2012 / 9月
世界少棒錦標賽，是由世界少棒聯盟（Little League Baseball，簡稱LLB）所創辦的賽事，首屆比賽在1947年舉行。由於歷屆比賽均在美國賓州威廉波特市舉辦，因此又被稱為「威廉波特少棒賽」。
Lin Hsin-ching /tr. by David Smith
Most people aged 40 or over in Taiwan share common memories of watching baseball on TV in the wee hours. Every time a team from Taiwan won a world championship in one of the three boys’ leagues (Little League, Junior League, or Senior League), it always set off an explosion of joyous celebration throughout the country.
But the Taiwan youth who had dominated the World Series events in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania for decades have not won a world championship since 1996. Today, however, a baseball team from Kuei-Shan Elementary School in Taoyuan, though established less than 10 years ago, has already played twice at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, sparking a wave of renewed hope and enthusiasm in Taiwan for little league ball.
The Little League Baseball World Series was launched by Little League Baseball (LLB), which was founded in 1939. The event is often called the “Williamsport Little League World Series” because the annual event always takes place in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Taiwan’s deep connection to Williamsport dates back to the electrifying rise of the renowned Hongye team. Established in 1963, Hongye was composed mainly of boys from the indigenous Bunun tribe in Hongye Village, Yanping Township, Taitung County. Taiwan was not a wealthy nation back then, so the players had to use sticks and stones in place of bats and balls, and often practiced their batting technique by hitting against an old tire tied to a tree trunk.
On August 25, 1968, a team of all stars from Japan’s Kansai region played in a friendly competition against the Hongye little league team, which had been enjoying winning ways in Taiwan. Few could have foreseen that Hongye, unknown outside Taiwan, would trounce the powerful Japanese team by a score of 7:0. The big win thrilled a nation whose people had been down on themselves for quite a long time.Wins marred by controversy
The following year, Taiwan put together a national all-star team to compete in Williamsport. But in order to comply with the LLB rules (which require participating teams to be local, not national teams), the players were recruited into a newly formed team named the Taichung Golden Dragons.
The “new kid in town” immediately made its mark by taking the 1969 championship. It marked the beginning of a brilliant string of successes for Taiwan teams in Williamsport.
From 1971 to 1974, teams from Tainan, Taipei, and Kaohsiung took four championships in a row. Their success was so overwhelming, in fact, that LLB reacted by banning international teams from the World Series in 1975.
After international teams were welcomed back to Williamsport in 1976, little leaguers from Taiwan continued to dominate, racking up 17 championships by 1996.
However, Taiwan was roundly criticized abroad by many who suggested that it achieved its success through trickery. Some said it assembled national all-star teams. Others said that star players from around the country were all transferred to a single school to achieve the same end.
In addition, LLB had long sought to emphasize the friendly nature of the Williamsport games, treating them almost as a sort of “summer baseball camp,” but the teams from Taiwan always played under immense pressure to win, knowing the eyes of a nation were upon them. Foreign media on many an occasion mocked our teams for acting as if they were playing in the Olympics.The “Taiwan clause”
This prompted the LLB later to adopt a special rule requiring all the players on any team from Taiwan to come from a single school (whereas, for other nations, the players on any given team need only come from a single area), and if the school in question had more than 1,500 students (later upped to 1,800), its athletes would have to be split into two separate teams.
In protest against this “Taiwan clause,” the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association withdrew from the LLB, returning only in 2003.
These days, however, winning has become much more important at Williamsport. Players from all countries are now dead serious about the competition, and taking the championship has become much more difficult. But the unreasonable restriction on team formation in Taiwan now makes our teams less competitive.
Five teams from Taiwan made it to Williamsport from 2003 through 2011, but they fell short of the championship each time. The best finish came in 2009, when the boys from Kuei-Shan Elementary School took second place.
This year at Williamsport, the Kuei-Shan again showed a fighting spirit that was moving to witness. With one team after another stepping forward to represent our country, there is every reason to believe that Taiwan’s little leaguers will continue to shine on the world baseball stage.