Hawai‘i Chinese Baseball Team at the Far Eastern Games, 1915

From The Barnstorming Hawaiian Travelers: A Multiethnic Baseball Team Tours the Mainland, 1912-1916, by Joel S. Franks (McFarland, 2012), Kindle Loc. 2220-2242:

Luck Yee told readers that China needed a baseball team to represent it adequately at the Far Eastern games. Thus, sports-minded Chinese authorities went to Hawai’i for help because they knew that “a Chinese baseball team” had made several successful journeys to the American mainland. Furthermore, “Manila people” were anxious to see a Chinese Hawaiian team in action.

The son of a Chinese immigrant father and a native-born Hawaiian mother, Luck Yee described the trip westward as pleasant. He said that he and his teammates would climb on deck to do some warming up. However, “It was a queer experience to get out there the first time, throwing the ball while the ship was dipping and rolling. All the boys, except one or two, held conferences with the sharks and other fishes for a day or more, and then were well, ate heartily and slept nicely.”

Luck Yee had generally kind things to say about Japan. After 11 days at sea, the Chinese Hawaiian ballplayers reached Yokohama. Upon arrival, the team roamed by foot the city’s streets because they could not communicate with the “jinrikisha men.” Eventually, they ate at a Chinese restaurant and spent the night at the Hotel De France. The team seemed to like “Tokio” more. There, they took an “enjoyable” ricksha trek around the city. “Wherever we stopped the people would gather around us wonderingly. We had a hard time trying to obtain information from the policemen. All we could get out of them was a shake of the head.”

Luck Yee expressed less warmth for China. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, the Hawaiians noted the Sampras harboring “poor women, carrying children on their backs and rowing the boats too. Some of them had clothes that were tattered and worn out – poor miserable things. They were hungry creatures.” Before actually setting foot on Hong Kong the Hawaiians were accosted by a disagreeable Chinese customs official, according to Luck Yee. The pitcher claimed this bureaucrat “had the hauteur of an absolute ruler of the place.” He searched the players’ trunks for opium, firearms, and cartridges, and his arrogance, Luck Yee stressed, almost led “to blows.”

Still, Hong Kong merchants entertained the visitors. Luck Yee recalled that during one feast put on by local merchants, “beautifully dressed girls” sang for the players. However, the Hawaiians could not understand the lyrics of what the entertainers were singing until the young women sang Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song” and the “famous Tipperary.”

A motorcade greeted the Chinese Hawaiian ballplayers upon their arrival in Manila. They were then driven to the local YMCA where they stayed. Unable to practice for the 26 days they were ship-bound, Luck Yee and his teammates tried to work out in Manila their first day. The Chinese Hawaiians drew a large crowd to their practice – a crowd that included several opposing players. However, the weather was so hot they decided to do something else with their time after 15 minutes of exercise.

The Manila sporting press, Luck Yee complained, generally “knock[ed] us” before the Chinese Hawaiians took the field. Luck Yee conceded that there was one “contrarian” among the local sportswriters who praised the visitors. Luck Yee wrote, “It was fun to see them jeer at each other through the columns of their respective papers. The more they knocked the harder we played.”

Even though the team played effectively, the Manila sportswriters continued to scoff, maintaining that the Hawaiians were more lucky than good. Still, the visitors drew well – hefty crowds of as many as 10,000. Luck Yee reported proudly that the team tied the “much touted” Manila nine and then savaged another nine of hometown heroes, 10-0. The Manila press started to change its tune, while the city’s Chinese community invited the Hawaiians to a dinner.

Returning to China, the Hawaiians were feted by Chinese President Yuan Shi Kai. The ballplayers received “little mementoes.” However, political trouble was brewing for the President and the Hawaiians were feeling sorry for Yuan Shi Kai. Luck Yee asserted, “Wonderful indeed must be that man who will eventually lead 500,000,000 countrymen.”

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Filed under baseball, China, Hawai'i, Philippines, U.S.

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