If not for the extraordinary passion of a few former players, spectators, and their families, the memory of the Vancouver Asahi baseball club—one of Vancouver’s most prominent athletic clubs in the interwar period—very likely would have been lost forever. Only now is the impact of this club on the Japanese community and the larger sporting community in BC truly appreciated.
The Asahi (meaning “morning sun”) ball club was formed in 1914 under the leadership of a Powell Street dry cleaner named Harry Miyasaki, who wanted a team that could defeat the hard-hitting Anglo-Canadian ball clubs and win the Terminal League Championship.
In 1926, Miyasaki got his wish as the Asahi won the Terminal League playoffs and were voted most popular team in the city. The accolades continued in ensuing years with Terminal League Championships in 1930 and 1933, a run of Pacific Northwest Championships from 1937-1941, and a triple-championship season in 1938—Burrard, Commercial, and Pacfic Northwest. The club developed a farm system with as many as four teams to identify young talent that might someday play for the senior team, every young boy’s dream in Vancouver’s Little Tokyo community.
The Asahi developed their own unique style of play that endeared them to most spectators, including many Anglo-Canadians. The players tended to be smaller and less powerful hitters than those on Anglo ball teams, so the Asahi relied on speed, defense, and smarts—“brain ball” they called it. One of the trademarks of the Asahi became their success using the bunt and squeeze play to get men on base and move them to the “next station” on the base paths one bunt at a time.
In 1927, the Asahi won a game 3-1 without technically collecting a single hit—bunts, steals, and opposition errors were all the Asahi required in winning on that amazing afternoon.
In 1941, the Asahi ball club disbanded, never to be reformed. The bombing of Pearl Harbour subsequently led to the forced relocation of all Japanese-Canadians into various internment camps in the Interior of the province with most property and possessions confiscated forever.
The team was irretrievably lost, but the Asahi remained a beacon of hope in an incredibly dark and trying time. The former players, despite being scattered among the many camps, formed teams with whatever players were available. Teams from different camps began playing one another informally, leading to the formation of the Slocan Valley Championship. The game became a morale booster for an uprooted people unfairly confined by the harsh policies of a paranoid government.
Where Asahi baseball had previously given Japanese-Canadians a sense of pride, the team now grew to near mythic proportions within the Japanese-Canadian community, as the on-field deeds of great players such as Kaz Suga and Kaye Kaminishi were recounted and debated. In 1945, the disbandment of the internment camps forced many former Asahi players to scatter across the country.
In June 2003, the Vancouver Asahi baseball team was finally accorded proper recognition for its contribution to Canadian baseball by induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. A longstanding oversight was thus corrected and has only been more firmly righted with induction into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
The proud Asahi name that instilled such spirit and hope into its people will not be forgotten.
Tameo Aoki, Kenichi Doi, Frank Ejima, K. Endo, Fukuda, Kinzaburo Fukunaga, James ‘Jim’ Fukui, Joe Fukui, Ted Furumoto, Jack Hayami, George Hinaga, Yo Horii, George Iga, Tokuichi Inouye, George Ito, Koichi “Kaye” Kaminishi, B. Kasahara, Fred Kato, George Kato, Kishizo Kimura, Eddie Kitagawa, Mickey Kitagawa, Yozaemon Kondo, Motoji Kodama, Suekichi Kodama, Abe S. Korenaga, R. Korenaga, Ken Kutsukake, Ray Kutsukake, Ken Kitamura, Mickey Maikawa, Mike Maruno, Mousie Masuda, Tom Matoba, Sota Matsumiya, Muneo Miike, Koei Mitsui, Matsujiro Miyasaki, Tom Miyata, Harry Miyasaki, Yoshio Miyasaki, Frank Nagano, Ed Nakamura, Frank Nakamura, Sally Nakamura, Ken Nakanishi, John Nihei, Joe Niimi, Toragoro Niimi, Roy Nishidera, Nag Nishihara, Yo Nishizaki, Ken Noda, Dr. Henry Masataro Nomura, B. Oda, Tashiro Omoto, Tom Sawayama, Mickey Sato, Jubo Sekine, Shoichi Shima, Ken Shimada, Frank Shiraishi, George Shishido, Kazuo ‘Kaz’ Suga, Kenichi ‘Ty’ Suga, Ken Suzuki, Kaichi Tabata, Charlie Tanaka, George Tanaka, Herbie Tanaka, T.H. Tanaka, Chuck Terada, Mickey Terakita, Yuji Uchiyama, Yuki Uno, Ken Yamamura, Roy Yamamura, Otto Yanagisawa, Bob H. Yasui, Reggie H. Yasui, Ross Yonemoto, George Yoshinaka, Harry Yoshioka, Sutejirio Yoshioka.
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.