That Time Gangsters Asked a Professional Baseball Player to Throw a Game
Gene Wang/Getty Images. Pictured: A CPBL game
Don August won a silver medal as a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic baseball team. He pitched four years in the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers, winning 13 games his first year.
But, it’s his stories on Twitter about his adventures through international baseball leagues in the mid-90s that have put him in the spotlight. One of those yarns was dead red for The Favorites podcast, so Don joined us on the show.
Anytime you can get gangsters, cash offers, prostitution and karaoke into one story, it should be shared in as many ways as possible. So we transcribed his juicy tale below.
“There were rumblings in Taiwan that some guys were fixing games. Gambling is a big part of the culture there. Me and my buddy would watch games closely to see if we could notice. I was really hoping and believing it wasn’t true.
But at one point during the season the Taipei Elephants were in town and we heard a story that, after the first or second game, some of the Elephant players ran into two different sets of gangsters at a bar in the hotel. One group of gangsters had the Elephants to win and the other to lose, and the gangsters who the players had double-crossed took the players up to their hotel room. One of the players apparently mouthed off and he was pistol whipped.
The next day at the ballpark we heard this story and saw all this extra security around the dugout and a player with a big bandage on his head, so we thought there must really be something going on.
A few weeks later, there were about five or six weeks left in the season, we were in Taipei. There are karaoke bars everywhere, and I was invited out often because locals wanted to hear the American sing American songs. I can’t sing, I can only sing when I’m drunk. My go to song was Come Together by the Beatles. That night I was invited by a young kid who worked with the team. I liked him a lot.
So we go, and the bar was on the 10th floor of a building. Normally when we went out it would be five or six guys. But this was 15 or 20 people, so the room was bigger than normal. And I didn’t recognize anybody, which I thought was strange. But my buddy and I were having a few drinks and listening to the music. And then this Taiwanese lady came up to me. She was speaking English and asked me my name, so I told her. Then she asked what I was doing here, and I said I was a baseball player.
After a few minutes, she asked me, “Don, do you know what the untruth game is?”
I just went, “Ugh.” I looked down and immediately knew what she was getting at. The untruth game, the fake game, the fixing of baseball games.
She asked, “Would you like to do that with our group?”
Now I was thinking, how am I going to get out of here? Then I scanned the room and in the middle, was this guy, the big boss, surrounded by some thug looking guys who look like what you would picture in your mind. I realized these guys were gangsters.
“Oh you are looking so sad,” the lady said to me.
“No, I’m fine.”
Then she said, “You see that girl over there,” She pointed across the room. “Do you think she’s cute?”
“Yeah, she’s cute,” I said.
“You can have her.”
“Oh, okay. But I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this.”
“They will give you $10,000 right now just to think about this,” she said.
“No, no I’m not going to do this.”
“You see that girl over there?” she said to me.
“You can have her, too. We can make a lot of money doing this.”
But I told them to go tell the boss, they can bet on me to win all they want. But I’m not throwing games.
She then said, “If you say no, you will never win another game here again.”
She walked 15 feet away and told the big boss what I said. As soon as she was done, his head turned and met my eyes. Then he stood up and yelled something in Chinese. Within a second the music stopped, it was dead silent. Everyone started leaving.
They told me I was leaving, too. I wanted to stick around and sneak out a backdoor. These gangsters kill people. They pushed me out the door towards an elevator. I was the last guy in the car as the door shut, my back turned to everyone. I was getting real nervous, wondering, Will the elevator go up to the roof? Will I get tossed off?
We started moving down. Ten floors. A really long time. I was waiting for someone to strangle me. Finally we made it down, the door opened. They go left and I go right.
That was it. I was never approached again. And I finished the season winning four of my last five starts.