Competing styles

The way baseball was played in North America changed around the time of the Asahis tour to Japan. The "inside game" of strategy and tactics made famous by Ty Cobb shifted to a more physical playing style of powerful hitters like Babe Ruth. Crowds were thrilled to see "sluggers" bat home runs out of the ballparks.

Asahi advantage

The Asahis would not have succeeded without strong hitters, but they were mainly smaller and shorter than their opponents. Since they could not consistently out-slug the competition, the Asahis decided to out-think and out-run them. Being closer to the ground was an advantage.

Smart Ball

Under Coach Harry Miyasaki’s direction in the early 1920s, the Asahis developed their own brand of baseball. The newspapers called it "smartball" or "brainball." The 1926 Vancouver Sun observed "... Miyasaki has drilled into them the fine points of the game and there is no club in local amateur circles that plays more to signals than Read More
Competing styles

The way baseball was played in North America changed around the time of the Asahis tour to Japan. The "inside game" of strategy and tactics made famous by Ty Cobb shifted to a more physical playing style of powerful hitters like Babe Ruth. Crowds were thrilled to see "sluggers" bat home runs out of the ballparks.

Asahi advantage

The Asahis would not have succeeded without strong hitters, but they were mainly smaller and shorter than their opponents. Since they could not consistently out-slug the competition, the Asahis decided to out-think and out-run them. Being closer to the ground was an advantage.

Smart Ball

Under Coach Harry Miyasaki’s direction in the early 1920s, the Asahis developed their own brand of baseball. The newspapers called it "smartball" or "brainball." The 1926 Vancouver Sun observed "... Miyasaki has drilled into them the fine points of the game and there is no club in local amateur circles that plays more to signals than they do."

The bunt

Miyasaki made his players practice placing bunts until they could hit them with precision anywhere. Runners would be readied on the bases. "Otose" would be yelled out in Japanese. Before the bat touched the ball, they were on the move, primed to score two runs off a single bunt.

The squeeze

Asahi players led the league in bunting for hits, reaching first base the most, and stealing bases. They could make plays like the suicide squeeze and the safety squeeze look effortless. And they mastered the cutoff to prevent other teams from repeating their signature squeezes that brought runners home from second and third.

Winning tactics

Through rigorous practice the Asahis honed to perfection a tactical approach to base running. They made the most of their speed and good judgment to succeed at scoring and compete in league play. The team’s intense hard work paid off - they could win a game 3 to 1 without a hit.

Philosophy

The Asahi style combined more than just speed and strategy. The players also demonstrated a philosophy of teamwork, self-discipline and fair play. Good sportsmanship made the Asahis a big hit with fans. They were "a treat to watch" for their sheer love and respect for the game.

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

Roy Yamamura

Roy Yamamura fielding, Fife player sliding into third base, Powell Grounds.

Courtesy of Reggie Yasui
c. 1939
© Courtesy of Reggie Yasui


Roy Yamamura and Collingwood Collies player

Roy Yamamura and Collingwood Collies player.

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


Ken Kutsukake at bat, Powell Ground

Ken Kutsukake at bat, Powell Ground

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


Audio - Smart Ball

They weren’t, at that time, they weren’t hitting the ball so well, you know, so they had to play a little bit better in the smart plays. So I guess it’s a strategy of how to play baseball the way that it should be played for themselves, like. Like in jujitsu or judo or anything, you know, you let the opponent come to you, and then you take their weight on you to take them off. Well, it’s the same way in baseball, if you can’t hit you have to find some other ways of doing it, and that’s where the manager comes in, like Harry Miyasaki, he found a certain way to beat the team that can hit the ball better.

CBC Radio
1993
© CBC Radio


Asahi Player at Bat

Asahi player at bat, Powell Ground

Courtesy of Reggie Yasui

© Courtesy of Reggie Yasui


Audio - The Bunt

We’d used to do a lot of suicide bunt. We were taught to bunt. No matter where the ball is, you got to bunt that. And, if you, if you don’t bunt, ah, we used to get hell, you know. Oh yes, it’s, come on, you know, you gonna lose a runner.

CBC Radio
1993
© CBC Radio


Video - The Squeeze

Ken Kutsukake, Mickey Maikawa and Yuki Uno, in Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story.

Translation:

[Mickey Maikawa] Bring your … oh yeah … two chopsticks. Oh yeah, OK.

[Ken Kutsukake] Make a diamond now. This is home plate here, OK. Put home plate here, OK. OK, here’s home plate. (Laughter) First base, second base, third base …

[Maikawa] OK, I, oh, see that’s what you want to do.

[Yuki Uno] Sure, sure, sure.

[Kutsukake] OK, OK, might as well put the pitcher’s box in. Pitcher throws to the catcher, right? Here’s the batter, he’s gonna bunt. Bunt. And the bunt, maybe he’ll go here. Before he goes here, he’s running, and this guy’s running. And they both score.

[Maikawa] You have a squeeze play all the time (laughter)

National Film Board of Canada
2003
© National Film Board of Canada


<i>Vancouver Sun</i> news clipping

Vancouver Sun news clipping, May 5, 1928, "Japanese Outsmart Generals. Asahis Fail to Get Hit Off Delcourt But Win Game 3 to 1. Daring Base Running by Yamamura and Clever Bunting Turns Trick."

Vancouver Sun
1928-05-05
© Vancouver Sun


Vancouver Asahi baseball team

Vancouver Asahi baseball team after strenuous training at Hastings Park

Permission de la famille Kitagawa.
1926
© Courtesy of the Kitagawa Family


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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