Taiwan investigates fixed games

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Authorities are investigating whether Taiwanese baseball players accepted bribes to fix games, a prosecutor said Tuesday, the latest blow to the integrity of the sport on the baseball-loving island.

Prosecutor Cheng Hsin-hung refused to identify the players involved in the probe, but former Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tsao Chin-hui has acknowledged that investigators searched his Taipei home on Monday.

"I regret [the investigators] failed to understand what happened with me and others who have played in good faith," said Tsao, who this year joined the Brother Elephants of the four-member Chinese Professional Baseball League -- Taiwan's top league.

The 28-year-old Tsao was the first Taiwanese pitcher to take the mound in the major leagues but struggled through a series of injuries which limited his appearances for both the Rockies and Dodgers.

Hung Rwei-ho, the Elephants' manager, said Tsao and five of his other players were being investigated. Chang Chih-chia, formerly of Japan's Seibu Lions who now pitches for the La New Bears, has admitted he is a subject of the investigation, and Taiwan media reported that one or two players from the Sinon Bulls may also be involved.

Cheng said the corruption probe had reached a critical stage.

"We have ruled out the possibility that the players were intimidated and forced into throwing games, and are investigating whether they accepted improper benefits," he said.

Taiwanese media, citing unnamed investigators, said that starting pitchers could earn up to $90,000 per outing from high stakes gamblers for agreeing to throw games.

Since its establishment in 1989, the CPBL has been mired in scandal. There have been at least three serious match fixing investigations, and this year the league pared its membership from six teams to four. In total, five teams have been disbanded over the past 12 years.

Baseball has been Taiwan's leading sport since 1969, when a Taiwanese squad won the Little League World Series in the United States.

That came some 60 years after former colonial ruler Japan first introduced baseball to the island, mainly as a recreational activity for its resident administrators. The Taiwanese themselves took up the sport in the 1920s.

The new prosecutorial probe into the fixing allegations was revealed a day after the season ended with the Uni-President Lions winning Game 7 over the Brother Elephants in a tightly contested Taiwan Championship Series. Game 6 in the series went 17 innings.