Last member of Vancouver Asahi baseball team that fought racism helps unveil new stamp

Members of the Asahi baseball club were interned near Hope at Tashme

A new Canada Post stamp, shown in a handout, honours an amateur Japanese-Canadian baseball team that used sport to battle racism and discrimination.The Vancouver Asahi formed in 1914 and thrilled fans in the city until 1941 when it was disbanded during the Second World War as Canada interned more than 20,000 people, most of them Canadians of Japanese descent. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canada Post)

A new Canada Post stamp honouring an amateur Japanese-Canadian baseball team whose members were forced into Tashme—the nation’s second largest internment camp—in the early 1940s.

The team, the Vancouver Asahi ,was formed in 1914 and thrilled fans in the city until 1941 when it was disbanded during the Second World War as Canada interned more than 20,000 people, most of them Canadians of Japanese descent. But until that moment, the team’s players had focused not only on the sport, but also on using baseball to battle racism and discrimination.

READ MORE: Latest Heritage Minute episode filmed near Hope and features some dark local history

Canada Post says the stamp recognizes more than the well-known story of the Asahi players, who used a strategy they dubbed “brain ball” to beat bigger, more powerful teams by relying on bunts, base stealing and squeeze plays.

The stamp also honours the Asahi commitment to honourable, fair play to oppose overt racism and fear that was common in Canada during the first half of the 20th century and resulted in the forced internment of Japanese-Canadians.

The Tashme camp, where many of the Asahi’s members were interned, is in the Sunshine Valley, near Hope, has been turned into an award-winning museum that houses artifacts that belonged to members of the Asahi, including a bat they used to play while interned.

Kaye Kaminishi — a third baseman and, at 97, the last surviving member of the Vancouver Asahi — helped unveil the stamp Wednesday night at a ceremony in Burnaby, B.C.

The stamp displays 11 Asahi players from the 1940 team, including Kaminishi, who appears in the back row, second from left.

In Februrary, Historica Canada aired its latest Heritage Minute, which also featured the Asahi Baseball club.

Carla Qualtrough, minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, who is responsible for Canada Post, attended the unveiling and says Canada’s internment policy during the Second World War remains one of the most tragic events in Canadian history.

“This stamp reflects the Asahi’s determination to overcome racism and discrimination through the power of sport,” Qualtrough says in a statement. ”Asahi players exhibited integrity, honour and fair play and were shining examples of what it means to be truly Canadian.”

Actor George Takei, known for his role as Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek,” took time off from a local movie shoot to attend the unveiling at Burnaby’s Nikkei centre, a complex celebrating Japanese-Canadian history and culture.

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