Yamamura becomes first individual Asahi player inducted into Canadian ball hall

Roy Yamamura. Photo: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

It’s a shame that Roy Yamamura wasn’t alive for his induction into Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

His daughter Bonnie Fukuzawa, who spoke on her father’s behalf during the Canadian ball hall’s virtual ceremony on Tuesday night, said her dad would’ve been overjoyed with the honour.

“When I was informed that dad was being inducted as an individual player to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in November, I was so thrilled, excited, happy and very, very proud,” she said. “Baseball was always a big part of his life. This was his greatest achievement. I don’t think he ever imagined it would come true. It’s such an honour for him.”

Renowned for his leadership abilities, Yamamura was a prolific base-stealer, batting champion, an MVP award-winning shortstop and player/manager with the legendary Vancouver Asahi for close to two decades. The Asahi were inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame as a team in 2003.

When you read Yamamura’s story and the hardships he was forced to endure, it’s a testament to his resiliency, ability to forgive and his passion for baseball that he continued to be a positive voice for the sport in Canada until his death in 1990.

Originating in 1914, the Vancouver Asahi played an exciting brand of “small ball” in which they regularly bunted for base hits and stole bases with abandon. The team became a source of pride for Japanese Canadians.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the team’s success helped Japanese Canadians build bridges between their communities and occidental ones. Led in large part by Yamamura, the Asahi won the Terminal League title in 1926, and by the ’30s, the team was competing in the prestigious Senior City League and had become the top gate attraction on the West Coast.

Beginning in 1937, the Asahi won the Pacific Northwest Championship five years in a row. However, early in 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Canadian government interned all people of Japanese descent, confiscating their property, and uprooting their lives.

Yamamura and thousands of Japanese Canadians were sent to prison camps. But at these camps, players from the Asahi took with them the spirit of baseball and they began assembling baseball teams. Soon these men were playing against their RCMP prison guards, then with local townspeople – many of whom had never seen a Japanese person before and were surprised to discover they spoke perfect English. Baseball was a common bond and it helped dispel suspicions and fears and led to lasting friendships.

Yamamura has been celebrated for his refusal to let the dark days of internment for Japanese Canadians spoil his love of baseball. After the Second World War, he moved East, a common story for many Nisei who felt they needed to disperse in order to prevent any future roundup of them as a visible minority.

Among the items confiscated from Yamamura during his internment was one of his MVP trophies.

“Canadian authorities wrote to him after the war, asking him if he’d like his confiscated Most Valuable Player Award returned, but the letter went to the wrong address and by the time the error was corrected, it was lost,” shared historian Bill Humber during the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Tuesday night. “We hope this moment of recognition is one his family can enjoy.”

With his induction on Tuesday, Yamamura became the first individual Vancouver Asahi team member to be inducted.

“Roy was a dominant player in the league,” noted Humber. “He was, indeed, one of the best players in Western Canada between the wars and the fact that he put up with so much — losing his MVP, his internment during the war. The fact that he still loved baseball and the fact that when he came East, he was still willing to engage in the game to promote it, to do just about everything to make it happen is a great story beyond his time with the Asahi. And it’s one of the major reasons that we thought he deserved recognition at this time.”

Yamamura continued to play baseball after the war for Nisei teams in Hamilton, Ont., and Montreal, Que., and later managed an all-star team in the Hamilton Ontario Nisei Sunday Baseball League, which was formed in 1948.

More than three decades after the Asahi’s final season, Yamamura was among those who attended a reunion of the team at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto in 1972.

“In Roy Yamamura’s case, his love of baseball continued after the war, despite the torment of internment,” said Humber. “He moved to Eastern Canada where he played, coached, umpired and promoted the game into his senior years.”

Yamamura passed away on March 10, 1990 in Toronto, Ont.

He was one of the 16 individuals inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as part of their 2021 class on Tuesday. One team, the 1877 London Tecumsehs, was also enshrined.

Tuesday’s night virtual ceremony, which lasted just under an hour, also honoured Ken Fidlin and Dan Shulman, the winners of the 2019 and 2020 Jack Graney awards respectively. The Graney Award is handed out annually for media excellence.

