Perhaps the first recorded instances of baseball played outside North America came in 1874, when a party comprising members of the Boston and Philadelphia clubs toured England both playing cricket and demonstrating baseball. A further tour, by the Chicago club with the addition of various All-Stars in the winter of 1888–89, took the game to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and the south Pacific Islands. Returning via Europe and North Africa they played more demonstration games, including one in front of the Sphinx in Egypt.
The International Baseball Federation (IBF) was founded in 1938, after the inaugural Baseball World Cup held in London. About 5 years later, the name of the federation was changed to Federacion Internacional de Beisbol Amateur (FIBA).
In 1973, struggles in the FIBA led to a dissident organisation, the Federacion Mundial de Beisbol Amateur (FEMBA), which organised its own World Championships. The two organisations were reconciled in 1976, forming the International Baseball Association (AINBA).
In 1984, the name of the federation was once again changed, this time to International Baseball Association (IBA). In 2000, the original name was assumed again, International Baseball Federation, now abbreviated to IBAF.
The first World Cup (or World Championships) in baseball were held in 1938, as teams from the United States and United Kingdom played a series of five games. Britain won four and became the first baseball World Champion. After this championship, the IBF was founded (see above). World Cups have been played at irregular intervals ever since; the 36th took place in the Netherlands in September 2005. Until 1996 professional players were not allowed to participate in the World Cups; since then major league players generally have not participated because the tournaments have conflicted with regular season games.
Below are listed the 36 World Cups held to date:
|Year||Host Nation||Number of Teams||Winner|
|1938||United Kingdom||2||United Kingdom|
|1974||United States||9||United States|
In 2006, the inaugural World Baseball Classic took place from March 3–20. The tournament, sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), was organized by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association in cooperation with other professional leagues and player associations from around the world. The tournament was held before the start of domestic league play for many nations, allowing professional players from domestic leagues to participate. On March 20, Japan defeated Cuba 10-6 in the final held in San Diego, California to win the 2006 World Baseball Classic. The next WBC will take place in 2009, and every four years thereafter.
Sometimes, baseball matches played during the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904 are listed as demonstrations at the Olympic Games held in the same year. However, most historians do not regard them like this; actually any sports competition held in St. Louis has received a predicate 'Olympic'.
The first real Olympic appearance of baseball is in 1912, as a team from Västerås played against competitors from the U.S. track and field team at the Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. The United States beat the Swedish team, which played with some Americans borrowed from the opponent, 13-3. A second game was played later, which included decathlon star Jim Thorpe as a right fielder. USA won again, 6-3.
For the 1936 Olympics, the German hosts had invited the United States to play a demonstration match against Japan. As Japan withdrew, the US sent two 'all-star' teams, named the 'World Champions' and the 'U.S. Olympics'. For a layman crowd of 90,000 (sometimes reported as 125,000), the World Champions won 6-5.
After World War II, a Finnish game akin to baseball, pesäpallo, was demonstrated at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. Four years later, another demonstration of baseball took place at the Olympic in Melbourne, Australia. A team made up of servicemen from the U.S. Far East Command played Australia. Although initially with few spectators, during the match the crowd for the other athletic events entered the stadium, adding up to 114,000 spectators, which is reportedly still the biggest crowd to any baseball game ever. The match was won by the USA, 11-5.
In 1964, the Olympic Games took place in Tokyo, Japan, where baseball was quite popular. A team of American college players — with eight future major league players — was fielded against a Japanese amateur all-star team. The Americans continued their Olympic winning streak, as they triumphed 6-2.
In 1981, baseball was granted the status of a demonstration sport for Los Angeles 1984, and rather than a single match, a full tournament would be organised. With the strong Cuban team absent due to the Soviet-led boycott the field consisted of: United States, Japan, South Korea, Dominican Republic, Canada, Taiwan, Italy and Nicaragua. The final was contested between Japan and the US, and the guests won 6-3, ending the American Olympic victory row.
Another demonstration tournament was held in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea. Again, Cuba, the team that won all major international championships since 1984, boycotted the Games. In a field consisting of United States, Japan, South Korea, Puerto Rico, Canada, Taiwan, Netherlands and Australia, Japan and the US again reached the final. Helped by 4 RBIs and 2 homers from Tino Martinez, the United States won 5-3.
