Grave Story: John Ashman Beaven (1869-1946)

Here lies John Beaven, a member of the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions to baseball on the Islands. He built Honolulu Stadium and is considered Hawaii’s first sports promoter.

John Ashman Beaven was born on October 31, 1869 in Oswego, N.Y. He was a world traveler in his youth, visiting Europe, India and Africa before he was 21 years old. The first profession he entered was journalism, as a writer for several papers in New York in the 1890s. He then moved to Connecticut and became the owner of the Milford Citizen from 1900-1905. He was also an active member of the Connecticut business world, serving as the President of the Milford Board of Trade for five years. He spent 1905 through 1907 conducting business in Japan and China and 1907 through 1910 working in San Francisco. He arrived in Hawaii in 1910.

When he first came to Hawaii, Beaven was a lawyer in the Lorrin Andrews, Murphy & Braven law firm. He also engaged in business and politics on Oahu as well as its burgeoning arts scene. Up until this point, I haven’t found any connection between Beaven and baseball, but he would have had plenty of exposure to it by then. For all his world traveling, he grew up in New York at the time professional baseball was starting to become the National Pastime. The fact that he would devote so much of the rest of his life to baseball indicates a deep and abiding love of the game.

Source: Honolulu Star Bulletin, May 17, 1917.

On the islands, he became an important behind-the-scenes figure in the continued development of the sport. He organized the Oahu Baseball League in 1912 and organized several military teams into the Oahu Service Athletic League, with baseball, football and basketball games played at Army posts and at Pearl Harbor. He stumped for donations to get teams proper equipment and even fielded an amateur team himself called Beaven’s Beauts, though he didn’t actually play. The OSAL lasted until the conclusion of World War I, when it reverted to civilian teams and became the Hawaii Baseball League.

Beaven took over the Moiliili field and built a grandstand there. It served as Honolulu’s only sports field for years when the city’s old Athletic park was leased for residential development. In 1925-6, he put together funds to buy land for Honolulu Stadium on South King Street and served as its manager until 1939. The Stadium held a schedule of 60 games for the Hawaii Baseball League in its first season, and it was also large enough to accommodate football as well.

In addition to baseball and football, Beaven promoted boxing, wrestling, track and other sporting events. He brought the Green Bay Packers to Honolulu for an exhibition game as well as baseball stars like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmy Foxx. Teams from Japan and Korea also came to Hawaii to play in front of the Hawaiian sports fans.

Beaven was a proponent of making sports available to as many people as possible and kept ticket prices low. In December 1927 he opened the stadium for a barefoot football game between the Moiliili and Allendale football teams. Not only did he not charge anything for the use of the field, but he charged no admission for the game.

He was a firm believer of using athletics to help children grow up to become good adults.

“If we bring the youths up right we will have good loyal citizens,” he told an assembled crowd at a banquet honoring him in 1939. “Otherwise we won’t. Hence the importance of properly bringing up the young and helping those who need assistance.

“In my long years of connection with youth through sports promotion both at the old Moiliili field and at the Honolulu stadium I have emphasized fairplay and I can safety say that practically all whom I have anything to do with have played square with me in return.

“The result is most gratifying and right now there are some in this gathering who are upright citizens because they, when young, were given the necessary help. I sincerely believe in this policy. It is a sure winner.”

John Beaven died on November 6, 1946 at a nursing home in Honolulu. He was 77 years old and had been a patient there for four years. He is buried at Diamond Head Memorial Park.

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