“When the Japanese took over Taiwan they were very afraid of the aborigine people and one of the things they did was to civilize them with baseball.” – Andrew Morris
This podcast features professor and Department chair of the history department, Andrew Morris, discussing his book Colonial Project, National Game: A History of Baseball in Taiwan published in 2010 by the University of California Press. Two invited respondents join Professor Morris in discussing his book, Professor of Sociology John McKinstry and College of Liberal Arts Librarian Brett Bodemer.
Audio link is below.
Baseball is more than just a game
While living in Taiwan as a graduate student studying modern Chinese history, Andrew Morris’ side interest in the history of baseball on the island became a serious research study. As a lifelong fan he was particularly fascinated with what a powerful cultural force the game continues to be for the people of Taiwan and the realization that it is an artifact of Japanese colonialism. His research revealed stories of the contradictions of colonialism and how the aboriginal people of Taiwan are at the center of this fascinating baseball narrative.
Tangled history of Taiwan
Andrew explores the complex story of baseball in Taiwan – how integral it is to the island’s long history of colonization by many different cultures. The research for his book included studying the transition from Japanese to Chinese rule at the end of World War II and how it affected the game of baseball. He describes the contradictions revealed through the success of Little League from the late 1960s through the late 1980s when it was seen as a triumph of Chinese culture, even though the game was still regarded as a Japanese game largely played by aboriginal Taiwanese kids.
Colonialism and sport
Later, Brett Bodemer points out the mark of a good book is one in which the reader takes away overarching themes. In his book Andrew points out some very interesting ones including the connection between nationalism and sports and the history of colonial powers spreading their sports to the cultures they dominate. John McKinstry and Andrew continue the conversation by talking about the cultural importance of teams and players from the 1930s and how baseball was considered a ticket to Japanese assimilation.
A living Taiwanese baseball legend
Andrew and John finish with a discussion of the profound impact of the Japanese colonial period and baseball on the Taiwanese people. They talk about the impact and importance of the famous Japanese-Taiwanese baseball player and manager Sadaharu Oh, born in 1940 in Tokyo to a Chinese father and a Japanese mother. Oh dominated the powerhouse Tokyo Giants for 22 years and his story reflects the cost of assimilation. Early in his life he was the victim of discrimination because of his Chinese ancestry and despite his celebrity status in Japan he never became a Japanese citizen. In fact he holds citizenship in the Republic of China and cultivates his Chinese identity.
Conversations with Cal Poly Authors is a public engagement and outreach program of the library that occurs about once a quarter in Room 111H of the library and is open to all. This podcast was recorded at the second event on May 13, 2011.
For more information about this event, including photos visit: lib.calpoly.edu/authors/colonialproject/.
To request a transcript of this podcast, please contact scicafe at calpoly dot edu.