesy of Pat Adachi


Fife player sliding into 3rd base

Fife player sliding into 3rd base, Roy Yamamura fielding, Powell Grounds, ca. 1939.

Courtesy of Pat Adachi
c. 1939
© Courtesy of Pat Adachi


Audio - Foul Ball

A umpire made a bad call, and it went against us. And the fans came out. And there was bit, quite a bit of riot. And one umpire got banged up in the shoulder. And one of the fans took a bat off of one of the ballplayer’s hand, hit the umpire right in the back of the shoulder. It was a whack.

CBC Radio
1993
© CBC Radio


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify and discuss the social conditions of the Nikkei in Canadian society;
  • Describe the influence of Asahi on Canadian population;
  • Explain the positive aspects of such a sport organization;
  • Deduct, from the information given in the exhibition, an overview of Canadian society before the Second World War.

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