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01/18/2005 Archived Entry: "Court affirms baseballers' guilt in CPBL 'Black Eagles scandal' by Jason Pan"

Court affirms baseballers' guilt in CPBL 'Black Eagles scandal'

2005-01-01 / Taiwan News, Contributing Writer / By Jason Pan

Concluding protracted legal wrangling that lingered on for over 8 years, Taiwan's High Court affirmed the previous court decision in 1997 and ruled that 22 former pro players and coaches were guilty of throwing games in a baseball-betting scandal during the mid-1990's.

The 22 defendants - including all-star hitters and top pitchers from the last decade, mostly from the now defunct Chinatimes Eagles team - had already received lifetime bans handed down by the Chinese Professional Baseball League.

Known as Taiwan's "Black Eagles Scandal" (in parallel to the U.S. "Black Sox" affair of 1919), the defendants received suspended sentences that ranged from seven months to a year and ten months. The original ruling handed down jail sentences of between eight months and 2 1/2 years.

With the guilty verdict, most of the baseball community breathed a collective sight of relief and expressed the hope of bringing an end to the biggest sports scandal in Taiwan's history, a scandal which tainted the integrity of the league and nearly destroyed the game.

Upholding the verdict of the first court ruling 8 years ago, the statement from the judges yesterday found that 22 of the 23 players and coaches charged were guilty of accepting money from underground gambling syndicates and fixing game results.

When the betting scandal broke with a series of gangster-related blackmailing and kidnapping incidents starting in 1996 (CPBL's 7th season), the case rocked the whole country and people lost faith in the game. The scandal led to the dissolution of the Chinatimes Eagles franchise on September 15, 1998.

Fan interests waned and CBPL attendances declined from an average of between 7,000 to 5,000 per game in the early to mid-1990's to a low of about 2,000 per game in 1997. The average attendance in 2004 was 3500.

Among the 23 defendants, only the Eagles pitcher Tsai Ming-hong was exonerated yesterday. A submarine pitcher with the Chinatimes club from 1993 to 1995, Tsai was used mostly in relief roles and the judges in the end found insufficient evidence against him in fixing game outcomes.

However, it was the end of the road for many of Tsai's "Black Eagles" teammates, who had consistently asserted their innoncence and expressed their desire to continue playing or to return as coaches.

Among them were some of the most popular diamond idols and leading stars of the powerhouse Chinatimes Eagles team at the time, including Liao Ming-hsiung (nicknamed the "Prince of Baseball," top RBI hitter in 1993 and home run king in 1995), Kuo Chien-chen (top relief pitcher in the league with most saves in 1994 and 1995), and Wang Kuang-hsi (nicknamed "Brother West," gold glove winner and all-star 2nd baseman).

The judiciary agencies and the Bureau of Investigation had began an official probe into the case on January 28, 1997, and several players admitted their involvement at that stage, which led to the indictment of both baseballers and underground syndicate members starting in February of 1997.

Following the verdict yesterday, the CPBL issued a press release saying the league welcomed the court decision and it would be a lesson to everyone within the game.

"The ruling yesterday puts an end to this case. It will also be the start of baseball's recovery in this country. We thank the fans for their support and forgiveness, and for allowing baseball in Taiwan to rejuvenate on the road back to prosperity," read part of the statement.

"The scandal tarnished the game and it was a difficult chapter in the development of baseball in Taiwan. The league is responsible for upholding and protecting the integrity of the game. Outcomes of games must never be called into question," the statement continued.

" The league will also work with the police and the judiciary to form a 'security-and-protection team' to take action necessary to prevent reccurrence of similar incidents."

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