The 2019 and 2020 James Tip O’Neill Award winners, Mike Soroka and Jamie Romak, were also celebrated. The Tip O’Neill Award is presented to the top Canadian player each year.

Here’s an alphabetical listing of the 2021 inductees. A more extensive bio of each inductee follows:

Bob Addy, player, Port Hope, Ont.

James F. Cairns, executive, Lawrenceville, Que.

Helen Callaghan, player, Vancouver, B.C.

Jimmy Claxton, player, Wellington, B.C.

Charlie Culver, player and manager, Buffalo, N.Y.

William Galloway, player, Buffalo, N.Y.

Roland Gladu, player and scout, Montreal, Que.

Vern Handrahan, player, Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Manny McIntyre, player, Devon, N.B.

Joe Page, executive, London, England

Ernie Quigley, umpire, Newcastle, N.B.

Hector Racine, executive, La Prairie, Que.

Jimmy Rattlesnake, player, Hobbema (Maskwacis), Alta.

Jean-Pierre Roy, player and broadcaster, Montreal, Que.

Fred Thomas, player, Windsor, Ont.

Roy Yamamura, player and executive, Vancouver, B.C.

1877 London Tecumsehs, International Association championship-winning team, London, Ont.

The 16 individual inductees, all of whom are deceased, and one team were selected by a six-person Committee comprised of Canadian baseball historians from across the country.

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s class of 2020, which consists of former players Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.), Duane Ward, John Olerud and legendary Montreal Expos broadcaster Jacques Doucet, will be inducted separately in an in-person ceremony in St. Marys, Ont., on June 18, 2022.

Jack Graney Award winners

2019 – Ken Fidlin, Toronto Sun

After beginning his journalism career with the Woodstock Sentinel Review, Fidlin enjoyed tenures as a sportswriter with the Kingston Whig-Standard, Ottawa Journal and Ottawa Today before being hired by the Toronto Sun in 1980. He proceeded to become a highly respected Blue Jays beat writer and columnist until he retired in 2016. In all, he spent 45 years as a sportswriter and had the opportunity to cover 20 World Series, two Stanley Cup championships, two Olympic Games, five Super Bowls and nine Grey Cups.

2020 – Dan Shulman, Blue Jays TV play-by-play commentator, Rogers Sportsnet

Shulman began his professional broadcasting career with CKBB, a Barrie, Ont., radio station, in 1990 and in 1991 he moved on to the FAN 1430 (now Sportsnet 590 The FAN). In 1995, he began serving as the Blue Jays’ play-by-play commentator on TSN and also worked part-time for ESPN. He joined ESPN full-time in 2001 and was the voice of Wednesday Night Baseball from 2002 to 2007, Monday Night Baseball from 2008 to 2010 and Sunday Night Baseball from 2011 to 2017. The Toronto native has now been calling MLB postseason games on the radio for ESPN since 1998 and World Series contests since 2011. Shulman returned to the Blue Jays TV crew in 2016 and has been calling games for Rogers Sportsnet.

James “Tip” O’Neill Award winners

2019 – Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves

In 2019, his first full major league season, Soroka posted a 13-4 record and a 2.68 ERA, while striking out 142 batters in 174-2/3 innings in 29 starts for the Braves. For his efforts, the Calgary, Alta., native was named to the National League All-Star team and a starting pitcher on Baseball America’s MLB All-Rookie team.

2020 – Jamie Romak, SSG Landers

In 2020, Romak batted .282 with 32 home runs in 139 games for the SK Wyverns (now SSG Landers) of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). On top of his power numbers, the London, Ont., native also had 85 runs, recorded 32 doubles and walked 91 times, while registering a .546 slugging percentage and a .945 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS).

Inductee Bios

Bob Addy

Born in 1842 in Port Hope, Ont., Addy was Canada’s first major leaguer and first star player. After developing his baseball skills north of the border, he moved to Illinois at roughly the age of 20 and later joined the Forest City Club of Rockford in 1866. One of the best teams of the era, it featured stars like Al Spalding, Cap Anson and Ross Barnes. Addy then followed Spalding and Barnes when they moved to the Chicago club in the new National League in 1876. The talented Canadian was known on the field for his wit and the bravado of his playing style and some claim he was the first to slide into a base. In all, Addy suited up for 274 professional games between 1871 and 1877. He passed away on April 9, 1910 in Pocatello, Idaho.

