Author: Mitsuru Omori, B Company
Source: Club 100 30th Anniversary Reunion, June 1972
Article about the formation and early years and early years and early years of the 100th Infantry Battalion Baseball Team in Wisconsin.
Undaunted by the rigors of the training at the Old Camp McCoy, the joint announcement by Major James Lovell and Capt “Doc.” Kometani of the formation of a 100th Infantry Battalion baseball team was greeted most enthusiastically by many who had “established” themselves in the various baseball leagues in the islands before the war.
The eager ball players wanted to participate because they loved the sport. The bigwigs, I’m sure, had a multi-purpose in mind. The players came out en masse knowing that, unlike the participating in sports for the military during the pre-war days, no special privileges would be granted. All practicing and games would be played on the soldiers’ own time. This meant training and hiking all day and practicing baseball after drill hours. All games were played in the evenings or Sundays and in many cases we didn’t return to camp until the wee-hours but it was reveille and training as usual the next day. Obviously, we weren’t alert soldiers the next day but young ‘uns that we were, we somehow managed.
We had such stars as Goro Moriguchi, Lefty Toshio Mizusawa, John Yamada, Joe Takata, Mushy Miyagi, Albert Nozaki, Sam Tomai, Kenneth Kaneko, Yoshinao “Turtle” Omiya, Yozo Yamamoto, Koichi Fukuda, Fred Wada, Lefty Seiji Tanigawa, Shoichi “Monzuk” Okazaki, Ronald Hamamoto, Akira Akimoto, David Shunji Suzuki, Masa Takeba, Tadashi Ohta, Hide Yamashita, Henry Shiyama, and Fumi Taniyama from the Oahu Senior AJA Leagues; Sadashi “Schoolboy” Matsunami and Katsumi “Tug” Yamamoto from the Big Island; Roy Honbo from Kauai; and Wataru Kaneshina and Mitsuru Omori from Maui. Eddie Mitsukado and Fred Hirayama were Business Managers and Scorers. “Small Moose” Haruto Hayakawa and “Big Moose” Shigeo Igarashi added to some hilarious moments as trainers and batboys. Colonel Farrant Turner, Battalion Commander, Captains Taro Suzuki and Tanimura, and Lt Kiyoshi Kuramoto were loyal and enthusiastic supporters of the team.
We amassed a creditable record playing against Class B, C, & D semi-pro teams in Wisconsin and in the deep South. The win and loss columns were important to the team, coaches, and supporters. However, the goodwill that went along with competitive sports cannot be measured in a material way, but this fact should not be overlooked.
The civilian and military teams in all probability were agreeable to playing against the 100th out of sheer curiosity. Many of them admitted that it was inconceivable to have “Hawaiians” living in grass shacks and donned in hula skirts being exposed to baseball. Needless to say, the “little boys” didn’t impress the opponents as greetings were exchanged before the game. However, as the game progressed, they were convinced they were in a ball game at the “little boys” began executing basic baseball fundamentals to perfection in addition to a few advanced tricks. The ability, sportsmanship, and decorum, we are sure, made a lasting impression on the opponents and fans wherever we played.
Speaking of goodwill, some of the 100th players were “loaned” to the Military Police Detachment at Camp McCoy quite regularly. They normally asked to bolster their team, especially when playing against their arch rivals. Our boys didn’t mind playing for them as the Major in charge and the players were nice and appreciative. Of course, too, being with a bunch of MPs after the game, you just couldn’t get into any trouble regardless of the extra curricular you chose to pursue. I’m sure the rest of the battalion also benefitted as the result of this relationship in as much as these MPs had the responsibility of securing and maintaining order at Camp McCoy.
The 100th Battalion’s Hawaiian entertainers were instrumental in drawing the crowds at our games. It was headed by Sgt James “Kalei” Kaholokula, Robert Kapuniai, Shigeichi “Chicken” Kawaoka, and Kaoru Kagawa of Company F; Eddie Enomoto, Fred Matsuo, and Dan Kaholokula of Headquarters Company, and S/Sgt Kato of Company E, if memory serves me right.
Kalei’s beautiful voice was really something and any 100th gathering without his singing left a noticeable void. These “hapas” were just superb and it was a pleasure to have them with us.
I guess I’d be remiss and this article would be mere ramblings to fill up space — so let me tell you of a few of our escapades. As mentioned earlier, we traveled great distances to play baseball and our transportation was a GI truck with fun-loving Harry Yamashita as the Chief of Transportation and Logistics. It was SOP to have Harry drop the team off at the ball park, look at the sights in town, and report back to the team before the end of the game. As a driver, we all reserved a few choice words, but as a logistician, he was just inimitable. He managed to procure, sample, maintain and then transport military personnel to strategic locations where women were in receptive moods in exchange for greenbacks. This type of extra curricular activity engineered by Harry helped to keep the boys together as they did have many reunions after the games. Harry was great those days but I’m willing to bet a dollar for a doughnut that he doesn’t have the fortitude nor staying power any more.
The baseball team was invited to play at Jerome, Arkansas, where many Japanese, largely those from the mainland, were being interned during the war. What we had heard about the manner in which they had been impounded, the environment, etc., were not appetizing and the gallant AJA soldiers of Hawaii from Camp McCoy were being dispatched as morale boosters. To this day, I don’t know whose morale was to be boosted. The game, of course, was well-attended. I don’t recall who won the game either. The girls had planned a party after the game and it seems this was good strategy on their part as our team literally went to pieces. Post-game strategems [sic] took command from the very first inning on the ball field.
Yes, parting is such sweet sorrow. The boys had to be “dugged” out from the dugouts in the ball park. Rumor has it that the most activity occurred in the third base dugout but my compadre has either confirmed nor denied the episode.
The USO entertained us royally at Madison, Wisconsin, superb performance of Hawaiiana. Billeting for the ball players was at the Girls’ Dorm of the University of Wisconsin. It must have been just after summer session had ended as we were the only occupants. Also, the game at Green Bay, Wisconsin was one of our toughest and exciting games. Lefty Mizusawa pitched brilliantly and the announcer who was broadcasting the game had some difficulty pronouncing his name. It was “Mrs-sawa” this and “Mrs-sawa” that all night long.
The baseball season was a grand success and our thanks go to Coach Jim Lovell and Doc. Kometani. Kudos also to all others who helped to ease the harshness of military training. Our thanks also to Doctors Kawasaki and Kainuma for patching us up and taking care of the aches and pains.
The sequela to comradeship through baseball and sports in general was the formation of the “Has Beens” some 15-20 years ago. “Has Beens” was open to all members of the 100th who had participated in any sport under the auspices of the Battalion. We met annually at the homes of Jim Lovell, Doc. Kometani, and Yozo Yamamoto for a number of years. Many of us looked forward to this annual event; they were glorious evenings but as in the case of other good things, the “Has Beens” faded into obscurity. Perhaps the 30th Anniversary will be instrumental in revitalizing it.
It would be most inappropriate to close this article after retiring the “Has Beens” — “like the Arabs folding their tents, silently steal away.” Let me call it “30” by saying that baseball has become a spectator sport for all of us, but our motto, “For Continuing Service”, is an endless devotion!