During WWII, Japanese-American Internment Camps In Arizona Had Own Baseball Teams

Published: Friday, March 2, 2018 - 3:00pm
Updated: Friday, December 7, 2018 - 10:30am
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Cactus League spring training is underway in the Valley and, this year, five new baseball greats have been inducted into the Cactus League Hall of Fame.

Charlie Vascellaro is a baseball historian and a freelance writer who covers the Cactus League every year.

He worked with the Hall of Fame this year to put together biographies of each of the inductees and, when he started researching the last one — Yosh Kawano — he came across something really interesting: Not only was Kawano the longtime clubhouse manager for the Cubs, he was also interned with his family at the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona during World War II in 1942.

And, Kawano’s story reminded him of a relatively unknown piece of Arizona baseball history: during World War II, in Arizona, there were five Japanese internment camps where American citizens were sent. And they each had their own baseball team.

It was a league that speaks to the Japanese tradition of baseball and the American immigrant experience, Vascellaro said.

If you want to know more about internment camp baseball later this month at Scottsdale’s Civic Center Library, the Arizona Spring Training Experience and the Cactus League Hall of Fame will host a screening of “American Pastime” and a Q&A with its producer about the tradition of Japanese American baseball.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This headline has been updated to clarify that those held in the camps were Japanese-American.

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