Baseball is based on the English game of rounders. Rounders become popular in the United States in the early 19th century, where the game was called “townball”, “base” or “baseball”.
In 1845, Alexander Cartwright organized the New York Knickerbockers team with a constitution and bylaws, and suggested that they could arrange more games and the sport would be more widely-played if it had a single set of agreed-upon rules.
Cartwright went on to teach people in Hawai‘i how to play the game; he also was part of Honolulu’s first Volunteer Fire Brigade, and became Fire Chief.
Cartwright was the executor of Queen Emma’s Last Will & Testament, as well as executor of the estate of King Kalākaua. Alexander Cartwright died at the age of 72 in Honolulu on July 12th, 1892. A large, pink granite monument in Oʻahu Cemetery marks the final resting-place of Alexander Joy Cartwright, Jr.
Japan had already adopted the sport during the Meiji era (1870s), when Japan was adopting western customs to establish a more modern national identity. Baseball, to the Japanese, incorporated both western and eastern cultural elements. Baseball had Japanese values of harmony, determination and discipline while also reflecting Western characteristics. (Pang)
The recorded history of Japanese American involvement in baseball in Hawai‘i dates back to 1899, the year Reverend Takie Okumura of the Makiki Christian Church formed a team made up primarily of boys who boarded at his Okumura Home.
He named the team Excelsior, and they captured the youth league championship in 1905. (Chinen) Other ethnic teams formed, including the Chinese.
“Although Chinese baseball players are mighty scarce in this country, over in Honolulu there is a team composed exclusively of Chinese and they play good baseball. The team is called the Chinese Alohas.”
“In a recent game with the players representing the Hawaiian Hotel, the Chinese team won by the score of 9 to 8. The line-up of the Chinese team is as follows:”
“F You, catcher; Chang Yen, pitcher; N. Sheng, first base; Ah Yap, second base; Yuan Chew, third base; Hoi Sing, shortstop: Ho Tong, right field: Ah Sam, center field; Hung Nyam, left field.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, April 17, 1907)
“During the period between 1910 and 1925, (Chinese) baseball teams … ruled supreme in the territory. The aggregations were so successful that they new worlds to conquer.”
“Starting in 1912 and through 1916, Chinese diamond squads annually invaded the mainland, returning each time with impressive records.” (Franks)
“Honolulu had become a hotbed of Chinese American community baseball. In the early 1900s, the Chinese Athletic Club (CAC) team and the Chinese Alohas called on the services of some of the best ballplayers in the city.”
“In 1912, the CAC, with the financial help of Chinatown merchants and haole boosters anxious to promote Honolulu on the mainland, assembled an ‘all-Chinese’ team that journeyed across the Pacific and engaged in over 100 games against college, community, semiprofessional, and professional teams.”
In June 1912, a Chinese in Hawai‘i organized an amateur league with teams such as the Wah Mun, CAU, CYA, Kukuis and Man Lun. (Franks)
A September 1912 game had thousands watching a game between Wah Mun (representing the ‘Chinese revolutionary faction’) against their rival Man Lun team (representing the Chinese Emperor Reform Association, which backed the continued dynastic rule of China.) There were fears of a riot; but there was none.
However, a fight flared in a later CAU – Man Lun game. Apparently, a Filipino Hawaiian fan was trying to compliment a Chinese Hawaiian player using a Chinese phrase. In reality, he uttered an insult. “For his compliment, the Filipino got a beating by from the Chinaman. The police let it go at that.” (Franks)
About this time there had been growing tensions in China and the revolutionary movement grew stronger and stronger, culminating in the October 10, 1911 Wuhan (Wuchang) Uprising which succeeded in overthrowing the Qing (Manchu) dynasty and establishing the Republic of China.
That date is now celebrated annually as the Republic of China’s national day, also known as the “Double Ten Day,” when the Qing Dynasty finally fell. Sun Yat-sen (the Father of Modern China – and who learned the game of baseball when he lived in Hawai‘i in 1883,) who had been on the American mainland, returned to China at the invitation of the successful revolutionaries to be sworn in as China’s first president in 1912.
Sun’s presidency lasted only 45 days. His most powerful rival was Yuan Shikai (Shih-kai,) who had built a strong base of power in northern China in his role as a top Qing military leader. When Yuan began to flex his muscles, Sun decided it would be politically prudent to abdicate in his favor. Sun turned his attention to forming the Guomindang (Nationalist Party.) (Asia Society)
The Republic of China governed mainland China until 1949; in that year, during the Chinese Civil War, the communists captured Beijing and later Nanjing. The communist-party-led People’s Republic of China was proclaimed on October 1, 1949.
Back to baseball … in 1915, “arrangements have been completed for the famous All-Chinese baseball team of Honolulu, which was so successful against the leading American College clubs on its tour of the United States last year, to come to Shanghai and take part in the series for the open baseball championship of the Far East.”
They needed to raise $5,000 for expenses. Chinese President Yuan Shih-kai sent a letter of support, “stating the president’s hearty approval of the effort to popularize baseball in China as a suitable outdoor sport for Chinese youth …”
“… and the president also sent his check for $500 as a personal contribution towards the expenses of bringing out the All-Chinese baseball team from Honolulu, which he believes will do much to stimulate interest in the game among Chinese.” (Star Bulletin, April 8, 1915)
Furthermore, “Under the patronage of the Chinese government and with the personal assistance of Wu Tang-fang, former Chinese minister to the United States, a baseball team of American-born Chinese is on its way to Shanghai on the steamer Mongolia, by way of the Philippines and Japan.”
“Their expenses in China will be met by the Chinese Government. The team will tour the (principal) cities of the interior to introduce American athletics for the physical improvement of the youth of China.” (Columbus Weekly Advocate, April 15, 1915)
“Sixteen games were played in all during the trip to the Philippines and China, and of these 12 were won, three lost and one tied.”
“In Peking the president of China gave us a reception, and talked to us for about five minutes. We received special permission
to visit the old royal residence, and altogether were treated as distinguished guests.” (Star-Bulletin, June 22, 1915)
In Hawai‘i in 1920, an All-Chinese team knocked off a visiting University of Chicago team; they tied University of California, and later in 1922, Honolulu’s All-Chinese team beat a visiting Stanford team. (Franks)
“For several decades thereafter Hawaiian Chinese organized their own leagues, while supporting a team called the Chinese Tigers that competed in the Hawaii Baseball League.” (Jorae; Zhao)
Chinese Americans used baseball as a means of developing and maintaining sense of community. Through baseball, they cross cultural boundaries to play with and against varied racial and ethnic identities. Some American ballplayers of Chinese ancestry have competed effectively at the highest levels of professional baseball. (Jorae; Zhao)