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Young men playing a baseball game at the Tule Lake Relocation Center in California. Courtesy of the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library via Mountain West Digital Library. 

Although educational programs and standards of living varied between camps, Japanese internees developed universal outlets for dealing with depression and the monotony of camp life. Sports, especially baseball, united camp residents and drew large crowds eager to recapture a small part of their pre-war lives. High school and community teams played against each other, as well as against non-camp teams. Camp newspapers devoted full pages to sports scores, which internees followed religiously. At the Topaz Camp, men over 50 years-old played against a girls’ softball team. Camp guards also participated in the games. Photographer Ansel Adams, who was determined to discover how “these human beings suffering under great injustice overcame a sense of despair and defeat,” found that the key was baseball.

Once baseball season ended in October, internees turned to fall sports like football. Teams consisted of six to seven men and the intensity varied from camp to camp. A few college-age Nisei (American-born Japanese) transferred to colleges outside the camp to play collegiate football. Among them was Chester (Chet) Maeda who was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1943.