At the 117th IOC Session, delegates voted to remove baseball and softball from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. While both sports' lack of major appeal in a significant portion of the world was a factor, Major League Baseball's unwillingness to have a break during the Games so that its players could participate (like the National Hockey League does during the Winter Olympic Games) also played a role in the decision. MLB officials have pointed out that a two-week break in mid-season would necessitate a major reshuffling of its schedule: either the season would have to begin in March and/or the World Series would run into November. (The dozen or so games could be made up by playing doubleheaders, but both the player's union and the owners are against this.) Others saw the move as an anti-American slap delivered by the Europeans on the IOC. Women's softball was particularly hit hard by this ruling as there are few other venues where female softball players have a chance to show their talents in front of such a large audience.
In 1996, in Atlanta, Cuba and the United States were set to meet in the final. While the Cubans won their semi-final match against Nicaragua, the United States once again stumbled over Japan and lost 11-2. In the final, Cuba retained its Olympic unbeaten status, winning the gold 13-9, while USA beat Nicaragua 10-3 for the bronze medal. Final ranking:
For the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, professional players were allowed for the first time, although no Major Leaguers played for the US. Once again, Cuba was the hot favourite, but they were shocked in the round-robin phase by the Netherlands, who beat them 4-2 but failed to make the semi-finals. In the semi-finals, the United States narrowly beat South Korea, while Cuba edged Japan 3-0 for a third straight Olympic final. In that final, the United States upset the Cubans, beating them 4-0. Final ranking:
Professional players were again allowed in the 2004 Olympics. Most notably, the United States baseball team did not participate after losing a qualifying game to Mexico. A number of Americans of Greek descent played for the host nation, however. Japan and Cuba went into the games as the favorites for the gold medal match, but a strong showing by Australia against Japan (Australia beat Japan 9-4 in the preliminary round and again 1-0 in the semi-finals) knocked Japan out of the race for the gold. Cuba ended up winning the gold, defeating Australia 6-2, while Japan took bronze, beating Canada 11-2. Final ranking:
Only a small number of African countries are members of the IBAF, the members mostly concentrated in southern Africa and on the west coast of the continent. The only country so far to have competed in international events is South Africa, which took part in three World Championships, and finished 8th in the 2000 Olympics.
Baseball in the Americas is a very popular sport. It is very popular in the United States and in Mexico. In countries in Central America it is very popular probably because of the Hispanic influence. In Mexico it is very popular and is the prominent sport of the country after soccer. It is also the most popular sport in Nicaragua and Panama with the game also popular on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Both Nicaragua and Colombia operate professional winter leagues, while Panama was invited to the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic.
While baseball is widely played in Canada, the American major leagues did not include a Canadian team until 1969, when the Montreal Expos joined the National League (the London Tecumsehs were refused admission to the National League in 1877 because they refused to stop playing exhibition games against local teams). In 2004, MLB decided to move the Expos to Washington, DC.
In 2003 an attempt to create the Canadian Baseball League was launched, but the league folded halfway through its first season.
A few Canada-based teams play in low-tier American circuits. See List of baseball teams in Canada.
Baseball was introduced to Cuba in the 1860s by Cubans who studied in the United States and American sailors who ported in the country. The sport quickly spread across the island nation. Nemisio Guillo is credited with bringing a bat and baseball to Cuba in 1864 after being schooled in Mobile, Alabama. Two more Cubans were sent to Mobile, one being his brother Ernesto Guillo. The Guillo brothers and their contemporaries formed a baseball team in 1868—the Habana Baseball Club. The club won one major match—against the crew of an American schooner anchored at the Matanzas harbour.
Soon after this, the first Cuban War of Independence against its Spanish rulers spurred Spanish authorities in 1869 to ban playing the sport in Cuba because Cubans began to prefer baseball to viewing bullfights which Cubans were expected dutifully attend as homage to their Spanish rulers in an informal cultural mandate. As such, baseball became symbolic of freedom and egalitarianism to the Cuban people. The ban also prompted Esteban Bellán to join the semipro Troy Haymakers. He became the first Latin American player to play in a Major League in the United States. Bellan started playing baseball for the Fordham Rose Hill Baseball Club, while attending St. John's College (1863—1868, now Fordham University) in the Bronx, New York. After that he played for the Unions of Morrisania, a team from what is now part of New York City. Bellan played for the Haymakers until 1862; in 1861 it joined the National Association.
