Michael M. Ego Bush’s effort to heal an injustice
The game of baseball has been unable to determine definitively its birthplace and time. Many people thought Abner Doubleday founded it in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York (his hometown), but historians proved this assertion to be false.
Others have cited that in 1845 Alexander Cartwright was the founder of modern American baseball, at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Regardless of its origin, President George H.W. Bush’s legacy in baseball made it look like he created America’s pastime in his backyard growing up in Greenwich. George H.W. Bush did not care about its origin. He loved the game of baseball.
Angelinos in California felt we were on top of the baseball world in 1989. The Dodgers had captured the 1988 World Series title, with Orel Hershiser, Fernando Valenzuela, Mike Scioscia, and Kirk Gibson on the squad. Yet, the buzz in 1989 was about the 41st president of the United States, who had been photographed with the immortal Babe Ruth as a collegiate player at Yale. Wow — that would impress any baseball fan during those days.
During my early days in Los Angeles, I did not have a positive impression about politicians —still stung by the days of President Richard Nixon in the White House. When President George H.W. Bush became the president of the United States in 1989, it was refreshing to see someone emerge from politics as believable and caring about the welfare of our nation. He restored faith and trust in American government and politics during a difficult period in America. As a bonus, he was a baseball geek.
One notable act occurred on Oct. 9, 1991, when Bush signed letters of formal apology and checks from the U.S. government issued to each of the living survivors of the internment camps. The U.S. government sent them to more than 88,000 survivors who were Japanese Americans incarcerated in internment camps during World War II, and to compensate them with a payment for monies they may have lost due to relocation. His action recognizes that the U.S. government did serious injustices to Japanese Americans during World War II. My late father received a letter and check, and displayed it at our home, and I recall that vivid bittersweet moment even today.
The internment camps existed from 1942 to 1946. President Bush’s letter provides an understanding on how the nation’s thinking had changed in 1991 on this issue. Here is the content of the letter:
THE WHITE HOUSE
“A monetary sum and words alone cannot restore lost years or erase painful memories; neither can they fully convey our Nation’s resolve to rectify injustice and to uphold the rights of individuals. We can never fully right the wrongs of the past. But we can take a clear stand for justice and recognize that serious injustices were done to Japanese Americans during World War II.
In enacting a law calling for restitution and offering a sincere apology, your fellow Americans have, in a very real sense, renewed their traditional commitment to the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice. You and your family have our best wishes for the future.”
Michael M. Ego is a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and Asian and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut.