Sunday, October 11, 2009

Paper on Parade: Taiwan: Baseball, Colonialism, and Nationalism

Baseball in Taiwan is growing in international stature. Several of the major league teams have scouts here, and Taiwan is now regularly sending players to the major leagues. If you haven't been to a local baseball game, you're missing an important part of Taiwan culture.

But where did it all come from? Andrew Morris' excellent book chapter, Taiwan: Baseball, Colonialism, and Nationalism, provides an engaging discussion of the history of baseball in Taiwan, and its connection to the various nationalisms and colonialisms that have shaped the history of Taiwan...
President Chen’s attention to the game marks only the latest chapter in the history of Taiwanese baseball, a game that has become much more than just a sport. It is a colonial legacy that was planted and sunk deep roots during the fifty-year Japanese occupation of the island from 1895 to 1945. The professional version of the game in Taiwan is a reminder of the profound influence of transnational capitalism on Taiwan.

Taiwan’s complicated history has given rise Taiwan’s complicated history has given rise to the need to present and understand Taiwan as part of the world community in its own right, not as part of the People’s Republic of China (prc). Much of contemporary Taiwanese culture, thus, emphasizes both the global and the local, and the blending of the two. Professional baseball in Taiwan is a perfect example of this self-conscious, ideological combination of the cosmopolitan and the provincial, the international and the Taiwanese. The history of professional baseball in Taiwan, in many ways, is nothing more or less than the history of the effort to create a “baseball culture” that could speak to both of these striking and complementary aspects of Taiwanese life.
Baseball began, of course, in the Japanese colonial era. The game was already established in Japan by the 1890s, and was imported to Taiwan as early as 1897. By 1915 there were 15 all-Japanese teams on the island. In the early 1910s, however, locals were already being encouraged to participate. In the 1925 a team composed entirely of Amis went to Japan and gained great fame, winning 4 of 9 games against Japanese school teams. Then came the Chiayi years....
The most famous of all Taiwanese baseball traditions was that born at the Jiayi Agriculture and Forestry Institute (abbreviated Kanô) in the late 1920s. Under the guidance of Manager Kondô Hyôtarô, a former standout player who had toured the United States with his high school team, Kanô dominated Taiwan baseball in the decade before the Pacific War. What made the Kanô team special was its tri-ethnic composition; in 1931 its starting nine was made up of two Han Taiwanese, four Taiwan aborigines, and three Japanese players. Kanô won the Taiwan championship, earning the right to play in the hallowed Ko¯shien High School Baseball Tournament, held near Osaka, five times between 1931 and 193 . The best of these, the 1931 squad, was the first team ever to qualify for Ko¯shien with Taiwanese (aborigine or Han) players on its roster. Kanô placed second in the twenty-three-team tournament that year, their skills and intensity winning the hearts of the Japanese public, and remaining a popular nostalgic symbol even today in Japan. This team of Han, Aboriginal, and Japanese players “proved” to nationally minded Japanese the colonial myth of “assimilation” (dôka)—that both Han and aborigine Taiwanese were willing and able to take part alongside Japanese in the cultural rituals of the Japanese state. Of course, the irony is that the six Taiwanese players on the starting roster probably also saw their victories as a statement of Taiwanese (Han or aborigine) will and skill that could no longer be dismissed by the Japanese colonizing power.
...there's so much to this wonderful paper -- from details like the death of the founder of the Amis team in 1947 in 2-28, to the broad sweep of history: the incorporation of baseball into the service of the KMT state, and later, into the service of US Cold War transnational capitalism.