The first official match in Cuba took place in Pueblo Nuevo, Matanzas, at the Palmar del Junco, December 27, 1874. It was between Club Matanzas and Club Habana, the latter winning 51 to 9, in nine innings.
World War II resulted in new travel restrictions cutting off the flow of ball-players from the U.S. The end of the wartime player shortage resulted in pay cuts in the U.S. major leagues, leading many players to sign contracts with Cuban League and the newly-formed Mexican League. In 1946, a record 36,000 fans attended the opening of the Gran Estado del Cerro (now known as Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana. The 1946–47 season included a number of major leaguers, including Lou Klein and Max Lanier, alongside such great Cuban ballplayers as Orestes (Minnie) Miñoso, Connie Marrero, Julio Moreno, and Sandalio (Sandy) Consuegra. Efforts to control the flow of players to Latin America culminated in a 1947 agreement with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues to bring minor and major league players to Cuba during the winter off-season in the U.S. Cuba League champions dominated the Caribbean Series, which began in 1949. The Havana Cubans, a team formed by a Washington Senators scout in 1946, joined the International League as a farm team of the Cincinnati Reds in 1954, when they were renamed the Havana Sugar Kings. Despite encountering discrimination on the basis of language and race, many Cuban ball-players had success in the Major Leagues, including pitcher Camilo Pascual and former Negro League first baseman Minnie Miñoso.
In 1959, the year Fidel Castro seized power in the Cuban revolution, the Havana Sugar Kings won the International League championship, and captured the Little World Series by defeating the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association. Castro was an avid fan of the Sugar Kings, and pitched for a pickup squad Los Barbudos in an exhibition game on July 24, 1959. However, the following day, gunfire erupted in the stadium during raucous celebrations on the anniversary of the 26th of July Movement, forcing the cancellation of the Sugar Kings season. The following year, after Castro announced the nationalization of all American-owned enterprises, the Baseball Commissioner announced the Sugar Kings would be relocated to Jersey City.
In 1961, professional sports were abolished, and the Cuban League was replaced by the amateur Cuban National Series. Havana's Industriales, founded by workers representatives from the cities industries and intended as heir to Almandares club, dominated the league, winning four of the first five championships. Initially consisting of four teams, by 1967 the number had increased to 16, with the construction of new stadiums in all of the nation's provincial capitals. Industriales, with most of the top-tier ballplayers from Havana, has remained the strongest team, but Santiago de Cuba, Villa Clara and Pinar del Río have also experienced considerable success.
In 1936, the Estrellas Orientales of San Pedro de Macoris defeated Licey in the national championship. Afterwards, Trujillo merged Licey and Escogido into one team, the Ciudad Trujillo Dragones. To counter this, San Pedro signed the three top players from the Negro League powerhouse Pittsburgh Crawfords-pitcher Satchel Paige, catcher Josh Gibson and centre fielder Cool Papa Bell—but, upon arriving in the country, they were detained by Trujillo and forced to suit up for the Dragones. Santiago's Aguilas Cibaenas later signed several Cuban Negro League players, including pitcher Luis Tiant, Sr. (father of the Red Sox pitcher of the same name) and pitcher/outfielder Martín Dihigo. The Dragones defeated Santiago and San Pedro to win the 1937 championship, but the vast amounts of money used to finance the season bankrupted the other owners, and ended professional baseball in the Dominican Republic for ten years. Attention shifted to the amateur national teams the country assembled, using a unit of the Dominican army as Trujillo's personal farm club. The first wave of Dominican ballplayers to play professionally in the Major Leagues, including Ozzie Virgil, Sr., the Alou brothers—Felipe, Matty and Jesus—and Hall-of-Fame pitcher Juan Marichal emerged from Trujillo's amateur teams.
Professional baseball resumed in 1951 as a winter league of the U.S. Major Leagues, with the old alignment still in place. In 1955, construction was completed on Santo Domingo's Estadio Quisqueya, shared home to rivals Tigres de Licey and Leones de Escogido. This alignment has largely remained intact, although an expansion team in San Francisco de Macorís was founded in 1996. Licey and Aguilas have been the most successful teams in the Dominican Winter League, both winning nineteen titles. Their fierce rivalry reflects the competition between the countries two main cities, the capital of Santo Domingo and Santiago, the largest city and unofficial capital of the northern part of the country. Leones de Escogido have won twelve titles, although none since 1992.
