The White Tiger
Whiz Kids | Pyongyang
Baseball, 1932

We’re talkin’ baseball — Pyongyang, nineteen and thirty-two.

Well Casey was winning,
Hank Aaron was beginning,
One Robbie going out, one coming in.
Kiner and Midget Gaedel,
The Thumper* and Mel Parnell,
And Ike was the only one winning down in Washington…

We’re talkin’ baseball — Pyongyang, nineteen and thirty-two.

The Whiz Kids had won it, the White Tigers had done it, with Cho Man Sik watching all the while.

In the top of the 7th in the final game of the First Kwanso Baseball Championship (제일회관서야구대회 | 第一回關西野球大會) — a four-team tournament for clubs from northwestern Korea — the White Tigers drove in two runs for a come-from-behind 7-6 victory over the Pyongyang Corn Products.

That morning in early November, three teams had gathered at Kwangsong Normal School athletic field in downtown Pyongyang to play the semi-final and final games of the tournament. The local athletic association representing the Kwanso Region — the traditional name for Korea’s 'Westlands', broadly encompassing modern Pyong’an Province — sponsored the event.

Kwangsong Middle School, Pyongyang.

The important northern Korean nationalist community leader, Cho Man Sik, then head of the Kwanso Athletic Association, addressed the players before the games. Cho would later go on to be a prominent figure in the early politics of post-1945 proto-DPRK, where he would found the Democratic Party before his disappearance. Cho’s party continues on as a minor party in North Korea today, now known as the Social Democrats.

The players on the field that took the field that day came from a diverse range of backgrounds. There were the Solider Friends club (병우 | 兵友) made up of both Korean and Japanese players, presumably military men from the local garrison. The Corn Products (콘.프로덕) were another mixed Japanese-Korean team from the local corn refinery, itself a subsidiary of the giant American multinational Corn Products International. Finally, the White Tigers (백호| 白虎), or Paekho, were a team of local Korean youths, their uniforms emblazoned with a prominent ‘P’ just like the Pittsburgh Pirates. The ‘White Tiger’ is a traditional East Asian symbol representing the cardinal direction west.

The 1932 Pyongyang White Tigers. Photo from the Donga Ilbo.

In the first game of the day, the White Tigers trounced the Soldier Friends, driving in 10-3 with six hits and three sacrifice flies, while holding their opponents to three runs on two hits.

The second game, held in the afternoon, was more dramatic. The Corn Products led through the sixth inning, before the White Tigers took the lead in the 7th inning, which they held to win the tournament.

The nine players on the White Tigers were: Kim Chae Sin, Kim Sin Bok, Hong Jong Ok, Kim Nam Chon, Choe Bok Guk, Jang Byong O, Bak Song Mok, Kim Sin Dok, and Jong Ju Chan.

Cho Man Sik awarded the White Tigers with the Victory Cup. The Donga Ilbo reported the tournament had stirred up baseball fever in Pyongyang.

*A little more than 20 years later, ‘the Thumper’ — Boston’s Ted Williams — would almost be shot down on a bombing raid over Hwangju, located south of Pyongyang, during the Korean War.

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