Ito: U.S. WWII internees recall ballgame of freedom

From Koichi Ito at the Japan Times on December 14, 2014, with mention of SABR member Bill Staples Jr.:

A baseball series played 70 years ago between two U.S. internment camps became a symbol of freedom for a group of Japanese-Americans rounded up during the war.

The players, now octogenarians, are among the more than 120,000 Japanese nationals and Japanese-Americans who were forced into the internment camps by the U.S. government after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Since some of the camps allowed internees to play baseball, they built makeshift diamonds and organized league matches that attracted thousands of spectators.

In 1944, some 20 young players at the Gila River internment camp in Arizona were granted permission to travel to the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming for a series of games.

The 2,000-km trip by the internees during the war was an incredible adventure, Bill Staples Jr., a 44-year-old baseball historian, said at an event in late October to commemorate the 70-year-old baseball series at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose.

The bus trip started at the end of August 1944 and was financed using money the players had accumulated from their labor in the camp, as well as small amounts pitched in by other internees.

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Originally published: December 16, 2014. Last Updated: December 16, 2014.