Taiwan Major League
The Taiwan Major League of Professional Baseball, often called the Taiwan Major League or TML, was four-team league based in Taiwan founded in 1996 and began play in 1997. The league was created as a rival league to the older Chinese Professional Baseball League. The league was operated by the Naluwan Corporation, which was created by media mogul Fu-Sheng Chiu. The league lasted for six seasons before merging with the CPBL on January 13, 2003.
Founding of the League
The TML was founded by Chiu's network, TVBS, had failed to acquire the CPBL's second television rights contract, spanning 1997 to 2006. It had previously held the league's TV rights from 1993 to 1996. The league was also backed by Sheng-Tian Chen. The league was also a single-entity organization. However, the league allowed for team sponsorships for advertising purpose, so every year each team would bear different name from different sponsors,
In the spring of 1996 Chen and other TML officials traveled to Japan and the United States to meet with Nippon Professional Baseball and Major League Baseball officials. The International Division of Major League Baseball sent coaches, including Fernando Arroyo, Jim Lefebvre, Bill Plummer, and Greg Riddoch to serve as official advisors to the league’s teams. All eight of the TML's umpires to the MLB-approved Brinkman-Froemming Umpire School in Florida for a 31-day training session. Similar arrangements were made with the NPB, through Tainan-born Taigen Kaku (Taiyuan Guo), who had recently retired after pitching for 12 years for the Seibu Lions. He would become a "high-level consultant."
On December 1, 1996 the league's four teams were announced. The teams were:
|Team||Chinese||Mascot||Offical Name||Home City/Region|
|Taipei Gida||台北太陽||Suns||Taipei City|
|Taichung Agan||台中金剛||Robots||Taichung City|
|Chianan Luka||嘉南勇士||Braves||Chiayi-Tainan Luka||Jiayi and Tainan Counties|
|Kaoping Fala||高屏雷公||Thunder Gods||Kaohsiung and Pingtung Fala||Kaohsiung and Pingtung Counties.|
Differences with the CPBL
The TML sought to correct perceived problem's with the CPBL, most notably the creation of a Taiwanese identity for the league and its teams. Each of the teams had an assigned home territory. The team's mascot names (Gida, Agan, Luka, and Fala) came from Taiwanese aboriginal symbols. The league also held its opening days on February 28 at the Jiayi Municipal Stadium, an important date in Taiwanese history. Fifty years prior to the league's first opening day in 1947, around thirty-thousand civilians killed by the Kuomintang government. Catering to the Taiwanese identity proved to be highly successful as the new league outdrew the CPBL in its first four years of existance. The league also created a semi-pro team to serve as a minor league reserve team for the league's clubs. The CPBL would not have a minor league until 2006.
On December 30, 2002 the Taiwan Major League was dissolve by the Naluwan Corporation. In the previous two years TML and CPBL officals had met three times to discuss a possible merger. On January 13, 2003 the two league's officially merged. Despite, outdrawing the CPBL in its first four years ,the TML lost an estimated 1.6 billion New Taiwan dollars during the 6 seasons)its existance. The two leagues were also under political pressure from President Shui-Bian Chen. Now part of the CPBL Nawluwan pulled out of sponsoring the league. President Chen enlisted Macoto Banks and First Financial Holdings to sponsor the two newly formed CPBL teams, created from the absorbed TML teams. First Financial Holdings would sell Agan to the La New Corporation one year later.
The TML competed aggresively with the CPBL for players. Nearly thirty then-active CPBL players broke their CPBL contracts and joined TML for a much high salary than their current team offered. These players' were branded by fans as "traitors." In addition, the league also attracted players who were either unable to find a spot in the CPBL or who had been llet go by their teams.
Before the first post-merger season began, the CPBL decided to fine each former contract breaker who return to league with Gida and Agan for between one to four million NT$. At first both team owners (Macoto Bank and First Financial Holdings) refused to pay the fines, which caused these players to be unable to play during the 2003 season. In 2004, Macoto Bank and the La New Corporation paid the fines by including additional restrictions to the contracts of the players, allowing them to return to the CPBL after 8 years.
The TML also signed six players from Fu Jen Catholic University and five players under the age of 23 from the China Times Eagles amateur team. This caused some controversy and complaints from the CPBL, which had signed an agreement with the Ministry of Education when it was founded not to sign players under the age of 23 or who were still in school.
New players were signed to much larger contracts than in the CPBL with an average of more than NT$100,000 per month. The TML also had a standard contract length of five years with a restricted free agent system, where the player's current team has the right to match any offer made. On the other hand, CPBL contracts were "lifetime contracts," they could only be terminated if the team violated a contract provision or if the team voided the contract. Despite this, potential players hesitated to join TML because its lower quality of play versus the CPBL.
With 11 foreign players allowed per team, foreigners comprised 42.7% of the league's players. They also led in the league in many key areas in 1997, such as home run king Sam Horn or batting champion Epy Guerrero Jr..
In 1998, foreigners continued to shine, despite the foreign player limit dropping down to seven bringing the percentage of foreign players to under 30%. Luis de los Santos taking the batting title (.357), Rod Brewer cracking 28 homers, Ben Burlingame posting a 1.99 ERA and Don August winning 19 games.
In 1999, Brad Strauss won the batting crown (.387), Corey Powell hit the most home runs (25), Brewer drove in 71 runs and Japanese pitcher Hisanobu Watanabe won the pitching Triple Crown (18-7, 2.34, 201 K).
The 2000 season had Manny Estrada with the highest average (.362), Takehiro Ishii lead in wins (16) and ERA (1.74) and Watanabe post the most strikeouts (169).
In 2001, Kun-Han Lin had the highest average (.368) and Chin-Chih Huang (7-3, 1.62) and Ru-Hao Liang (8-7, 2.61, 94 K) were the top pitchers.
In the league's last season, Huang (16-2, 1.46) led in wins and ERA, while Roberto Mejia (.332) led in average. Chia-Hsien Hsieh led in homers (19) and RBI (64) as for a second straight season, Taiwanese natives made strides against foreign players.
|Year||Winning Team||MVP||Result||Games||Losing Team|
|1997||Chianan Luka||Sil Campusano||4 - 3||LWWLLWW||Taipei Gida|
|1998||Taipei Gida||Yu-Hsiang Tsai||4 - 3||WLLWLWW||Kaoping Fala|
|1999||Taichung Agan||Ming-Jie Xu||4 - 2||LWWWLW||Taipei Gida|
|2000||Taipei Gida||Osmani Estrada||4 - 0||WWWW||Kaoping Fala|
|2001||Taichung Agan||Chin-Chih Huang||4 - 2||WLLWWW||Taipei Gida|
|2002||Taichung Agan||Chia-Hsien Hsieh||4 - 1||WWLWW||Kaoping Fala|
Most Valuable Player
- 1997 Yi-Hsin Chen, Chianan Luka, P
- 1998 Don August, Kaoping Fala, P
- 1999 Hisanobu Watanabe, Chianan Luka, P
- 2000 Takehiro Ishii, Taipei Gida, P
- 2001 Tsung-Hui Tong, Taichung Agan, 1B
- 2002 Chin-Chih Huang, Taichung Agan, P
- 台灣職業棒球大聯盟 at Taiwan Baseball Wiki
- "Ninja Catchers and Chivalrous Eagles: Taiwan Baseball and a Globalized Taiwan Identity" (PDF), Andrew Morris, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo - Department of History
- Major League Controversies--Professional Baseball Enters a New Era, Jackie Chen (tr. by Phil Newell), Sinorama Magazine
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