Tuesday, April 13, 2010

History of Baseball in Taiwan

Baseball, at least professional baseball in Taiwan is in trouble. There are gambling and game-fixing scandals, some of the top players and coaches have been banned, and more players are leaving for South Korea, Japan, and the United States every day. The league has lost teams, and financing is a problem. The government, citing the popularity of the game, and the need for the continuation of the game, has pumped a few million dollars into it. Not just for the pro game, but for youth leagues, fields, equipment, etc. Baseball in Taiwan needs it, but its never a good idea when the government gets involved.

One of the things the government is doing it to promote the game, particularly the history of it, in Taiwan. From Little League champions, to results of international tournaments such as the Silver Medal at the Barcelona Olympics, the Government Information Office has developed the web site, History of Baseball in Taiwan.

There is a section detailing the Who's Who in Taiwanese baseball, as well as a timeline of the game in Taiwan dating back to the games inception in 1906:
In March, the Taiwan Governor-General Office Mandarin School Affiliated High School (now Jianguo Municipal High School) baseball team is established, making it the first official baseball team in Taiwan. Afterwards, the Chinese School Teacher’s College (now the National Taipei University of Education) also forms a baseball team.

Afterwards, the Dongmen School and the Taiwan Learning Association merge to become the Chengyuan School (now Chengyuan High School) and organize a night school baseball team which is known as the Association Team.
Oddly, for a government propaganda information site, it doesn't gloss over recent history either:
Although the international tournaments from 1997 to 1999 satisfied the fans, the in-fighting in Taiwan’s professional baseball league had not improved. In fact, it was worsening. Fans were less and less inclined to go to the stadiums. In late 1997, the China Times Eagles announced their dissolution due to the impact of the gambling scandal.
On March 5, 1999, the Naruwan Company decided to sign player Chen Chih-cheng (陳志誠) even though he was still serving in the military. This action incited the outrage of the CPBL and drew stern protest from the Baseball Association.
The Sanshang Tigers, one of the founding teams of the CPBL, announced its dissolution on January 8, 1999, because the chaotic period of Taiwanese baseball and the gambling scandal made it hard to justify a baseball team as a public service activity to the sponsor. On December 13 of that same year, the Wei-Chuan Dragons, another founding member of the league, also announced its dissolution. These two teams had their many fans, especially the Dragons, which had won three straight titles. The fans of the Dragons mounted an online campaign to save the team, but it was too late to change the minds of the sponsors.
I remember as a kid, growing up in the 70's, the Taiwanese Little League team kicking our butt every year in the World Series. It seemed like factory baseball, and probably was. But they were good, and have been for a long time. Lets hope the gambling scandal doesn't ruin the game over there. If you're interested in teh history of baseball in Taiwan, check out the site. It's not too much information, but it is good.


Anonymous said...

You can read a book titled Playing in Isolation: A History of Baseball in Taiwan. It was well researched and written by Taiwanese native Junwei Yu (盂峻瑋). It shows that Taiwanese little leaguers in the 1970s actually cheated that resulted in many world series champions. The book is available on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Playing-Isolation-History-Baseball-Taiwan/dp/0803211406

Ron Rollins said...

Thanks. I'll see if I can pick up a copy of it.