21 August 2004

Taiwan's Distinctive Pro Baseball League

The Chinese Professional Baseball League began play in 1990 with four teams--each, as in Korea and Japan, owned by a major corporation, mainly for marketing potential. However, unlike Korea and Japan, or any other major professional league for that matter, none of the teams in the CPBL had a permanent home base. Instead, the four teams traveled around Taiwan, playing at five parks. As the league explained: "In the absence of clear demarcations of 'market territories' for the teams, plus the fact that fans do not entertain a strong sense of geographical division, scheduling and assigning game locations are done in such a way that the area factor does not distinguish host from guest. Rather, the host-or-guest designation is determined with a formula by which teams equally take turns playing the host or guest roles at a given location." Weather was a consideration in the unique setup as well. The lack of permanent home sites enabled the league to schedule more games in the warmer south earlier in the season.

Unlike Korea, which imposed revenue sharing on its teams during the early days of professional baseball, the CPBL fostered stronger competition--or, at the very least, a perception of incentive--by decreeing that "the take of each team from the proceeds of the games [shall be decided] on the basis of win or loss percentages." Teams would play a split, ninety-game season with the winners of each half meeting for the league championship. If a team won both halves, it would be declared "Grand Champion of the Year," and playoffs would be held for the runner-up "Challenge Cup."

There were two other distinguishing features in the CPBL. One was that pitching mounds varied in height from ballpark to ballpark. Another was that league rules permitted teams to carry as many players as they liked. Corporate budgets decided roster limits. Some teams carried thirty players, others only twenty-two. There was, however, a limit to the number of foreign players each team could sign. Originally, it was set at five, and no more than three could be on the field at anyone time. That first season, the four teams recruited a total of sixteen foreign players, paying them U.S.$4,000 to $5,500 per month for their services.
SOURCE: Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia, by Joseph A. Reaves (U. Nebraska Press, 2002), p. 149

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