The 1992 Little League World Series Scandal

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The 1992 Little League World Series Scandal was a scandal that rocked the Zamboanga City, the Far East and Filipino representatives during the 1992 Little League World Series. In the championship game of the tournament held in South Wlliamsport, Pennsylvania, Zamboanga had beaten Long Beach, the American Representative, to become the first Asian team outside South Korea, Japan or Taiwan to win the championship. However it was discovered that the team had broken Little League rules by fielding ineligible players. The little League stripped them of the title and handed it to Long Beach.

Background to the 1992 Little League World Series Scandal

The Little League World Series had been dominated by the Far East Champion, who had won 19 out of 25 times since between 1967 and 1991. In 1992, the tournament was debuting a round robin format which would replace the earlier format where each team played against a pre-determined opponent in the first round. Each team would now play three other teams in the group, with the top two teams playing each other in the semifinal. The winner would then advance to the championship. Zamboanga City beat the Kaiserslauten from Germany and then Valleyfield from Quebec before losing to Epyguerrerro from the Dominican Republic in the preliminary games. In the international final, they had a rematch with Epyguerrerro, winning 5-1. They met Long Beach in the World Series championship blowing out their opponents by a 15-4 margin. The win was greeted with elation in the Philippines with President Ramos even promising a gift of 1 million pesos to the families of the players.

The Scandal Unfolds

As soon as the team arrived in the US, suspicions arose about the authenticity of the team’s roster. The manager and coach, according to some committee members did not look ‘typical’ and some of the players looked too old. However, the issue was not pursued further because they gave assurances that they had coached the league during the regular season. A few days after the win, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published a piece which questioned the eligibility of some of the players. Several neighbors and relatives of the players wrote letters to the newspaper claiming that some of the players were too old for the league. Documents supplied by the local authorities confirmed to the Little League president Creighton Hale confirmed that that several players were overage. Armando Andaya, the championship game pitcher for example had participated in a tournament in 1990. Andaya was the first player to admit to violation of rules. He revealed that eight of the players in the Zamboanga City team were from outside the area and some could not even speak the local language. Andaya claimed that the eight players were added not with a view to giving the team an edge but to replace other players who had been unable to travel to China for the Far East Series. A coach in the team said that the illegitimate players were added by Manila officials to increase the chances of the team defeating Taiwan in the iternational division championship. Under the championship rules at the time, a team that had broken the rules was required to forfeit its most recent game which meant that Zamboanga had to forfeit the Little League championship. The Long Beach outfit were handed a default 6-0 victory which made them the champions.

Many Filipinos were outraged at Al Mendoza, the lead journalist in the exposé due to what they termed as betrayal. The exposed players and their parents continued to deny any wrongdoing and accused the league of hurrying the punishments unduly. Further investigations by the Inquirer found that even the six players who were truly from Zamboanga had violated the age restriction. The cover-up was shown to have involved highly ranked officials in countries baseball association as well as school administrations. It was discovered that the players had assumed the identities of eligible players who had represented the city at the national championships and the outraged families of the eligible players decided to out the scam. Some of the parents of the fraudulent players had also assumed the identities of respective players.

The reaction from the Long Beach camp was that of elation but also disappointment at not being able to win the championship on the pitch. Bob McKittrick, a California league administrator said that his team had played strictly by the books and had even disqualified a player who was just ‘two blocks out of the boundary.’ The following season the Zamboanga team would again be involved in a roster scam, this time being banned from the national championships for fielding overage players again.