Despite Taiwan’s ardent love for the game, its China Professional Baseball League (CPBL) has been struggling, in large measure because of the influence of the underworld and its intimidation, gambling and game-fixing.
According to experts, the MLB all-star series, which the visitors wrapped up 5-0 on Sunday having drawn tens of thousands of fans, highlighted the huge gap between American baseball and the management of the sport in Taiwan.
“I don’t understand the point of this MLB tour,” said Andrew Morris, a Taiwan expert at California Polytechnic State University, who has written a book about Taiwanese baseball.
“It’s not going to make the locals more interested in the domestic product. It will just show the divide between the two games and remind fans how seedy and violent Taiwan baseball is.”
Since pro-ball began in Taiwan in 1990, there have been five game-fixing scandals, four of them in the last seven years.
With each one seemingly more lurid than the last, attendances have plummeted from an average 7,000 fans a game in the late 1990s to a few thousand today.
Accounts of the scandals read like the plot of a Hollywood gangster movie. For players who were resistant to being bought off with money, cars, drugs or prostitutes, things got very ugly, very fast.
What wasn’t mentioned during the MLB tour of the Beautiful Island.