Baseball in Taiwan

We went to check out the baseball exhibition at the Museum of the Governor's Office (which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary on October 23rd) in Taipei, Taiwan. Upon entering, we bumped into Taipei mayor Hau Long-bing (郝龍斌), who you can see in the above pic along with my wife Shufang and our daughter Ahleena. I decided to check out the mayor's English; we had a good chat about American baseball (he likes the Yankees, of course) and also that of Taiwan baseball. Mr. Hau, interestingly, made a point of mentioning the CBL and the game of baseball here on the island.

My wife is not a big fan of Hau, on account of his father, who was as premier a major democracy opponent during the early days of Lee Tung-hui. But she did think he was friendly, and was impressed by his English. (Hau doesn't speak English as well as Lien Chan or James Soong, but handles himself just fine.) I haven't been a fan of the CBL, as it bans "foreign" players from competing in its annual All-star game.

The exhibition had lots of old-time Taiwan baseball memorabilia on hand. It took us through Taiwan's five little league world championships and its silver medal showing at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 Oddly, no silver is on display. There is, however, a Chinese Taipei uniform.

The contributors mentioned that baseball was a source of pride for Taiwan during a time of increasing political isolation (starting with Canada, Taiwan lost political ties with most of the Western powers during the seventies.) I was hoping to find more on the development of baseball during the Japanese colonial era, but there wasn't much information about this either. There was a snippet on the Kaohsiung sports college (the name escapes me right now), established in 1929. Wang Chien-ming of the New York Yankees is a graduate of this school. I was also looking for a certain "switch-pitcher" my father remembers, but to no avail. My dad often wondered why the Taiwanese didn't have any Major Leaguers, especially considering their prowess in Little League. Things seem to be changing now; there are three Taiwanese pitching in the Bigs and lots more waiting for their chance in the Minors.


Anonymous said...

It's common knowledge Taiwan cheated in those championships. Organizers wised up to the fact that Taiwan stacked its teams and disqualified them some time ago. It's also common sense. If they were as good as they were making themselves out, the major leagues would be filled with Taiwanese players.

Patrick Cowsill said...

If Taiwan was stacking its little league teams, that would explain why we didn't see Taiwanese Major Leaguers in the seventies and early eighties. There are three really good Taiwanese pitchers in the Bigs right now. Wang is undoubtedly the anchor of the Yankees staff (back-to-back 19 win seasons). Chen looks like he could be a 20-game winner for the Dodgers in the near future and Tsao could become a very good reliever, if he can manage to stay healthy. There are, according to reports, some good Taiwanese middle-infielders in the minors right now as well.

Anonymous said...

Why did stacking explain why you didn't see Taiwanese Major Leaguers? If the good players are there, why didn't US people see them? There were plenty of the players in Taiwan and even Japan. How about a prejudice or ignorance against Taiwanese players in US?

Anonymous said...

If you are interested in the history of Taiwan baseball, you might want to check out Junwei Yu Playing in Isolation: A Hisory of Baseball in Taiwan. University of Nebraska, 2007.

Dr. Yu is an assistant professor at the National Taiwan College of Physical Education National Taiwan College of Physical Education

Anonymous said...

You can borrow the book from National Normal University http://opac.lib.ntnu.edu.tw/search/t?SEARCH=playing+in+isolation

Patrick Cowsill said...

Thanks for the info on the book. I'll look into it. BTW, I remember hearing a pitcher being interviewed on the subject of "foreigners" being banned from performing in Taiwan's All-star game on ICRT. He didn't sound very happy about it.

I think the comment on the Taiwanese Little Leagues being stacked is fair. We thought that they were just a team, and that there would be more players that were almost as good in Taiwan. We didn't understand that we were already seeing Taiwan's very finest at every position.

"There were plenty of the players in Taiwan and even Japan. How about a prejudice or ignorance against Taiwanese players in US?" Hey "anonymous", lots of players from countries such as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, etc. have competed in the Major Leagues. The annual MLB All-star game includes players from all of these countries, and did so even in the seventies or eighties.

Anonymous said...

Reviews of Junwei Yu's book, Playing in Isolation: A History of Baseball in Taiwan.
Taipei Times: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2007/06/24/2003366721 .
Bob Timmermann: http://www.mylot.com/nr/viewframe.aspx?id=370021&url=http%3a%2f%2fgriddle.baseballtoaster.com%2farchives%2f757777.html&type=Blog .

Richard Eton said...

I certainly understand your anger over the way the railway is run. I commute using the regular surface train, and it's just awful. The schedule has many one hour blocks where there is one train in the first half hour followed by 4 or 5 trains in the next half hour. It is not common to miss one train and have to wait almost 30 minutes for the next one - even in peak hours.

I have taken the MRT and the HSR. Both of these are extremely well run. Although both of these are also recent innovations established since 1987. Neither is encumbered with such issues as archaic technology or a military period trade unions that's aligned with the KMT.

Patrick Cowsill said...


Anger is a bit strong. I'd go with bewilderment and annoyance. I'm flying back from Hualien on Friday. I could use my credit card to buy the tickets.

Patrick Cowsill said...

BTW, my dad sent me this correction:

"The switch pitcher for whom you were looking isn't Taiwanese. He's Mexican. His name is Angel Macias. On 23 August, 1957, he won the Little League World Series fin Williamsport, PA, for his team from Monterrey by pitching a perfect game. It was the first time a team from outside the US won. He went on to play pro ball and recently retired as the director of the Mexican Baseball Academy."

Anonymous said...

A book review on Playing in Isolation: A History of Baseball in Taiwan.

Fascinating social history,
By R. Shouse (State College, PA United States)

As a teacher and researcher whose focus includes Asian education, I've always wondered about the role of sports in K-12 Asian schools, particularly those in Taiwan. With Taiwan's tremendous emphasis on academics, I wondered how it was that Little League Baseball could thrive there. In "Playing in Isolation," Junwei Yu (盂峻瑋) offers readers insight not only into this question, but also into the entire history of the sport in Taiwan. Baseball came to the island with the Japanese and became very popular in Taiwan even in the first half of the 20th century, especially among the island's native population. Yu describes how baseball offered a cultural and political outlet for these people, as well as how the ruling KMT party gradually co-opted the sport for political purposes in the 1970s. Also describe in fascinating detail are the corruption scandals associated with sport. This is a terrific read for sports fans, political buffs, and sociologists.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"With Taiwan's tremendous emphasis on academics, I wondered how it was that Little League Baseball could thrive there."

I think you answer this question later on. It doesn't thrive in places that have a tremendous emphasis on academics - read Taipei. You will never see kids coming home from ball practice or a game, or anything like that in Taipei. The only places you can even see people playing are down by the river, where they have a couple of diamonds.

Baseball flourishes in Southern Taiwan, where there is more space and the socio-economic reality is different. Or, to put it another way, where kids are still allowed to play.

I'm interested in this book. I'll check it out.