A small softball tournament in Vancouver Saturday marked a sporting milestone — the Asahi tribute game taking pace 100 years after the legendary Japanese-Canadian team was formed.
Shortly after throwing the first pitch in a Vancouver tribute game, Kaye Kaminishi, reminisced on the wide sweep of history encompassed by this game which on Saturday was played mostly for fun.
The Asahi were a powerhouse on the West Coast through the 1930's.
Nichola Ogiwara with the Nikkei National Museum says their opposition often towered over them physically so they developed a style all their own.
"Typically Japanese-Canadians were shorter. They were five-feet-something compared to the Caucasians, so they're famous for their brainball tactics, like bunting and squeeze,"she said. "And they won the championships!".
Discrimination killed team
But talent and tactics were no match for discriminatory laws.
Kaminishi was born in Canada, but as a Japanese-Canadian he wasn't allowed to vote and most jobs were closed to him.
With the Second World War, the situation worsened. Japanese-Canadians were removed from their homes and placed in internment camps. The Asahi were shut down only managing the odd pick-up game against nearby local teams.
After the war and under pressure to leave the West Coast, the Asahi never played again.
"I'm really happy to see this because still somebody remembers us, our team," he said. I'm really happy, especially like this, kids and everybody playing each other."
Kaminishi is the tournament celebrity and one of the few surviving members of the original team.
Saturday's tribute game was a chance for anyone who stopped by to join the players in a game, wear the name, have some fun and remember how players like Kaminishi ran around the bases and into history.