My favorite part is his discussion of how Taiwan's little league teams in the US became a battleground for pro-Taiwan and pro-China groups:
....In 1969 frenzied Taiwanese fans shouted upon the Golden Dragons’ victory, “The players are all Taiwanese! Taiwan has stood up!” Taiwanese supporters soon raised the stakes in this implicit protest against the Guomindang government. In 1971, as the Tainan Giants swept to a world championship, Taiwanese independence activists at Williamsport hired an airplane to fly over the stadium towing a bilingual banner reading, “Long Live Taiwan Independence, Go Go Taiwan.” The Taiwan teams’ games attracted fans from all points of the political spectrum, so each Taiwan independence flag or banner was matched by pro-Nationalist fans waving flags and cheering for the “Chinese” team. The pro-state fans had an advantage, however, in the dozens of New York Chinatown thugs hired by the Guomindang to identify and rough up Taiwan independence activists at the games. The 1971 championship game was interrupted when a dozen of these toughs ran across the field to rip down a banner reading in English and Chinese, “Team of Taiwan, Go Taiwan.”

In 1972, when the Taibei Braves challenged for the world title, the Guomindang was better prepared, renting every single commercial aircraft for miles around to keep the Taiwan independence crowd from repeating their coup. Some seventy to eighty roc military cadets training in the United States were also recruited to Williamsport to, as they shouted while beating Taiwanese male and female supporters with wooden clubs, “Kill the traitors!”...
Explore this one yourself, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow very, very nice. Every time I read something like this, I feel my eyes are once again opened to the lowlife thuggery of the KMT. Thugs, man, just a bunch of lowlife thugs...

Anonymous said...

Man, I just commented, but I can't help thinking about the grossness of the KMT. The most powerful advocate for Taiwanese independence must be the continued compilation, reporting, analysis and education of people in the history of Taiwan 1945-1990s. This period of history has so many crazy things happen that... wow...

cfimages said...

as the Tainan Giants swept to a world championship

Considering 90% of the world doesn't play nor even care about baseball, shouldn't that more correctly be called the "US plus extras" championship? :)

Michael Turton said...

Actually, Craig, baseball is played in many countries now, there are leagues in places like Italy, and of course, all of Latin America. It's just a clever marketing ploy to call it the World Series.

Anonymous said...

Again... it is another demonstration that it doesn't matter where it comes from, but what the locals do with it.

Anonymous said...

I'm 90% sure that Craig pulled that 90% statistic out of his ass ;-)

The US and Japan, the two largest economies in the world care a lot. It'd probably be a bad idea to ignore all the Latin American countries, Korea, Taiwan, Italy, as Michael has already mentioned as well. Baseball is much more of a world sport than say, skiing.

Anonymous said...

baseball is a New England thingy, right? Even in the US, it's not popular in alls states.

Okada said...

Yeah, it's absord to call MLB's final tournament "World Series". It actually involves only two countries, US and Canada.

cfimages said...

Hence my smiley. Seriously, being an Aussie, I'm a cricket fan and that has a world cup. Personally, I don't think it should be called a world cup as there are only a handful of countries where it's a major sport. Baseball and the world series is kinda the same.

Anonymous said...

Your logic is pretty broken. That cricket is not a popular international sport (I'm not saying it is or isn't, it's your assertion) is not good proof that baseball is not. Whoever said that New England comment is way off too. Baseball is a huge, nationwide sport, especially at the younger levels (Little League people?!?!). Once you get to high school teams, obviously they can't take as many people, so this changes, but this doesn't mean people don't like the sport. There are also casual/social softball leagues all over the place.

channing said...

Despite both being from the US, basketball is much more of a globalized sport than baseball. The NBA Finals are watched worldwide.

Anonymous said...

I woud like to draw attention to the recent Asia Cup for Baseball and the World Baseball Classic. These featured teams from North America, South and Central America, East Asia, Oceana, Europe (Netherlands among others), so it is as much a world game as any other. Furthermore, the symbols and metaphors of baseball which have been appropriated by political actors in a global dialectic between capitalism, Marxism, colonialism, occidentalism and orientalism..etc... and makes it very much an important symbol to peoples around the world. In reference to Taiwan, last year we saw a young Chinese team coached by Jim Lefebvre defeat a seasoned Taiwanese team. The reaction from Taiwan was, "They beat us at OUR own game."

cfimages said...

