[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-Asia]: Dunscomb on Harney, 'Empire of Infields: Baseball in Taiwan and Cultural Identity, 1895-1968'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Mon Feb 10 16:25:17 MST 2020



Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 
- - -
Subscribe to the Washington Babylon newsletter via https://washingtonbabylon.com/newsletter/

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 
> oppressors. 
> 
> 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 
> August. 
> 
> 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 
> baseball. 
> 
> 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 
> Korea). 
> 
> 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 
> License.
> 
> 



More information about the Marxism mailing list