Taiwan considers baseball its national sport. It first came to Taiwan in the early 1900s during Japanese colonization (1895-1945). Americans brought baseball to Japan in 1872, where it grew in popularity, and Japanese nationals in Taiwan formed its first baseball team in 1906. Originally only Japanese players could join. But over the years they began to allow Taiwanese to play as well.
After the Japanese left in 1945, baseball’s popularity continued to soar in Taiwan. In 1969, Taiwan won the Little League World Series in the United States, setting off a “little league baseball craze” that saw the island winning the Little League World Series 16 times between 1970 and 1996.
Four Taiwanese businesses formed teams that became the CPBL in 1990, which later expanded to 11 teams. But several large game-fixing scandals plagued the league, with players and even entire teams involved in fixing games in exchange for money and prostitutes. Attendance plummeted, and the league disqualified teams. In 2009, Taiwan’s government and the league promised to clean up the sport.
Today there are again four teams: the Brothers, Uni-Lions, Monkeys, and Fubon Guardians. Last year, the Wei Chuan Dragons joined the league and will be playing in the CPBL minor league this year before joining the major league in 2021.
Rob Liu, founder of the English-language blog CPBL Stats, said that in April his blog’s traffic increased tenfold as baseball fans around the world flocked to learn more about Taiwan’s league. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen linked to the blog in a tweet and thanked international friends for “staying up late or getting up early to cheer for the first hit with us in #Taiwan.”
Liu believes it’s unrealistic to expect that the CPBL will still maintain its high viewership after more leagues resume. But Liu believes the CPBL should “ride on this momentum as hard as it can until the end and hope that at the end of the day the millions of people who tuned in remember that something like this exists … the next time they wake up at 5 a.m., they’ll know there’s a baseball game going.”