A missionary, P. Gillett, introduced baseball in the late nineteenth century. The Korean Baseball Organization started in 1982 with six teams, and now has eight teams in it. Several Korean players now play in the U.S. major leagues, mostly pitchers. The most famous among them are Park Chan Ho, Kim Byung Hyun, and Choi Hee Seop.
Baseball was introduced to Taiwan by Japan after China ceded control of the island to Japan in 1895. Initially played only by Japanese colonial administrators, by the 1920s interest in the sport spread across the island with games between Taiwanese natives and Japanese immigrants becoming common. In 1931, the Chiayi School of Agriculture and Forestry took second place in the Pan-Japanese High School Yakyu Tournament.
Following World War II and the reassertion of Chinese control over Taiwan, baseball became marginalized in popularity because of its association with Japan. But along with post-war stability during the 1950s and 1960s, interest in baseball rebounded with the spread of amateur and youth baseball teams. Between 1969 and 1982, Taiwan won 13 Little League World Series championships.
In 1984, Taiwan took the bronze medal at the Los Angeles Olympics where baseball was played as an exhibition sport, and in 1992 Taiwan won Silver in Barcelona.
In 1990, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (中華職棒聯盟) was formed, bringing professional baseball to the country for the first time. In 1997, however, a gambling scandal sent the CPBL into disrepute. Following the scandal, the Taiwan Major League (臺灣大聯盟) was launched, splitting the audience for baseball. For the 2003 season, the two leagues agreed to merge under the CPBL name. As of 2004, the league consists of the Brother Elephants, Chinatrust Whales, La New Bears, Macoto Cobras, Sinon Bulls, and Uni-President Lions.
Baseball has become so entrenched in Taiwanese culture that it is even depicted on the NT$ 500 note. ,
Baseball in the Middle East can be broken up into two areas: youth baseball and adult baseball.
While Saudi Arabia has seen some minor success in the many entries they have sent to the Little League World Series their participants are almost exclusively American expatriates and children of the multi-national oil companies like Aramco. Adult baseball on a competitive level is virtually non-existent.
The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia both send teams to compete in the Trans-Atlantic division of the Little League World Series European playoffs. The teams in this division are required to be majority foreign passport holders and, as in Europe, are the children of U.S. Military personal who play in Leagues on U.S. military bases in Europe.
Israel has a baseball program that has seen participation in European Championships for over 20 years. Recently Israel finished third place in the 2006 CEB Juvenile Championships. Historically, baseball in Israel has been dominated by American immigrants, although the last several years has seen a gradual increase in home-grown talent drawn from the youth programs.
2007 saw the first professional baseball league in the Middle East when the Israel Baseball League (IBL) opened with 6 teams each playing a modified 45 game schedule. The Beit Shemesh Blue Sox went wire to wire to win the innagural championship. With well known baseball professionals like Dan Duquette on board, the IBL solidified itself as the top Pro League in the European Theatre. The league drafted a mix of minor league and collegiate ballplayers, experienced Jewish ballplayers, some international imports and each team had native born Israeli players. Several of the IBL's players were drafted by Major League teams at the conclusion of the season.
A European federation, the Confédération Européenne de Baseball (CEB, European Baseball Confederation) was founded in 1953. The federation organises all international competitions within Europe. These are the European Championships for country teams, divided into two divisions, and a number of club competitions: the European Cup, the Club Winners' Cup and the CEB Cup.
All of the European competitions have been dominated by only two countries: Italy and the Netherlands. They share 25 of the 27 European titles between them, the other titles being won by Belgium and Spain, both times in absence of one or two of the two usual winners, but these countries have medalled regularly as well. Other countries that are among the top players in Europe are Russia, France and the Czech Republic. Most of the club titles have also been won by Dutch or Italian teams.
Baseball was introduced to the UK in 1890 in Derby by Francis Ley, a Derby man who had discovered the game on a trip to the United States, and Albert Goodwill Spalding, an American sporting goods businessman who saw opportunities to expand his business across the Atlantic.
