30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Sunday, December 10, 2017

WWII, Heritage, and Baseball

"Whether Issei, Nisei, Sansei, or Yonsei, if we do not preserve this unique chapter in American baseball history, it's all gonna be about No Say."  -Pat Morita

My parents are Japanese-Americans who were born and raised in Hawaii.  And without dating myself or my parents too much, both were living on Oahu when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

An estimated 110,000 men, women, and children were sent to internment camps located in California, Arizona, Arkansas, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado.  Many of them lost their homes, jobs, and businesses during their time in the camps.

Thankfully, neither of my parents or their families were relocated like all of the Japanese and Japanese-Americans located on the West Coast of the United States were.

To help keep their morale up, the families bonded and turned the camps into cities within the barbed wire.  They organized dances and played baseball to keep themselves entertained.

American Pastime is a movie that tells the story of baseball within internment camps during World War II.  I wasn't able to find any proof, but I think that one of the characters (Kaz Nomura) was inspired by the Father of Japanese-American Baseball, Kenichi Zenimura.

Although I wouldn't say this is one of my favorite sports movies, I feel it's worth watching... especially if you're a fan of the game.  I was personally drawn to it, because it combines three things I'm really interested in:  World War II, Japanese-American culture, and baseball.

I originally purchased this movie years ago at the annual Nikkei Matsuri (Japanese festival) in San Jose, but I loaned the copy to a friend and never got it back.

Over the years, I had totally forgotten about it, but a last year I found another copy sitting on the shelf at Nikkei Traditions when I met up with a friend for dinner.

It's autographed by Kerry Yo Nakagawa, who plays Jumbo Tanaka in the movie and was also one of the film's associate producers.  Nakagawa started up the Nisei Baseball Research Project, which is a non-profit organization whose goal is to preserve Japanese-American baseball.  He's also the author of Through a Diamond: 100 Years of Japanese American Baseball.

Included with the DVD was this autographed baseball card of Nakagawa featured in his Topaz uniform from the movie.

I was very excited to add both of these items to my personal collection.

Okay... you know the routine...

What's your favorite sports and/or World War II movie?

Happy Sunday and sayonara!


  1. Fuji, I have a copy of this movie and set it aside to send with the cards. Obviously, I forgot to include it! While it certainly wasn't the best movie I've seen, it was worth watching. I found it sad for obvious reasons but the ending was perfect. My current baseball fave is "42".

  2. Not our finest moment, thank you for sharing-good to know in the despair and tragedy of the interments that some could escape through baseball. Favorite sports movie is between Bad News Bears (so much a part of my childhood), and Slapstick which so freaking funny. WWII "Movie" I watch often is Band of Brothers

  3. Grave of The Fireflies is the only war movie I needed to see. Well that and All Quiet On The Western Front (though the book is better).

  4. When I was a kid "The Bad News Bears" was it...as an adult it would be "Major League".

  5. Hi Fuji: Here's a link to a documentary on Japanese-Canadian baseball you might find interesting--Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story---https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krY8rA1J-WM---

  6. I really like "Field of Dreams". I'm not really a war movie guy. Though more of a love story set in WWII, I like the somewhat obscure British film, "A Matter of Life and Death" (in the US, "Stairway to Heaven".) Great cast with David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey, Raymond Massey and Marius Goring.

  7. My favorite sports movie is Hoosiers, and my favorite WWII movie is Great Escape. McQueen plays a little baseball when he's in "the cooler", but other than that, not much sports in that one.

  8. I'll have to look for this! Sounds like a fascinating story!

  9. Saving Private Ryan! Great card...I love what you dig up!

  10. Julie Owens - I'm embarrassed to admit that I still haven't seen 42. I own it. I just haven't watched it.

    Brady - It's part of history. What I find fascinating is I've met 10 to 20 people who were interned and although they've shared stories about the conditions, I've never once heard them talk down about our country. Different times, I guess. P.S. I can watch Band of Brothers over and over and over.

    Zippy Zappy - I'll have to look up Grave of the Fireflies. I've never heard of it. Haven't watch All Quiet on the Western Front either. 2 movies added to the list.

    Swing and a Pop-up - Loved Bad News Bears as a kid too. Kind of lost its luster over the years, but it's still a piece of my childhood

    Al Kawamoto - Thanks Al! Just watched part 1. Very interesting. Gonna try to watch the other parts this weekend.

    Hackenbush - Field of Dreams is a classic. Never heard of A Matter of Life and Death. But I'll see if I can watch it online.

    Josh D. Love Hoosiers! Watched The Great Escape when I was younger. Great movie.

    Matt - I hope you enjoy it!

    SumoMenkoMan - That is an awesome movie! I really need to watch it again.