Fascinating story in – of all places – BuzzFeed by Boston native and former Fenway Park vendor Sam Graham-Felsen about Manny Ramirez’s recent turn in Taiwan playing for the E-DA Rhinos of the scandal-ridden Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL).
REMADE IN TAIWAN: Manny Ramirez’s Season Abroad
Two years after he retired from baseball in disgrace, one of the greatest sluggers of his generation wound up playing on the other side of the world, the unlikely savior of a league whose reputation is as complicated as his own. And with a major league comeback possibly imminent, a half a season in Taiwan may have saved Manny Ramirez, too.
The scene: This spring. Xinzhuang Field in Taipei. Sold-out crowd of 12,000 for the E-DA Rhinos’ first home game, in which they’re facing the Brother Elephants (“Brother is the name of the hotel company that sponsors the Elephants”).
Both sides have their own cheerleaders, hoarse-throated hype men, bongo drummers, and brass bands. Virtually every fan has color-coded thunder sticks, which are bashed together continuously. Everybody chants — and not just the Mandarin equivalent of “Let’s Go Rhinos.” There are a variety of cheers, and some sound quite complex. Everybody chants, at the top of their lungs, for all nine innings, even when their team is getting smoked. It’s amazing.
It wasn’t always like this. Last year, average attendance was in the 2,500 range and the nearly 24-year-old league was on the verge of collapse. One player changed everything overnight — the only player both sides root for, Manny Ramirez.
As one graphic in the story has it:
Speaking of redemption, Ramirez signed a minor-league contract with the Texas Rangers last week. No telling how either he or the CPBL will wind up.
Regardless, the BuzzFeed piece is a terrific read. Don’t miss it.