Cricket is a much bigger sport globally than baseball, but both pale in comparison to football, which is probably the only true world sport (for team sports anyway).

For all the talk of Italy having a league, in truth it's barely on the radar there. Baseball is really only a major sport in the US, Cuba and Japan. Even in the Latin American countries it's a long way behind football.

Anonymous said...

For the people that keep trying to assert that baseball isn't popular or isn't international, what team sports are more global than baseball other than basketball and soccer (futbol)?

Kaminoge said...

"Baseball is really only a major sport in the US, Cuba and Japan. Even in the Latin American countries it's a long way behind football."

I don't think that's the case in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, both of which have a large number of players in the major leagues. Football/soccer is not as popular as baseball in those countries.

As for the name "World Series", it's a bit presumptuous, yes, but so what? A lot of great moments have happened in the World Series over the years (going back to 1903 in its modern incarnation), and it's hard to imagine it being called anything else. And while the teams may be limited geographically to the United States (with one club in Canada), between 25-30% of the players were born outside of the USA (Australia, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Taiwan, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Venezuela).

And as one of the other commenters pointed out, there is also the World Baseball Classic (with Japan being the winner in 2006 and 2009).

Finally, I'd posit that basketball is also a truly global team sport.

Anonymous said...

Craig, you make the same logical mistake again. You said: "Even in the Latin American countries it's a long way behind football." Futbol and baseball can both be popular international sports even if futbol is hugely more popular than baseball in Latin American countries. In the biggest media market in the world, basically baseball is huge and soccer is just a blip.

But you also ignored South Korea, Venezuela, and Taiwan in your list, all of whom are larger than Australia and where baseball is huge huge huge and much more popular than soccer. The Dominican Republic is yet another Latin American country where baseball is more popular than soccer (and hence all the MLB players from the DR, but you wouldn't know about that).

This is a topic unfortunately Craig, where you are out of your league. Better luck next time ;-)

cfimages said...

But you also ignored South Korea, Venezuela, and Taiwan in your list

So what? India is bigger than all of them put together.

Baseball may be big in North/Central America and parts of East Asia (although in Korea and Japan it's still behind football), but until the day it has some major impact in greater Asia, Africa, Europe and South America (ok, other than Ven.) it's hard to call it a global game. But at the end of the day what does it matter? It's just a game, albeit a game with probably more drug-enhancements than pro cycling.

And unless this blog has changed from English to Spanish, it's spelled football not futbol. :)

Kaminoge said...

"...although in Korea and Japan it's still behind football."

Baseball is behind football in Japan?! Craig, that has to be one of the most ill-informed comments left on this blog by someone who isn't a pro-Blue troll (along with the anonymous remark about baseball being a "New England thingy"). Have you ever spent time in Japan? If you have, then you ought to know that while the J-League is popular, it doesn't begin to match the hold that baseball on the Japanese public. Making generalized comments about a country without doing a little research first isn't very cricket, you know. :)

cfimages said...

@kaminoge - 2002

Kaminoge said...

@cfimages - Koshien Stadium, Hanshin Tigers, Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, oendan, You Gotta Have Wa, Kyojin, the Big Egg, Godzilla, Ichiro, the World Baseball Classic (2006 and 2009), Eiji Sawamura, the spring and summer high school tournaments...

Yes, Japan successfully co-hosted the World Cup in 2002, but that doesn't mean soccer is the most popular sport in the country (the USA, after all, hosted the 1994 tournament). Read any description of sports in Japan, and virtually all will cite baseball as being No. 1. I can also attest to that from personal experience, having lived in the country for a number of years, and attending quite a few NPB and J-League games during that time.

As an observer of contemporary Japan, you take great photographs of Taiwan :)

Anonymous said...

