[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-Asia]: Dunscomb on Harney, 'Empire of Infields: Baseball in Taiwan and Cultural Identity, 1895-1968'
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Begin forwarded message:
> From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
> Date: February 10, 2020 at 2:44:40 PM EST
> To: h-review at lists.h-net.org
> Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-Asia]: Dunscomb on Harney, 'Empire of Infields: Baseball in Taiwan and Cultural Identity, 1895-1968'
> Reply-To: h-review at lists.h-net.org
> John J. Harney. Empire of Infields: Baseball in Taiwan and Cultural
> Identity, 1895-1968. Lincoln Univeristy of Nebraska Press, 2019.
> 240 pp. $50.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8032-8682-5.
> Reviewed by Paul Dunscomb (University of Alaska Anchorage)
> Published on H-Asia (February, 2020)
> Commissioned by Bradley C. Davis
> What makes sports better than fiction is the quality of the stories.
> On the field, the court, the track, powerful narratives are
> constructed and played out, and even if the result is a loss or a tie
> the test of character can produce a satisfying result. Part of the
> appeal of sports stories is that on fields with established ground
> rules under universally applied regulations, they offer the
> opportunity to turn the tables. Asymmetries of power can be
> transcended and the oppressed can assert themselves against their
> Sport also involves more than just the players, of course. Local
> teams enlist their fans in tribal fellowship, while in international
> competition athletes can become national avatars. So, India can
> defeat Britain on the cricket pitch, and Czechoslovakia's Martina
> Navratilova can crush her Soviet opponent on the tennis court while
> the Soviets crush the "Prague spring" in 1968 ("you'd need a tank to
> beat me!" she said as they met at the net). And even if the contest
> may seem to pit unequal parties, the possibility of the upset always
> remains, and even in defeat, striving for a seemingly impossible goal
> brings its own dignity ("Why go to the moon?" John F. Kennedy asked,
> "Why does Rice play Texas?").
> We love sports movies for much the same reason. Yet as John J.
> Harney, professor of history at Centre College, Kentucky, notes in
> the introduction of _Empire of Infields: Baseball and National
> Identity in Taiwan, 1895-1968_, the popular 2014 Taiwanese film
> _Kanō_, which describes the 1931 appearance of the team from the
> Jiayi Agricultural and Forestry Institute (Kanō in Japanese
> pronunciation), was beloved not because the plucky team portrayed won
> the 1931 Japanese high school baseball tournament (they lost the
> championship game) but because the team, a collection of indigenous,
> Chinese, and Japanese students, is recalled as a Taiwanese team,
> therefore positing a Taiwanese identity that is increasingly sought
> after by present-day residents of that island.
> This is the key to Harney's project, to unpack the significance of
> baseball as the "national sport" of a land that is denied national
> identity. Baseball came to Taiwan with the colonizing Japanese after
> it was incorporated into the empire in 1895. It remained after the
> Japanese were expelled and replaced by new "outside" overlords in the
> form of the defeated mainland remnants of Chiang Kai-shek's
> Nationalist Party (KMT). It survived more in spite of than because of
> the KMT's pretense to be the government of the Chinese mainland. It
> gained acceptance as an assertion of nationhood at a time when that
> proposition was coming increasingly under siege. So, Taiwan's
> relation to baseball, past and present, is a far more fraught one
> than the usual subaltern study of appropriation and mastery. While
> many on Taiwan love the game, what the game gives them, both at the
> time and retrospectively, is subject to constant renegotiation.
> Harney notes that baseball entered Taiwan not on the heels of Japan's
> imperial army but through the enthusiasm of white-collar office
> workers and educators in schools for the Japanese. This is what the
> Japanese today call _shakai yakyū_ or "social baseball." This takes
> the form not of extended league play resulting in a post-season
> championship but of periodic tournaments between amateur (or at most
> semiprofessional) players. This initial injection of baseball into
> the island was strictly for Japanese consumption. It did not have the
> opportunity to spread beyond this enclave until the 1922 decision to
> integrate the education system around a Japanese mandated curriculum.
