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1990s / 1992 Little League World Series Scandal
In 1992 the Little League baseball team representing Zamboanga City, Philippines won its way through national trials and the Far East series. After brushing aside the competition at Williamsport, PA, the team was crowned the champion of the 46th Little League World Series. Not long afterward, though, the team was stripped of its title after Filipino journalists revealed the team had used ineligible players who did not meet either age or residency requirements. In 1992 the LLWS introduced a new format--round-robins within both the American and International pools. Zamboanga City thumped Kaiserslauten, Germany, then Valleyfield, Quebec to clinch a berth in the International final. They lost a meaningless game to Epyguerrerro, Dominican Republic, but beat them 5-1 when it counted in the International final. The LLWS championship game, on August 29, against Long Beach, California, was a blowout, with Zamboanga City scoring seven runs in the first inning and cruising to an easy 15-4 win. The team was hailed as heroes in the Philippines. Filipino president Fidel V. Ramos awarded the players' families a million pesos. Long Beach head coach Jeff Burroughs remarked that one Filipino pitcher, Roberto Placious, had the poise of a high school or college pitcher. He may have been right! A few days after Zamboanga City's victory, journalist Al Mendoza of the Philippine Daily Inquirer began a series of stories suggesting that some players were ineligible for the LLWS. In response to this allegation, Little League headquarters faxed administrator Armando Andaya questions regarding the players' ages, birth certificates, residence--and a specific question regarding pitcher Ian Tolentino's participation in a tournament in 1990 (suggesting this would have made him overage in 1992). Andaya admitted to violating rules on district representation. Eight players were from outside the Zamboanga City area--some came from as far away as Luzon and were unable to speak Chabacano, the language most commonly spoken in Zamboanga. Little League Baseball promptly stripped Zamboanga City of its title. Under Little League rules at the time, when a team was found to have used an ineligible player, it forfeited only its most recent game. Since the revelation was made after the championship game, that game was declared a 6-0 forfeit victory for Long Beach--which was awarded the LLWS title. The exposed players and parents remained defiant, and accused Little League Baseball of denying them due process. Many Filipinos were outraged at what they saw as a betrayal by Mendoza. (He was given the key to the city of Long Beach!) Nevertheless, fellow Inquirer journalist Armand N. Nocum conducted a further investigation and found that even the six true Zamboangueños were overage--one was at least 15--and thus ineligible. It was further discovered the fraud was based upon the ineligible players assuming the identities of eligible players who had represented the city at the national championships. In some cases, even the parents of the ineligible players assumed false identities to maintain the appearance of propriety. Apparently no lesson was learned by the Zamboanga City Little League. The very next year its team was disqualified from the Filipino national championship tournament in another overage-player scandal.