Baseball's peak popularity in Britain was in the years immediately preceding World War II. Baseball teams shared grounds with football clubs (hence Derby County's home ground was named the Baseball Ground), and the game was run at a professional standard with up to 10,000 spectators per game.
One milestone of baseball in the United Kingdom was the 1938 victory of Great Britain over the United States to win the inaugural World Cup of Baseball. There is currently no professional baseball in the United Kingdom.
One of the two major European baseball nations, the Netherlands saw baseball for the first time shortly after 1900. A baseball federation (the KNBSB) was founded in 1912, and the Holland Series was established in 1922, the first winner being A.H.C. Quick from Amsterdam. Today, an eight team professional league, the Honkbal Hoofdklasse (Major League Baseball) sends its teams to the Holland Series.
The Netherlands have won 15 European Championship titles, and participated in the Olympics twice, finishing fifth in Summer Olympics after upsetting the Cuban team. At the World Championships, a 4th position has been the best achievement so far. Some of the players in the Dutch team are actually from the Netherlands Antilles. Four Dutch players have played in the Major Leagues, the most notable of whom is 287 game winner Bert Blyleven. Andruw Jones is from the Netherlands Antilles. The World Port Tournament and the Haarlemse Honkbalweek are biannual international tournaments for national and club teams, organised in the cities of Rotterdam and Haarlem, respectively.
Italian league competition did not start until after World War II, as Bologna won the first title in 1948. The Italian team has won 8 European titles, among which the very first title, and the team has fought out many finals with archrival the Netherlands. Because of the large number of Americans of Italian descent, there are always a few players in the national team with double nationality, the most notable of which is catcher Mike Piazza. The Italian national team have competed at all three Olympics, finished 6th twice. Best World Championships showing was a fourth place, in 1998.
Baseball began relatively early in Spain thanks to the descendants of returnee immigrants from Cuba. They brought the sport along with them when Cuba ceased to be a Spanish Colony. The heyday of baseball in Spain was in the 1950s and 1960s; many teams were created, including junior teams, and public interest was high. But because of the growing mass-interest in football (soccer), most baseball clubs didn't survive into the 1970s. The Spanish public's massive shift in focus was triggered mainly by the introduction of multiple TV channels that focused mainly on the soccer matches of "La Liga", the professional First Division Spanish League.
One of the few survivors of that fateful decade for Spanish Baseball was the Club Beisbol Viladecans. Its field was officially used during the 1992 Summer Olympics. Presently the Spanish baseball league is divided into divisions. The top teams play in the División de Honor de Beisbol.
Besides Australia and New Zealand, some of the island nations in the Pacific have baseball federations, especially those with American or Japanese backgrounds, such as Guam or Saipan. The only country from the region which has participated in major international competitions is Australia.
The first baseball game in Australia was played in 1857. At the end of the 19th century, Americans also tried to set up baseball leagues and competitions in Australia, with some success. A national league was initiated in 1934, and the national team entered World Championship competition in the late 1970s. Prior to winning the silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Australia had finished 7th in the Olympics twice, which is also the highest position reached in World Championships.
A national-level competition still exists, as well as lower-level club competitions, but the game attracts comparatively little spectator or media interest. Several Australians, however, have attracted the attention of American scouts and have gone on to play in the major leagues in the United States and Japan.
Albert Spalding's team of All-Stars in 1888 is the first known baseball game played in New Zealand. Since that time, various local competitions have existed, but it wasn't until 1989 that the New Zealand Baseball Association was formed, consisting of teams in the Auckland area. It would be 14 more years before baseball would venture out of Auckland with the creation of the Canterbury Baseball Club in 2003. 2006 saw the Northland Baseball Club and the Manawatu Baseball Club form.
New Zealand competes in Baseball Confederation of Oceania (BCO) events, most recently the AA Oceania championships. New Zealand also sends a senior team each year to Australia to compete in the Australian Provincial Championship.
A number of New Zealanders are playing professionally in the United States. Scott Campbell was the first New Zealander drafted in the MLB draft, when he was selected in the 10th round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2006.
Peter C. Bjarkman, Diamonds around the Globe: The Encyclopedia of International Baseball (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005). ISBN 0313322686.