Wed, Oct 08, 2003 - Page 20 News List

2003 Taiwan Series may be best in league history

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Tsai Kuen-shiang's (蔡昆祥) lazy fly to center found its way into the glove of Agan centerfielder Huang Lung-yi (黃龍義) to give the home team a 5-3 victory and conclude regular season play in the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL).

In one of the most eventful years in the CPBL's 14-year history, the year began with the merger of two rival leagues.

Then came the disastrous 3-10-1 start for the defending champions that had Brother Elephants fans scratching their heads.

Sinon Bulls slugger Chang Tai-shan (張泰山) took center stage in May after chalking up his 100th career home run, becoming the youngest player in league history to accomplish such a feat.

Chang's record-setting season continued as he claimed the double-century mark (100 home runs and 100 stolen bases), the fastest to reach the 500 RBI plateau, the most homers in a single season, and the 20-20 mark (20 homers and 20 stolen bases in the same season).

Following their miserable start, the Elephants regained their composure, finishing the first half of the season in a second-place tie in the standings with the Chinatrust Whales.

They then won the second-half title in one of the league's most dramatic turnarounds.

Four-time defending base-stealing champion Huang Kang-lin (黃甘霖) of the President Lions overcame a 10-base deficit late in the season to beat out Whales outfielder Chi Jung-lin (紀俊麟) by one stolen base for his fifth consecutive title.

But the season had its share of misfortunes as an automobile carrying four players in April ran into a tree that led to one player being hospitalized for over a month.

And off-field trouble struck in August when the Elephants' team bus got into a highway race with a truck, ending with four hot-tempered players breaking the leg of a truck driver.

The postseason will begin this weekend in Kaohsiung, where the Elephants will host the Bulls in Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-seven 2003 Taiwan Series.

It will be the highest rated championship series matchup ever, since no two teams have ever had a closer regular-season record.

Adding to the excitement, this year's batting champ Peng Cheng-ming (彭政閔) of the Elephants will face home-run king Chang Tai-shan of the Bulls.

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