Baseball is considered Taiwan's national sport and the late nights of staying up to watch live broadcast of international baseball games remain entrenched in the memories of those who were born in the 1950s and 1960s.
At those times, the spectators' mood fluctuated with each game score as they stared intently at the gestures and signals between the catcher and the pitcher and tried to predict their next move — would the next pitching would be a strike or a ball?
At the instant when the slugger hit a homerun for the Taiwanese team to win the championship, all his teammates happily removed their caps to celebrate the victory while all those sitting before a television set in Taiwan cheered with them in spirit.
The spectacular sight of rejoicing fans lining the streets to welcome the winning team upon their return to Taiwan is another unforgettable scene. Applause and glory have their place in baseball history while the recollections and that elated sensation make up the foundation of Taiwan's emotional identity and shared memories.
At a forum titled "Revisiting the Soul of Baseball” on Oct. 5, the Ministry of Culture invited national baseball team members and players of two different generations to share their baseball fervor at the Qidong Poetry Salon in Taipei.
Vice President Cheng-wen Wu (吳誠文) of the National Tsing Hua University, a former pitcher of the Tainan City Giants little league baseball team who became known as a "strong-pitching junior” after setting a remarkable record of 13 strikeouts in one game at the American city of Williamsport, said the scene of standing in a jeep and being warmly welcomed by compatriots upon returning to Taiwan is still an unforgettable, beautiful memory for him.
The second speaker was Meng Shao-ying (孟劭穎), also a former pitcher, is a member of the Taitung County Nan Wang Elementary School baseball team featured on the obverse of the NT$500 banknote after becoming champion in the Little League World Series, and winner of the Best Pitcher Award in the National League Division A Championship in 1998.
He had cast 148-km throws but was forced to quit baseball due to congenital vascular anomalies. However, he has transferred his love for baseball to a new task. Working as a care assistant at the Taitung County Association of Parents of Mentally Disabled Children, he now teaches developmentally challenged children to play baseball and helps them learn how to integrate with society.
Lin Tsung-yi (林宗毅), full-time coach of the National Taiwan University of Sport baseball team, has been imperceptibly influenced by what he constantly saw and heard on the Taichung Baseball Field adjacent to his childhood home. He is known by colleagues as a "baseball neuropath” for diligently practicing his swings each day and night since becoming a professional baseball player. He brought along the bat with which he made a two-base hit and shared with student players on the scene the same hot-blooded passion for baseball that ties together Taiwan's different generations.
The wonderful performance of baseball players also requires the support and encouragement of their fans. Huang Shih-yao (黃詩堯) became a faithful supporter of Luo Kuo-chang (羅國璋), coach of the Uni-President Lions team, simply because she loved Uni-President puddings. She eventually followed his footsteps to become a baseball coach herself, explaining that while baseball fans are just ordinary folks, baseball serves as a huge source of encouragement and spiritual support for many.
Chiu Chen-chen (邱貞貞), president of the Giants Little League Heritage Memorial Hall, told of how the hall was established after she had traveled extensively together with volunteers from Tainan City to lobby for support for several years. She also brought with her two thick volumes of old newspaper clippings that detail the brilliant records in Taiwan's baseball history.
All in all, the "National Memories Salon” in October reproduced the youthful, hot-blooded, and touching soul of baseball and took the audience on a time machine back to a baseball field speckled with victory ribbons and resounding with cheers.
The Qidong Poetry Salon hosts a "National Memories Salon” session on the first Sunday of each month. The next forum on Nov. 2 will be on the theme of "Remembering Our Hometowns,” in which seniors and youths are called to sit side by side and share their hometown stories. Sign up for the event will start in late October and everyone is welcomed to participate.
‘National Memories Salon'