中華少棒的威廉波特夢

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2012 / 9月

文‧林欣靜


對40歲以上的台灣觀眾來說,熬夜守在電視機前看棒球賽轉播,曾是生命中最深刻的記憶之一;每當中華小將奪得三級棒球(少棒、青少棒、青棒)的世界冠軍,總會出現舉國歡騰、萬人空巷的盛況。

不過,曾經笑傲威廉波特世界少棒錦標賽數十年的中華少棒,自1996年後,就不曾再奪得世界冠軍,如今成軍甫10年的桃園縣龜山少棒,兩度成功叩關威廉波特,也喚起國人對少棒的熱情與期許。


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」。

台灣與威廉波特的結緣,最早可溯及國人耳熟能詳的紅葉少棒。1963年成立的紅葉少棒,主要由台東縣延平鄉紅葉村的布農族學童所組成。在那個物資短缺,生活刻苦的年代,小球員只能以石為球、以棍為棒,或在樹幹上綁廢輪胎練習揮棒。

1968年8月25日,日本關西地區遴選出來的明星隊,來台進行友誼賽,台灣則派出已在國內多項比賽嶄露頭角的紅葉少棒應戰,沒想到當時在國際間默默無聞的紅葉少棒,最後竟以7:0的懸殊比數大勝日本隊,這項比賽結果,大大振奮了台灣長期低落的士氣民心。

光榮戰績的陰影

隔年,台灣首度集結各校的好手,組成中華少棒明星隊,準備出戰威廉波特,其後才順應世界少棒聯盟的比賽規定(參與球隊必須是地區球隊,而非由全國明星球員組成的國家代表隊),組成台中市金龍少棒隊參賽。

初試啼聲的金龍少棒,果然不負眾望,奪得1969年的世界少棒冠軍,從此也開啟了我國少棒的光榮歷史。

1971~1974年,我國選派的巨人、北市、高雄市河濱國小與鼓山國小少棒隊,接棒「四連霸」、贏得世界少棒冠軍,迫使美方一度在1975年「閉關自守」,拒絕所有的外國球隊參賽!

1976年後,威廉波特重啟大門,中華少棒代表隊也多次創下佳績,截至1996年為止,總計抱回17次的世界冠軍。

然而,光榮戰績的背後,卻因中華少棒屢以各隊菁英、學校掛名或刻意轉學的方式組隊參賽而飽受國際質疑。

此外,威廉波特少棒賽原屬聯誼性質濃厚的「國際少棒夏令營」,但中華少棒卻總在嚴格訓練與國人殷殷期盼下,肩負「沒奪冠就無顏見江東父老」的強大壓力參賽,也多次被國外媒體揶揄像是在「打奧運」。

台灣條款的設限

因此,世界少棒聯盟後來嚴格限制:凡是台灣參賽的隊伍,球員必須來自單一學校,不能像其他國家可組成地區型的代表隊;若該校的學生人數超過1,500人(後放寬為1,800人),還得分成兩大聯盟篩選球員。

為抗議這項專為中華少棒設限的「台灣條款」,我國在1997年宣布退出世界少棒聯盟,直至2003年才重返聯盟。

然而,此時的威廉波特少棒賽,競技色彩日益濃厚,各國球員無不卯足實力競爭,奪冠難度也大幅提升,但我國卻受限於不合理的組隊規定,戰力也大幅削弱。

自2003年至2011年,中華少棒共有5次進軍威廉波特的機會,卻總與冠軍無緣。成績最好的一次,就是2009年由桃園縣龜山少棒捧回的亞軍。

今年龜山少棒再度代表我國,出戰威廉波特,其奮戰不懈的精神,令人動容不已。有了這群中華小將前仆後繼的努力,台灣少棒一定能持續在世界體壇發光發熱。

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EN

Taiwan’s Little-League Dream

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.

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