Academic journal article Base Ball

From Honolulu to Brooklyn: The Journeys of the Hawaiian Travelers

Academic journal article Base Ball

From Honolulu to Brooklyn: The Journeys of the Hawaiian Travelers

Article excerpt

Playing well over one hundred games, the Hawaiian Travelers barnstormed from one coast of the mainland to the other from 1912 until 1916. They also journeyed into Canada and Cuba. They won far more often than they lost against college, semi-professional, and even professional nines. While confronting racist stereotypes of Asians as exotic Orientals, these Hawaiian ballplayers often amazed American spectators not only with their baseball talent but also with their fluency in the English language. "Orientals" were not supposed to be accomplished athletes with a mastery of American English and baseball slang. At best they were supposed to master Confucius-at worst, drift of in a cloud of opium smoke and knock each other of in tong wars.

I have been researching this team since the early 1990s, when I ran across a mention of the Hawaiian athletes in the Seymours' Baseball: The People's Game. The Seymours wrote about a team of Chinese Hawaiians competing for the Chinese University of Hawaii and touring the American mainland annually from 1910 until 1916. As I have discovered, this was not quite right: the team of Hawaiian barnstormers did not make its first journey eastward until 1912; nor did it consist solely of Chinese Hawaiians- athletes of Japanese and Native Hawaiian ancestry also played. It also appears that the Chinese University of Hawaii, though billed as the nominal opponent in many games on the mainland, never in fact existed.

Much of the way this Hawaiian team was advertised and perceived a century ago is confusing today. Apparently the club's Honolulu promoters were convinced that mainland college nines would refuse to play it unless it were a[double dagger]liated with a college or university- thus the concoction of a fictional "Chinese University." Making matters more perplexing is that the team was promoted as "All-Chinese" even though by 1914 more than half of its ballplayers did not have any Chinese ancestry. The team had been known as (at one time or another) the Chinese University of Hawaii, the All-Chinese, the Near- All-Chinese, the Chinese Travelers, and the Hawaiian Travelers. However, the latter seems to fit the ballplayers' racial and ethnic identities most effectively and, consequently, I will use it most often.

Sam Hop, a Chinese Hawaiian athlete, "sport," and restaurateur, managed the team in 1913 and 1914 and tried to get around the fact that a growing number of roster spots were taken up by non-Chinese Hawaiians. He chose to give his non-Chinese players names that were presumably Chinese enough to fool haoles (a Hawaiian term for foreigners often applied to Caucasians) on the mainland. Catcher and third baseman Fred Markham, who had a white father and a Native Hawaiian mother, became "Mark." The dynamic Japanese Hawaiian Andy Yamashiro became "Yim." And this practice of using "non-Chinese" ringers by providing them with supposedly Chinese names continued even after Hop no longer managed the team. Hawaiian sportswriters and baseball fans were, of course, not fooled; but the mainland press would call Hawaiian ballplayers "Chinese" in 1916 even though two of them-Bill Inman and Roy Doty-were haoles.

Accordingly, efforts to get a handle on the racial and ethnic identities of these athletes were and are bound for frustration. Some things, however, remain pretty evident. They were all, except perhaps Doty, native-born Hawaiians. Many apparently came from middle- and lower-middle-class backgrounds. And they were darn good ballplayers-a few good enough to attract interest from mainland minor and major league franchises.

While these barnstorming ballplayers traveled throughout mainland North America, they played many games in and around New York City and Philadelphia. On the East Coast, they would attract notable and often respectful attention from the sporting press, and would also draw relatively large crowds.

The barnstormers were two months into their inaugural journey to the mainland when they took on a Fordham University nine at the famed Polo Grounds in New York City. …

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