Introduction to Baseball’s Scandals
As old as the game itself, people have tried to gain an edge over the outcome of baseball games for their benefit. The first baseball game-fixing on record occurred in September of 1865. William Wansley, the catcher for the New York Mutuals, was offered $100 to throw the game by Kane Mclaughlin, who was a well-known gambler. Wansley accepted and shared the money with two teammates who also served to fix the game. It was rather obvious Wansley had ulterior motives that game, as he went 0-5 at the plate, with six passed balls in less than five innings.
While not discrediting the significance, the William Wansley fix was simply an ordinary game. The concept of game-fixing would progress exponentially with the Black Sox Scandal. The Chicago White Sox intentionally threw the World Series in 1919, where it became one of the most controversial sports scandals in history. Eight White Sox players, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were banned for life for their role in throwing the series in exchange for money.
With that said, the Chinese Professional Baseball League is no stranger to game-fixing scandals.
The Uncovering of Taiwan
Taiwan has endured corruption issues for years, and the efforts to provide a solution have remained superficial. While not going after the root of their problems, such as organized crime and dirty politicians, the Chinese Professional Baseball League has managed to ban the players who have appeared in allegations, whether or not they were determined guilty.
Because the Asian gambling market is a profitable industry, the CPBL has fallen victim to game-fixing. Besides, Taiwanese baseball players are among the most underpaid professional baseball players. Even if you possess a long-term deal, a player in the CPBL can be released by their team at any moment, which gives players no assurance that they will even receive their base salary of $2,000 per month. While adding fewer incentives, throughout spring training, some organizations force their players to reside in high school dorms. Likewise, others are directed to perform unpleasant tasks for the team, which are offensive for a professional baseball player.
With baseball in Taiwan building its prevalence, schools primarily focus on baseball rather than academics. High schools also started recruiting players from poverty-stricken neighborhoods, where education wasn’t valued, but baseball was. Because of this, it produced an environment where players were open to become absorbed in game-fixing, as they needed more money than what the CPBL was providing. Furthermore, when you grow up in a survival mode where crime is exposed all around you, and there is a lack of education and character development, it could hinder your ability to make the right decisions.
The practice of how a game-fixing scheme usually occurred was a former teammate or associate would introduce current players to gangsters, who would buy drinks and provide escorts for the players. Once a relationship was established with the gangsters, game fixing requests were delivered, sometimes forcefully. The ties of some gangs were so powerful that they had access to the clubhouse during games to make sure players followed through.
The following are an in-depth look at some of the biggest scandals in the history of the Chinese Professional Baseball League.
The August 3 Incident
On August 3rd, 1996, members of a local gang threatened several players of the Brother Elephants in Taichung City, Taiwan. The gang snatched the players and held them at gunpoint in a hotel room, as they tried to force the players to cooperate with them and fix games to aid in the gang’s gambling business. While the CPBL reported the situation and the gang were arrested, it is unknown whether this exchange wrongly influenced the results of Brother Elephants’ games. The kidnappers came from a gang that lost $125,000 on one particular Elephant’s game. The gang believed that a rival of theirs paid off the Elephants’ to throw the game. One of the players kidnapped was Chen Yi-Hsin, viewed as one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the Chinese Professional Baseball League.
The Black Eagles Incident
In January 1997, three players of the China Times Eagles were implicated in fixing games in exchange for bribes. With substantial evidence of unlawful activity, prosecutors arrested several China Times Eagles players for their involvement. With law enforcement uncovering more illegal incidents, even more players on the team were found to be guilty of fixing games and were banned from the CPBL. By June of 1997, there were merely two players left on the China Times Eagles who had no involvement. Back in 1997, there were a total of seven teams, so to keep the competition level, the other six teams were lending the China Times Eagles players for the team to finish the season. Undoubtedly, the China Times Eagles were dismissed from the league the following season. The average attendance in 1996 was 4,548, but because of the Black Eagles Incident, attendance dropped to 2,041 by the end of 1997. By September 1997, Twenty-one players and a coach were sentenced for their involvement.
Because of the China Times Eagles scandal, there was a dark cloud hovering over the league. In August 1997, members of the Mercuries Tigers were attacked similar to The August 3 Incident. Then in April of 1999, the manager of the Wei Chuan Dragons, Hsu Sheng-ming, a Taiwanese baseball legend, was assaulted and stabbed near his home because he refused to fix any games. Due to the economic losses of both the Mercuries Tigers and Wei Chuan Dragons, both teams shut down operations after the 1999 season. The three separate incidents are named the Black Eagles Incident because the China Times Eagles were deemed responsible for bringing about corruption.
2005 Game-Fixing Scandal
Next Magazine, a regional magazine in Taiwan, published a story in July of 2005 about a gambling scandal involving Brad Purcell of the Chinatrust Whales, where he was photographed at a bar interacting with several gang members. The article would go on to share the suspicions about ten players who may have been involved in illegal activities in May and June of 2005. Brad Purcell was immediately released from the Chinatrust Whales and fled Taiwan before they were able to take legal action.
A local prosecutor named Hsu Wei-Yueh maintained the case, who, on July 27th, 2005, imprisoned Chen Chao-Ying, the catcher for the La New Bears and the coach of the Macoto Cobras, Tsai Sheng-Fong. Due to the allegations, both were kicked out of the league. Hsu Wei-Yueh would then charge a dozen players from the league for their involvement. While none of them admitted to any wrongdoing, many were still kicked out of the league for the accusations.. In the end, only two of the teams at the time had clean slates, the Brother Elephants, and Uni-President Lions.
The way this scandal was manipulated, though, is unclear, as the local prosecutor, Hsu Wei-Yueh was later arrested and sentenced the same year for his involvement in a bribery scandal.
d-Media T-REX Scandal
Cory Bailey, a former MLB player, and two others were allegedly involved in a game-fixing scandal. Prosecutors arrested six dmedia T-REX players, including the manager and coach, plus four bookies for fixing baseball games during the 2008 season. The executive director of dmedia T-REX would go on to concede that the team indeed used a gangster ring to run the organization while fixing baseball games. Roughly two weeks after the accusations, the team was driven out of the league.
2009 Game-Fixing Scandal
While baseball has given the island of Taiwan an identity, the controversies may perhaps be giving Taiwan a negative reputation. The 2009 Game-Fixing Scandal was notable because it opened an investigation into whether players of the CPBL deliberately threw games in exchange for compensation. There were reports from this scandal that players were not under any pressure and were not coerced from bookies or gangs, just absolute greed by the players. Both players and gambling ringleaders were arrested for the accusations. The scandal reached a global level because it involved Tsao Chin-hui, who was the first player from Taiwan to reach MLB.
Players are now required to attend anti-gambling seminars during spring training to help prevent the criminal activity of the league. The league further demands players to express consent that allows them to monitor players’ cell phones. Unfortunately, because gangs are part of the norm in Taiwan, it is challenging to prevent them from affecting the league.
Since the introduction of the CPBL, game-fixing scandals have emerged on various occasions, which has put an intense strain on the league. The embarrassments have prevented the Chinese Professional Baseball League from operating smoothly and hindered their ability to establish themselves as a legitimate professional baseball league.