For the love of the game

Over the Vancouver Asahi club’s long history, there were at least eighty players who gave their all for the team, along with the coaches, managers, and an official scorer, too. Together they achieved greatness.

Sustaining success

A handful of players from the team’s earliest years went on to long careers with the club. First baseman and later manager Harry Miyasaki, catcher Yo Horii, outfielders Tom Matoba and Eddie Kitagawa were some of the stalwarts. They gave the Asahis decades of continuity that helped the team to sustain success.

Steady influences

Veterans like third baseman Junji Ito and famed shortstop Roy Yamamura had a steadying influence on younger Asahi players. Ito, known as the Asahi’s "king of bunting," taught them to bunt like a master. Yamamura, called "the dancing shortstop," played and coached the team as manager well into the late 1930s.

Disciplined teamwork

Infielders or outfielders, Asahi players impresse Read More
For the love of the game

Over the Vancouver Asahi club’s long history, there were at least eighty players who gave their all for the team, along with the coaches, managers, and an official scorer, too. Together they achieved greatness.

Sustaining success

A handful of players from the team’s earliest years went on to long careers with the club. First baseman and later manager Harry Miyasaki, catcher Yo Horii, outfielders Tom Matoba and Eddie Kitagawa were some of the stalwarts. They gave the Asahis decades of continuity that helped the team to sustain success.

Steady influences

Veterans like third baseman Junji Ito and famed shortstop Roy Yamamura had a steadying influence on younger Asahi players. Ito, known as the Asahi’s "king of bunting," taught them to bunt like a master. Yamamura, called "the dancing shortstop," played and coached the team as manager well into the late 1930s.

Disciplined teamwork

Infielders or outfielders, Asahi players impressed with dazzling speed and disciplined teamwork. From behind the plate, catchers like Reggie Yasui and Ken Kutsukake surveyed the entire field. They called the pitches, and with lightening skill threw out base stealers and blocked runners from home plate.

Asahi hurlers

On the mound, early Asahi captain Mickey Kitagawa possessed an unusual curve ball. South-paw Ty Suga went on to pitch 17 years of consistent wins after his 1923 debut. Mickey Maikawa hurled a mix of curves, shoots and benders that kept batters guessing. Naggie Nishihara, "fireball thrower from Powell Street," and the stellar Kaz Suga were ace pitchers in the later years.

Versatile infielders

In the infield, there were many versatile players like original Asahi Ted Furumoto, a shortstop, pitcher and right fielder. A decade later, Mike Maruno played shortstop, third base, catcher and almost every position. The talented Maruno, like third baseman Herbie Tanaka and catcher Reggie Yasui, combined a strong throwing arm with very fast running.

Outfield masters

In the outfield, Asahi players like Tom Miyata were renowned for game-saving catches. Uncannily accurate fielding was typical of Abie Korenaga at centre and Mousie Masuda in right field. Fans helped, too, opening up running room on the left field line at Powell Street Grounds for fleet-footed left fielder Frank Shiraishi to catch fly balls.

Outstanding hitters

On offense, the Asahis delivered solid and even outstanding hitting. Asahi infielders Sally Nakamura, Joe Fukui and Yuki Uno were powerful hitters. Pitcher Kaz Suga batted over .400 every year, vied with league batting champ Ralph Spicer, and won the team batting trophy five times.

Late inning rallies

Asahi players were most amazing when they pulled victory from defeat in final innings with sacrifice hits and stolen bases. Players like Tom Matoba were league leaders in stealing bases and reaching first base the most. The crowds loved the amiable Matoba as a “slugger,” too, for batting home runs out of the ballpark.

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

Invincible Asahis

Invincible Asahis, taken at Powell St. Ground

Courtesy of the Kitagawa Family
1926-06-18
© Courtesy of the Kitagawa Family


Video - Title: Disciplined Teamwork

John Nihei in "Shirare zaru Kanada Asahi-gun," JNN Hodo Tokushu, TBS.

Translation:

[Narrator] Asahi started in 1914 here in Vancouver. This was a time when amateur baseball’s popularity was at its peak. Asahi was becoming a big club with five minor teams including the junior teams like the Clovers and the Beavers. …

[John Nihei] The reason why they were so popular was because they always won by placing bunts, instead of hitting.

JNN Hodo Tokushu, TBS
1994
© JNN Hodo Tokushu, TBS


Ken Kutsukake

Ken Kutsukake, catcher, Fife player at bat, Powell Ground.

Ken and Rose Kutsukake Collection.
1939
© Japanese Canadian National Museum


Video - Asahi Hurlers

Midge Ayukawa, Frank Moritsugu, and Kiyoshi Suga in Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story.

… O Canada we stand on guard for thee.

[Midge Ayukawa] The Asahi team meant much more than just a baseball team. It was a whole philosophy of life, almost, where you reach out and you get what you want and you work really hard at it.

[Frank Moritsugu] They were gods, I think it’s fair to say. We worshipped them.

[Kiyoshi Suga] I’ll never forget the Asahis. How can I? How can I? They were our pride – the pride of the community. The Asahis’ name will live on forever. Nobody will ever forget them.

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


Yuki Uno at Bat

Yuki Uno at bat, Powell Ground, Vancouver, B.C.

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


Mike Maruno

Mike Maruno

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


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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