The Early Days of Wa Sung Athletic Club

by Dazhi Lum (1998)

My father arrived in America from Canton in 1852. He got here with a queue and no money. He came to San Francisco and helped build Chinatown. My mother arrived later with bound feet. After the Great Earthquake in San Francisco in 1906, the Lum family had to move to Oakland Chinatown. I was born in the year 1911 at a wood house at 314 Webster Street. We were a poor family with 14 brothers and sisters. Among the siblings, I was the healthiest one. I went to Lincoln Elementary and Oakland High School. In 1923, a group of poor Chinese boys regularly met in Oakland Chinatown, the beginning of the Wa Sung Athletic Club. I was about 12 year old. We met every Sunday at the corner of 8th and Harrison Streets near the barbershop. In those days, we had no cars nor money nor girlfriends.

The Bowen brothers, Ed, George and Al, were the backbone of Wa Sung. Ed was the scorekeeper and bookkeeper. George was the catcher. Al was the pitcher. They had a car and drove us to David Field near the Kaiser Convention Center. Al was also our leader and a good one. He told us to exercise well and eat right. We practiced baseball. We really got in shape. During our free time, a bunch of kids played "kick the can." After practice, we always went to a German hofbrau at Grand Avenue and Broadway in Downtown Oakland. We drank sarsaparilla, a soda drink. Al Huey was our coach. The Hawaiian Chinese took us to a camp in Mill Valley for day training every summer. We trained hard. We hiked trails and climbed hills. Al Huey was always our camp leader. Later, he was our baseball team coach.

Because of my Wa Sung training, I was able to play on the varsity baseball team as catcher and outfielder. I also played forward on the varsity basketball team. I graduated from Oakland High in 1930. On Sundays, our semi-pro baseball team played in many towns in the Central Valley. We travled throughout California, Nevada and Oregon. We played everybody and anybody. Al Bowen was an outstanding pitcher. He was the first Chinese pitcher to play professional baseball with the Oakland Oaks. I was the backup catcher for Wa Sung. Our team won most baseball games. People respected us: no drinking, no smoking and no girlfriends. We played until 1938. I am lucky to be a part of the Wa Sung Athletic Club. I am grateful to Al Huey, our coach. He taught me to think fast and move fast. I am in good health because of my training with the Wa Sung Athletic Club.