James F. Cairns

Born on March 23, 1870 in Lawrenceville, Que., Cairns travelled west to Saskatoon in 1902 and became president of the Saskatoon Ball Club. He soon developed it into one of the finest clubs in the Prairies. In 1912, the team, known as the Saskatoon Berry Pickers, toured throughout the Prairies and the northern United States and joined the Western Canada League, the only organized baseball league to operate in the province. At the same time, Cairns was also instrumental in building what was considered the finest ballpark in the Prairies, which was named after him (Cairns Field) and opened in 1913. The following year, his team captured the Western Canada League pennant. When the league folded in 1921, he initiated the Saskatoon Exhibition Tournament, which ran continuously until 1969 (with the exception of 1924). Cairns was inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 1985. He died on March 18, 1928 in Saskatoon, Sask.

Helen (Callaghan) Candaele St. Aubin

Born March 13, 1923 in Vancouver, B.C., she was one of Vancouver’s top softball players before heading south to become one of the stars of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). A left-handed hitting outfielder, she played in the AAGPBL from 1944 to 1949 with Minneapolis, Fort Wayne and Kenosha. Her strong throwing arm made her one of the best left fielders in the league, but it was her blazing speed that set her apart. She stole 419 bases in 495 games and compiled a career on-base percentage of .355. She would also raise a family of five sons, including her youngest, Casey Candaele, who went on to a major league playing career. An older son, Kelly Candaele, co-produced a documentary on the AAGPBL in the late 1980s which inspired the film, A League of Their Own. She passed away on December 8, 1992 in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Jimmy Claxton

Born December 14, 1892 in Wellington, B.C., Claxton was of multi-ethnic heritage, including African Canadian. He played for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in 1916, posing as a Native American before his heritage became public, at which point he was released. Claxton became an itinerant semi-professional, claiming to have played in all but two of the 48 contiguous United States. He appeared on a Zee-Nut series baseball card in 1916, the first for a black player on a U.S.-made card in modern organized baseball, and may have been the first black player to briefly skirt the colour bar in the 20th century until his full identity was revealed. In 1932, Claxton played for two teams in the East-West League, a Negro league recently raised to major league status. To date, he is the only Canadian Negro Leaguer with such upgraded major league identity. He died on March 3, 1970 in Tacoma, Wash.

Charlie Culver

Born November 17, 1892 in Buffalo, N.Y., Culver was an African-American who grew up in New York City. While barnstorming in Canada, he established himself in Montreal, playing for local semi-pro teams. When the Eastern Canada League was founded as a Class B league in 1922, he was recruited by the Montreal team and became one of the top players in local leagues for the rest of the decade. Culver also played for Chappie Johnson’s barnstorming African American team from 1930 to 1935, a team which was based in Quebec before moving to upstate New York. He returned to Quebec in 1936 to manage the Provincial League’s Black Panthers. He remained in Montreal as a player-manager for various local teams, pitching well into his fifties. He later became a respected manager in the strong Montreal Royal Junior League, where he helped Ray Daviault to a major league career. He passed away on January 4, 1970 in Montreal, Que.

William “Hipple” Galloway

Born March 24, 1882 in Buffalo, N.Y., Galloway was the son of Ontario-born parents and he moved to Dunnville, Ont., at the age of six. In Canada, he developed into a gifted player on integrated teams. He joined the Woodstock Bains Canadian League team in 1899. At that time, the Canadian League was a recognized minor league under the umbrella of organized baseball and Galloway became the first black Canadian to play organized baseball. However, when several white teammates objected to his presence, he was forced to leave the team. He then played for the Cuban X Giants, a black barnstorming team, with his hopes for a career in mainstream baseball dashed. He died on February 17, 1943 in Buffalo, N.Y.

Roland Gladu

Born May 10, 1911 in Montreal, Que., Gladu played 16 seasons of professional baseball between 1932 and 1951, including in the major leagues with the Boston Braves in 1941. He enjoyed five strong seasons with Quebec City squads, first in the Provincial League (1938-40) and then in the Canadian-American League (1941-42). He also had an outstanding campaign with the International League’s Montreal Royals in 1945, batting .338 with 105 RBIs in 153 games. He took over as player-manager for Sherbrooke of the Provincial League in 1948, leading them to two championships and hitting between .309 and .368 every year from 1948 to 1951. After his playing career, he scouted for the Milwaukee Braves and signed Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Claude Raymond and Ron Piché. He was elected to the British Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011 for his playing days in the United Kingdom. He passed away July 26, 1994 in Montreal.

Vern Handrahan

Born November 27, 1936 in Charlottetown, P.E.I., he was third player from his home province to reach the majors. In total, the 6-foot-2 right-hander played 12 seasons of professional baseball from 1959 to 1970, including eight seasons in Triple-A and in the major leagues for the Kansas City A’s in 1964 and 1966. He finished his pro career with a 3.81 ERA in 1,447 innings in 399 appearances. Prior to his professional career, Handrahan led the Charlottetown Abbies to the Maritime Junior Championship in 1956. After another good year in the local city league, he wrote to several clubs in the import-dominated Halifax & District League offering his services. He eventually tried out and signed with the Stellarton Albions and appeared in 15 games with them and pitched well enough to attract the attention of Milwaukee Braves’ scout Jeff Jones who offered him a pro contract. Handrahan continued to coach baseball at various levels after his retirement. He died on November 2, 2016 in Charlottetown.

Manny McIntyre

Born October 4, 1918 in Devon, N.B., McIntyre was the first black Canadian to play organized baseball in the modern era. He led his local Devon team to the New Brunswick Junior Baseball championship in 1938. After a year of senior baseball with the Truro Bearcats of Nova Scotia’s Pictou County League, he played wartime baseball in Halifax. In 1945, he moved to Trois-Rivières of the Quebec Provincial League and attracted attention from the New York Cubans, who were undertaking a barnstorming tour of the province. When he signed a pro contract as a shortstop with the Sherbrooke Canadiens, a Class C farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1946, he was one of only six blacks in organized baseball. After 30 games in Sherbrooke, he voluntarily left the club. He played for Fredericton of the New Brunswick League in 1948 and 1949 and helped lead them to the provincial championship in 1949. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. McIntyre passed away on June 13, 2011 in Candiac, Que.

Joe Page

Born April 19, 1868 in London, England, Page earned the title of “Father of Baseball” in Quebec through his nearly 60 years of involvement with the sport. He was involved with Montreal’s first 19th century professional team and helped bring the first incarnation of the Royals to the city. His founding of the Montreal Baseball League in 1897 prompted his French-speaking competitors to respond the next year by forming the Quebec Provincial League. Page used his connections and promotional skills to direct the 1934 tour of the Babe Ruth All-Stars to Japan. Prior to that, he had organized the investment group that brought International League baseball back to Montreal with the formation of the second iteration of the Royals in 1928. Page later worked as a scout and journalist, and served as an advisor to the Provincial League. He was also employed as editor of the Canadian edition of the Spalding Guide and became an honorary member of the Baseball Writers Association of America and helped bring the National Association Convention to Montreal in 1930 and 1936. Page died April 3, 1947 in Montreal.

Ernie Quigley

Born March 22, 1880 in Newcastle, N.B., Quigley umpired 3,351 major league games between 1913 and 1938, including six World Series appearances, most notably during the famous 1919 Black Sox scandal. After playing basketball under fellow Canadian James Naismith, Quigley went on to a lengthy career at the University of Kansas, and spent a number of years there as athletic director. Quigley spent a few years in baseball’s minor leagues as a player, but began his umpiring career in the Wisconsin-Illinois League in 1911, the New York State League in 1912, and the International League in 1913 before graduating to the major leagues. In 1940, following his umpiring career, he was appointed the National League’s first full-time director of public relations. In 1950, the University of Kansas named their baseball field in his honour. He passed away December 10, 1960 in Lawrence, Kan.