India is gigantic, but how many are actively participating or fans or watching it on TV? It still only counts as one (though a very large) country. By your logic, you shouldn't bothered to mention Australia because it is less significant than Korea or Taiwan. In any case, let's not keep going down the illogical path of saying cricket is popular or unpopular to prove or disprove baseball's popularity. It just doesn't make sense. If you want to prove baseball isn't popular, you're going to need facts, and you've been on the wrong side of true or false too many times in this thread...

"And unless this blog has changed from English to Spanish, it's spelled football not futbol. :)"

Maybe in your less common version of English, but not in American English. We call it soccer. It's fashionable I suppose to use the term football as a nod towards what it is called in regions where it is popular. But it's not even really called that because they mainly speak Spanish in the countries where it is popular. That was the logic.

Again, better luck next time ;-)

cfimages said...

@Anon 2:29.

You are really making no sense. For India, it's practically a religion. A major cricket game pretty much stops the nation as everyone crowds around a (sometimes public) TV. And that's not even mentioning the rest of the sub-continent.

As for football/futbol. Well for starters, FIFA spells it football in their official name. They don't speak Spanish in Europe (other than Spain obviously), Africa, Asia etc. Even the word soccer is an abbreviation derived from football (Association Football).

@Kaminoge - the World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world. Baseball doesn't compare. Japan were also the first team to qualify for 2010. You can bet the whole country will stop to watch that, but I'm pretty sure they won't be stopping for the next Yankees game or World Baseball Classic.

Regardless of any of that, it doesn't change the fact that for all but a handful of countries, baseball barely rates a mention. I'll give you Japan, add US, Can, Cuba, DR, Ven and TW and there's still less than 10 countries where it's a major sport.

Kaminoge said...

"I'm pretty sure they won't be stopping for the next Yankees game or World Baseball Classic."

You can't compare a regular-season Yankees game to a one-off mega event like the World Cup. Of course, the country was going to stop and watch (just like it did when Japan hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics). It still doesn't mean that soccer automatically tops baseball in terms of popularity.

Oh, and the country did stop to watch its team in the World Baseball Classic, especially the final games against Cuba.

Just how much (or how little) do you know about Japan anyway, Craig?

Anonymous said...

cfimages:

Your logical problem is you keep talking about things that are not relevant to proving your points. Nothing you say about India and cricket will prove that baseball is or is not an international sport.

Again, regardless of origins, soccer is the proper term and no one thinks of it as an abbreviation. It'd absolutely be wrong to use football in a formal way in American English to refer to soccer since it is normally the term for American football (but obviously Americans don't call it that--they just say football). And American English is by far the dominant form of English in the world today.

But in case you try to argue with me about that again, it's not ME that has a problem with minority forms of English. It's YOU that apparently doesn't agree with the majority form of English. Well, tough.

Given your several comments here, all I can see is a lot of near-sightedness, provincialism, and basing things only on limited personal experience.

I'm not sure what in the world the continued angst about the futbol comment is about. You seriously tried to argue that I was wrong based on poor English? When it wasn't even poor English?

You'd think a foreigner living in Taiwan who likes to talk about his travel would have a more global perspective; but I guess that's the problem with photography--only skin deep.

ACE said...

Just thought I'd point out that Football is the proper name rather than Soccer (which came about, as mentioned earlier, as an abbreviation of Football Association). Soccer is generally the most common name for it world wide now as a result of American English being taught in most non-English speaking countries.

cfimages said...

@Anon - Whatever dude. You obviously have some problems with basic English comprehension.

Wrong to use football in the US (+ parts of Aust, NZ) maybe, but correct for the rest of the world.

No point in continuing to waste time debating with someone with such narrow-minded views.

cfimages said...

@Kaminoge - what I know about Japan is based on living with Japanese, and Japanese friends over the years. Maybe they are exceptions, but none of them had more than a passing interest in baseball.

I will freely admit I am extrapolating from them to the rest of the country.

Anonymous said...

