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as far as anyone knows, the woman had always been a well-behaved housewife, calm and dignified in the manner of her people. It was not until her active pre-teen son joined the Little League that her emotions began to go out of control and finally led her one hot afternoon some weeks ago to brandish a dangerous implement at a full-grown man.
Her son's team was engaged in a close game in the regional playoffs when a teammate attempted to advance from second to third on a routine outfield fly. The centerfielder caught the ball and threw it to second, where the runner was doubled up, having left the bag a twinkling of an eye too soon. A mighty rhubarb ensued, with noisy assistance from the teams' adult rooting sections.
It was then that the housewife, armed with an umbrella, left her seat behind the bench, strode onto the diamond and struck a pose reminiscent of Zorro with his sword. She was already in fierce debate with the plate umpire when the true object of her displeasure, his second-base counterpart, wandered haplessly into her field of vision. She wheeled on him and began scoring near misses on his eyes, ears, nose and throat with the long chrome-plated tip of her umbrella.
"[Chinese characters]," she said, the weapon whistling swiftly past the ump's scalp.
"[Chinese characters]!" she added, just in case he thought she was kidding. Then Mrs. Tsai grabbed her little Pai-jew by his throwing arm and retreated with her umbrella held high, declaring as she faded into the crowd that there was no way a conscientious mother could let a good boy like Pai-jew play under these unfair circumstances.
This very American scene happened not in Kankakee or Keokuk but in Kaohsiung, a port city near the southern tip of the island of Taiwan. Nothing unusual about it, either. The only surprises were that a Chinese Little Leaguer could be inept enough to tag up too soon on a fly ball and that the umbrella woman didn't crack the umpire on the head. For in Taiwan the quality of Little League baseball is the best in the world—so decisively the best during the last five years that some Americans have charged the Chinese with cheating. The triumphs of their young players have made Taiwan as baseball-crazy as Brooklyn in the heyday of the Dodgers. It's easy to see why. Taiwan's often lopsided victories against foreign teams have been just about the only international triumphs for the Republic of China in an era during which it is being tossed ignominiously out of everything from the United Nations to the International Basketball Federation to make room for the People's Republic on the mainland.
The baseball mania will be at fever point next week when the Little League World Series is played at Williamsport, Pa. All three of the R.O.C.'s television networks plan to carry live satellite coverage and almost every one of Taiwan's 1.5 million TV sets is sure to be tuned in, even though the contests will start at 3 a.m. Taipei time. Newspapers will hold their presses in order to run game analyses in morning editions, and trains will delay departure so they can carry the papers into the hinterlands.
Almost certainly the news will be good, setting off another of the thunderous, predawn explosions of firecrackers and street celebrations that have marked every R.O.C. victory in the World Series since 1969. That year the Chinese won their first championship, an event that stunned no one more than the home folks since that was also the first season there had been formal Little League competition on the island. Except for 1970, when the Chinese won the Far East tournament but were bumped 3-2 by Nicaragua at Williamsport, Taiwan has not lost since.
Its victories in 1971 and 1972 were merely impressive; the 1973 win by the Tainan Giants was downright embarrassing. In the opener of that Series, 11-year-old Huang Ching-hui threw a perfect game at a team of U.S. military dependents from Bitburg ( West Germany) Air Force Base and Taiwan won 18-0, even though it did nothing but bunt in its last two turns at bat. The Giants had more no-hit pitching, five home runs and 21 hits in their second-round 27-0 win over Tampa, Fla. Huang came back with yet another no-hitter against Tucson, Ariz. in the championship game, Taiwan scoring all its runs in the final three innings to take the title 12-0. In the three games, Taiwan outscored its opponents 57-0 and outhit them 43-0. The Giants had a team batting average of .417 and a team ERA of 0.00. They struck out 46 of the 56 batters who came up against them, while walking only two. And in the minor statistical categories, Taiwan was decidedly major league. Its opposition committed typical Little League totals of 13 errors, 10 wild pitches and 15 passed balls; Taiwan had one error and none of the other misplays. As a final insult, the only player who attempted to steal against the Giants was cut down at second base.
Combined with its 87-1 scoring margin over its five opponents in the Far East playoff preceding Williamsport, Taiwan's performance in the World Series seemed to confirm suspicions that it was not playing by the same rules as other countries. Certainly the crowds in Williamsport, which had favored past Chinese teams, thought so and began to harshly boo the Giants. Adult Little League volunteers on hand for the Series accused the Chinese of violating every stipulation in the rule book regarding the players' ages and the districting of leagues. One man even said in apparent seriousness that he thought the Taiwan team was composed of midget professionals hired by Chiang Kai-shek especially to humiliate the United States. The Little League's paid president, Peter J. McGovern, refused to pass judgment on the eligibility of Taiwan's players or the correctness of its organization. Shortly thereafter he quietly announced that he would send a committee to study the R.O.C.'s Little League program.