Hector Racine

Born October 8, 1866 in La Prairie, Que., Racine was a partner in many different companies when he purchased a share of the Montreal Royals in 1933. He became president of the club in 1935. It was a position he would hold until his death in 1956. Racine brokered the team’s partnership with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1940 and oversaw Jackie Robinson’s arrival in 1946, as the Royals became one of the minor leagues’ most successful franchises, winning six Governors Cups and three Junior World Series under his leadership. At the time of his death, Racine was also a vice-president of the International League, and on the board of directors of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He died on March 12, 1956 in Bal Harbour, Fla.

Jimmy Rattlesnake

Born in 1909 in Hobbema, Alta., he was a legendary First Nations player from the Ermineskin Cree Nation. A naturally gifted pitcher, he competed at the highest amateur and semi-pro levels in Western Canada through the 1930s and 40s. His trademark pitch was a “sawdust ball” that was comparable to a knuckler. He freelanced at many prize money tournaments, a feature of Western Canada baseball in the thirties, and major league teams scouted him, but he was more comfortable remaining close to his First Nations home. He did, however, pitch successfully against several teams of barnstorming major leaguers. He was inducted into the Wetaskiwin & County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and Baseball Canada’s “Jimmy Rattlesnake Award” now renamed “Ashley Stephenson Award” in 2018 is presented annually. He passed away on April 17, 1972 in Hobbema, Alta.

Jean-Pierre Roy

Born June 26, 1920 in Montreal, Que., Roy played 12 professional seasons, including with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946. In total, he pitched in over 300 professional games and hurled almost 1,600 innings. He enjoyed his finest professional season with the International League’s Montreal Royals in 1945 when he recorded 25 wins. At different times during his professional career, Roy played in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Cuba. His Canadian stops included Trois-Rivières (1940-41, 1951), Montreal (1944-46, 1949), St. Jean (1947-48), Drummondville (1951), Ottawa (1952-53) and Sherbrooke (1955). After his playing career, he joined the Montreal Expos’ broadcast team as an analyst, performing on French radio (1969-73) and TV (1969-83) broadcasts. Roy was also considered a great ambassador for baseball in Canada and the Expos employed him in various public relations roles. He died October 31, 2014 in Pompano Beach, Fla.

Fred Thomas

Born December 26, 1923 in Windsor, Ont., Thomas was a gifted basketball, football and baseball player. He suited up for the Detroit Senators, a black barnstorming outfit, in 1947 and then with the Farnham Pirates in 1948 in the Quebec Provincial League. In 1948, Cleveland owner Bill Veeck commissioned Abe Saperstein, famed for his oversight of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, to recommend black players for Cleveland’s farm system. Thomas was the first player signed, and he integrated the Eastern League when he took the field for Cleveland’s Wilkes-Barre Barons farm team in 1948. He returned to the Provincial League in 1949 but divided his attention between baseball and basketball. Thomas later starred as a slugging outfielder in Ontario’s Intercounty Baseball League in the early 1950s. He passed away May 20, 1981 in Windsor, Ont.

1877 London Tecumsehs

The London Tecumsehs are Canada’s first “major league” international baseball champions. Formed in 1868, the Tecumsehs won the International Association pennant in the league’s first season in 1877. They defeated the Alleghenies of Pittsburgh, and their future Hall of Fame pitcher Pud Galvin, in the championship game at their new park, Tecumseh Park. Some of the Tecumseh players included Fred Goldsmith, Joe Hornung, Phil Powers, Ed Somerville and Herm Doscher. The championship was Canada’s first, and only, on the international stage at baseball’s highest level, until the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992. The Tecumsehs’ achievement has received reduced attention because there is debate about the International Association’s major league status. Tecumseh Park was built specifically to house the team and exists to this day as Labatt Park. It is the world’s oldest continuous use ballpark.

8 thoughts on “Yamamura becomes first individual Asahi player inducted into Canadian ball hall

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  1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
    cooperstownersincanada says:

    Thanks for reading and your support.

      1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
        cooperstownersincanada says:

        Sorry, Karin. That was my error. I have corrected it. Sincerely, Kevin

  2. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
    cooperstownersincanada says:

    Thank you for reading and for your support.

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Will do. Sorry.

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