It’s spring in New England, and that means mud, occasionally snow, and baseball. To talk all things baseball, including his efforts to restore the baseball field at Manzanar Internment Camp, Malden Reads is pleased to host a best-selling author and baseball enthusiast, Steve Kluger. Kluger, the author of several books, including “Last Days of Summer” and “Changing Pitches,” will visit the Malden Public Library on Thursday, April 6, 2023, at 7 p.m. to discuss baseball, the Red Sox and his involvement in lobbying the U.S. government to restore the baseball field at Manzanar Internment Camp in Manzanar, Calif.
In the aftermath of Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government ordered 120,000 Japanese Americans to be imprisoned in hastily built camps. They were given 48 hours to sell their homes, businesses and possessions and could take only what they could carry – typically two suitcases per adult. These camps were surrounded by barbed wire, equipped with search lights and patrolled by armed guards. Japanese-American citizens’ draft eligibility was reassigned as 4C (enemy alien status) in the process.
“They Called Us Enemy” by actor/author/activist George Takei, the Malden Reads selection for our 13th season, takes place during those years. This book is a memoir of Takei’s youth while incarcerated during World War II in an internment camp, and tells not only his personal story, but chronicles a difficult time in American history.
Life in the camps was hard, and people were looking for distractions to keep their spirits up. Baseball had been introduced in Japan in the 1870s and was very popular there as in America. Baseball teams were formed within seven of these camps, and four of the teams were able to travel to play each other. “Without baseball, camp life would have been miserable,” said George Omachi, a prisoner who later became a scout for Major League Baseball.
In 2000, although the Department of the Interior began restoring Manzanar as a historic landmark, this project did not include the renovation of the baseball field. Kluger joined a group lobbying the U.S. government to begin that restoration process, which was approved in 2022. To quote Mr. Kluger, “A memorial to Manzanar without its baseball diamond is like the Pledge of Allegiance without the flag…baseball was perhaps one of the few aspects of the lives they’d led prior to incarceration that they were allowed to keep with them after everything else had been taken away. The inclusion of a diamond might achieve what reparations alone couldn’t facilitate: healing.”
This talk is free to the public and will be held at the Malden Public Library’s Converse Art Galleries from 7-8 p.m. with a Q&A following. Light refreshments will be served.