> Even as this was happening Taiwan was made a solid portion of Japan's
> infield empire when it became part of the regular circuit for
> barnstorming teams from the metropole (notably, Waseda University's
> famous team) and occasionally from beyond as well. Strengthening of
> ties between metropole and colony boosted the quality of local play
> and provided high school students with an aspirational goal, Koshien
> Stadium, home of the national high school baseball tournament every
> Even before Kanō's famous foray, the first indicators of baseball as
> a marker of the success of Japan's "civilizing" colonial mission and
> the success of the new assimilationist policy came in the form of the
> indigenous students of the Hualian Agricultural School (Nokō). Their
> "savage" play impressed the Chinese and Japanese in the larger cities
> of the south with their mastery of the game. Indeed, the presence of
> indigenous players would become one of the hallmarks of Taiwanese
> The withdrawal of the Japanese from Taiwan in 1945 left behind any
> number of colonial legacies, not least baseball. The new KMT
> government, proponents of an ideology of new Chinese culture
> (including sport), from which the Taiwanese had been excluded, looked
> askance at these colonial bequests and were equally hostile to any
> expressions of Taiwanese identity. They much preferred basketball or
> tennis as the appropriate sports of the new Chinese, but they quickly
> realized baseball's utility as the preferred sport of its chief
> patron, the United States, as well as its allies, such as the
> Philippines, but also South Korea and Japan. So, while baseball was
> not necessarily encouraged by the new regime, it was not actively
> discouraged by it either.
> Even so, baseball maintained its Japanese orientation during the
> 1960s, driven largely by the success of Taiwanese players in Japanese
> professional ranks. Oh Sadaharu, Japan's "Babe Ruth," was born on
> Taiwan and his exploits with the Yomiuri Giants were followed with
> intense interest and pride. His visits "home" allowed him to revel in
> his celebrity, and his ambiguous citizenship (not Japanese but not
> Chinese either) mirrored the curious position of the Republic of
> China (ROC).
> Harney concludes his coverage in 1968, when the Hongye Primary School
> baseball team defeated a visiting team from Wakayama, home of the
> then Little League World Series champions. While the Wakayama team
> was not the same championship team, Hongye's victory allowed
> Taiwanese baseball to transcend its Japanese origins and convinced
> the KMT government that youth baseball provided a means to promote
> international visibility for a nation increasingly driven from the
> global stage.
> Taiwanese domination of the Little League World Series, starting in
> 1971 and running through that decade, marks a shift in the
> aspirational goal of the national sport from Koshien Stadium in Japan
> to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Yet Harney notes that while this gave
> the KMT the exposure it craved, it also provided opportunities for
> cheering fans of the winning teams to assert a Taiwanese, rather than
> an ROC, identity. The orientation of Taiwanese baseball may have
> changed, but its character remained just as fraught and multivalent
> as it ever had been.
> Overall, Harney does a fine job explicating the various phases of
> baseball's evolution on Taiwan primarily by a thorough scouring of
> local newspaper coverage of the sport over the decades. His chapter
> on the rise of intra-imperial barnstorming teams seems overdone,
> however, and steals our attention from Taiwan at a critical stage.
> And while his decision to end the story of Taiwanese baseball in 1968
> makes sense, there is room to wonder precisely how much it managed to
> leave behind its Japanese origins.
> Like its Japanese antecedent, baseball in Taiwan was born amateur,
> embedded in schools and the shakai yakyū world of youth and
> corporate baseball tournaments. It did not become a professional
> sport until after the period covered by Harney. Yet it would be
> interesting to know whether Taiwanese pro ball developed its own
> distinct model or borrowed the vertical model of parent company and
> franchise, which is the mainstay of pro ball in Japan (and South
> Harney's _Empire of Infields_ joins Sayuri Guthrie-Shimizu's
> _Trans-Pacific Field of Dreams: How Baseball Linked the United States
> and Japan in Peace and War _(2012) as an important work describing
> the evolution of baseball as an international sport. And while
> soccer, golf, basketball, or tennis may have a more truly global
> reach, he demonstrates well how baseball came to establish its secure
> niche in the world.
> Citation: Paul Dunscomb. Review of Harney, John J., _Empire of
> Infields: Baseball in Taiwan and Cultural Identity, 1895-1968_.
> H-Asia, H-Net Reviews. February, 2020.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=54524
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
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