Burnaby, BC (April 25, 2019)– Canada Post Corporation yesterday released a stamp that honours amateur Japanese-Canadian baseball team, the Vancouver Asahi, that helped remove racial barriers through sport. Vancouver design & branding firm, Subplot Design Inc. created the stamp and collectible series.
The Vancouver Asahi story is well-known in baseball circles, but the stamp honouring the team is about more than baseball. It also tells a uniquely Canadian story about a dark time in our country’s history – a time of overt racism and fear. It tells the story of adversity, determination and fortitude – a tragic story that ended in reconciliation and forgiveness.
Formed in 1914, the Asahi thrilled fans and filled Japanese Canadians with hope over almost three decades of play on Vancouver’s east side. The team won many senior league championships before being forced to disband shortly after Canada declared war on Japan in 1941. During the Second World War, Canada interned more than 20,000 people of Japanese descent, most of them Canadian citizens.
“Canada’s forcible confinement of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War remains one of the most tragic events in Canadian history,” says the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, who is responsible for Canada Post. “This stamp reflects the Asahi’s determination to overcome racism and discrimination through the power of sport. Asahi players exhibited integrity, honour and fair play and were shining examples of what it means to be truly Canadian.”
The Asahi developed a unique style of play to compete against bigger, more powerful teams. Dubbed “brain ball,” it involved bunts, base stealing and squeeze plays to score runs – and wins. Their style of play was so successful that, in 1927, the team won a game 3-1 without technically collecting a hit.
The Asahi grew to near mythic proportions within the Japanese-Canadian community; most boys in Vancouver’s “Little Tokyo” dreamed of playing for the team.
Subplot Design Inc. created this single, custom shaped stamp to commemorate the Vancouver Asahi baseball team. The stamp shows a game ball overlaid with an image of the final team formation of 1941. Additionally, a booklet of 10 and a First Day Cover were produced featuring the team’s history in more detail.
“As with every project we approach, we started out with extensive research into Asahi history. We found out that the team’s home playing field was located in what is now Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park, which is located just a few blocks from our studio location,” says Roy White, Subplot Founder & Creative Director. “The team is such an integral part of Vancouver’s history, yet often so little is known about them outside of the Japanese community. That made this an even bigger passion project for us”.
“What was technically exciting about this stamp was, due to the baseball’s iconic shape, we were allowed to deviate from the usual format and instead create a rare circular postage-stamp, which we are sure will excite collectors and print nerds alike, “adds White.
“From very early on in the process, we closely worked together with the Nikkei Museum. They were incredibly generous in giving us access to their archives and contributing to the project with their vast knowledge on the subject matter”, says Tim King, senior designer on the project
Subplot also created a booklet of 10 and an Official First Day Cover. The OFDC shows a timeline of the team’s story, starting from its founding in 1914 to its disbandment in 1941. Significant memorabilia and artifacts from the team’s history are pictured on the ODDC, from team photos to Kaye Kaminishi’s original game jersey and glove and “Ty” Kenichi Suga’s winning medallion for best pitcher in 1926. The backside pictures the team at play in Oppenheimer Park (then called Powell Street Grounds) in 1920.
Kaye Kaminishi, a third baseman and at 97 the last surviving member of the Vancouver Asahi, helped unveil the stamp at the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, he was joined by players from the Asahi Baseball Association, which was inspired by the original team.
All products are available for purchase at selected Canada Post offices and online here.
Creative Concept & Implementation: Subplot Design Inc.
Designers: Roy White, Liz Wurzinger, Jaquie Shaw, Tim King, Mackenzie Gooch
Creative Directors: Roy White, Matthew Clark
Photographs: Jason Dziver(baseball) Timothy King (archival material)
Artefacts courtesy of Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
Client: Canada Post Corporation
Printer: Colour Innovations