Craig: Just because you're not anonymous doesn't mean you're not a troll. Since your only retort is that my English is poor or some similar line of argument, then I agree it is a waste of everyone's time for you to continue commenting here. You gotta back up what you say with facts. This is a serious suggestion that echoes what Kaminoge said: if you want to say something a country you don't know about, you can use a search engine and learn about it first. Otherwise, YOU are just wasting everyone's time.

Kaminoge said...

"I will freely admit I am extrapolating from them to the rest of the country."
Always a risky proposition :)

I really don't understand the need to denigrate baseball. Comparisons to soccer are unfair, in that the latter is (with the possible exception of basketball) the only sport in the world that is truly global in scope (actually, Stefan Szymanski and Andrew Zimbalist did compare the two sports in "National Pastime", including a passage on how the Football Association in England was influenced by baseball's National League in the United States). Does that mean that only the sport of soccer should be permitted to use "world" as an adjective when naming its championship tournaments?

I also don't see the relevancy in making comparisons to cricket. These two enjoyable sports exist in different spheres - cricket in the Commonwealth world (with the exception of Canada), and baseball in those areas strongly influenced by the United States (in East Asia, baseball was introduced by Americans in 1872 to the Japanese, who then in turn brought the game to the Koreans and the Taiwanese). Liking one doesn't mean having to demean the other - it isn't a zero sum game (no pun intended).

What has gotten lost in all this was the point of Micheal's original posting, the excellent paper by Andrew Morris analyzing baseball, colonialism and nationalism in Taiwan. You don't have to be a baseball fan to understand what Morris is writing about. The same holds true for Robert Whiting's book "You Gotta Have Wa". A female Australian acquaintance of mine in Tokyo, with no interest in baseball whatsoever, found it to be an excellent read. It would certainly broaden one's understanding of contemporary Japan from a small circle of friends!

cfimages said...

Kaminoge - the comparison to cricket was originally almost tongue-in-cheek. Most people would not consider it to be a world game, yet it has more players and fans in more countries than baseball. And then anonymous got offended because he/she can't understand simple logic :)

Kaminoge said...

"...the comparison to cricket was originally almost tongue-in-cheek. Most people would not consider it to be a world game, yet it has more players and fans in more countries than baseball."

Let's see...cricket is a major sport in England and Wales, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies. That's more than ten countries on four continents (or thereabouts), with a combined population of more than 1.5 billion. And that doesn't include the many countries where cricket is a minor sport, but one with a dedicated following. Doing the same tallying with regards to baseball would also throw up some impressive numbers in terms of countries, continents and population. Now if all this doesn't add up to a sport being a world game, then I just have to assume my definition of the word "global" is too broad!

As for anon, I'm afraid he/she doesn't seem to have much "wa" :)

Anonymous said...

cfimages:

Very humorous last comment =). You are just being too ironic:

1) Show me where any of the anons were offended by cricket. No one is offended by cricket's. It's you that seems to be offended by the popularity and international nature of the game of baseball =)

2) Instead of backing up what you say with evidence, you keep accusing others of poor English, reading skills, or logic, but you don't say why. Be specific. Worse, your own English is questionable as your last post contains a very strange use of the phrase "tongue-in-cheek". If you actually do mean "tongue-in-cheek", then it means that you weren't comparing cricket and soccer (what you call football) at all. That would be very strange indeed since no one would "get" why it's so obvious that you aren't comparing the two, and there's no punchline resulting from the "odd" juxtaposition.

Okay, so I'm thinking you might not be a native speaker of English. In that case, perhaps, you might be quite proud of your language skills. I think that's fine, and I would have more understanding of why you're doing what you're doing but 1) you don't need to try to prove yourself all the time and 2) if you're going to try to be pedantic, make sure you're right first ;-)

Anonymous said...

"In 1971, as the Tainan Giants swept to a world championship, Taiwanese independence activists at Williamsport hired an airplane to fly over the stadium towing a bilingual banner reading, “Long Live Taiwan Independence, Go Go Taiwan.” "

Wow ! I never knew this scenerio.