Last Baseball World Cup
In September, in Panama, the last Baseball World Cup ever will be played.
In the early XX century, Les Mann played for the New York Giants. He must have heard John McGraw's stories about his trip around the world and his expeditions to Cuba.
At any rate, something inspired him to dream of making baseball a worlwide sport, starting with the playing of a "true" World Series.
He started writing letters to baseball people in all countries in which he knew the sport was played, and eventually he had promises from many, many nations.
He founded the international federation that became known as FIBA, for its initials in Spanish, World Federation of Amateur Baseball.
Now came the really hard part, to convince someone to underwrite a championship. He failed miserably, and it was the middle of the Great Depression.
Finally, he found out that a team made up of college players would travel to England for a series of exhibitions...
It was in 1938. Baseball was played in England, they even had semipro leagues and imported Canadian players. One enthusiast was John Moores, owner of the Derby County soccer team that for many decades played in a baseball park the games that now are known as the EPL...
Moores decided to donate a trophy that would go to the winner of each World Championship, and would belong in perpetuity to whichever country won it three times first. It eventually went to Cuba...
They agreed that the first several games of the series in England would be the championship games, until one country won four times.
The British won in five games; they became the first ever Amateur Baseball World Champions.
Mann thought that he could keep the series going; his task would be to convince more countries to participate. Since he had the American team, and the British, his next step would the Caribbean. He discovered that the point in the United States closest to the middle of those three zones was Florida, so he moved to Miami. He got an office for FIBA in the Orange Bowl, which became the unknown capital of international baseball.
He sent out a summons, it was time to organize the 1939 World Series.
The dictator of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, was looking for an event that would improve his image and distract the people. Pro baseball was not that popular in the island at the time, the fans were going crazy with Amateur leagues and championships. Many Amateur stars, like Conrado Marrero and Quilla Valdes declined to turn pro, they could earn more money as they were.
Batista thought that the Amateur Worl Series was just what he needed. He put Col. Jaime Marine in charge. He was a great organizer. Cuba accepted to be the host of the Second Amateur World Series. England declined to participate, it was too far. Nicaragua's dictator Somoza thought the championship was a good idea, the Nica players had given a good account of themselves in the 1935 and 1938 Central American and Caribbean games. "Beat Cuba", was the war cry, and a decision was made that would cost Nicaragua players access to the Major Leagues for decades.
So the US sent its college players; they were beaten three times each by Cuba and Nicaragua (all games were won by Alfredo "Chiquirin" Garcia"). The duels between Cuba and Nicaragua, all won by the locals, sent the fans into a frenzy, especially the game that pitted the aces, Marrero and "Chino" Melendez.
Cuba asked to host the Third World Series.
The news about the success of the championship creatred a ripple of interest. Hawaii decided to attend; the US upgraded its team a bit to the point that the first future Major Leaguer was part of "Team USA", Stubby Overmire. A ferocious press campaign convinced the Venezuelan government to send a team full of local favorites, and Mexico and Puerto Rico showed up too.
The United States stopped attending the event in 1942 after a dispute. It became a Caribbean event.
With the rise of pro ball in the region, the championships stopped being played after 1953. But Avery Brudage's decision to accept the Soviet Union's athletes as "State Amateurs" instead of what they really were, "State Pros", wrestled control of sports away from Europe and into the hands of the winners of World War II. And Cuba surfaced in America as a follower of the Soviet model. After 8 years the Amateur Series was played in Costa Rica in 1961, and then in Colombia in 1965 (Cuba was forbidden to attend for political reasons), and then the modern era exploded on the scene.
The battle was to try and make baseball an Olympic sport; it made the political combatants allies. The Dominican Republic hosted the first modern Amateur World Series in 1969, with the deciding game being played last: a thrilling duel between Cuba and the US in which the Americans took a 1-0 lead only to lose 2-1.
In 1970 the series was played in Colombia, in 1971 in Cuba, and in 1972 in Nicaragua.
Then the Amateur Baseball world was rent in two; FIBA held its World Series in Cuba in 1973 (it would be its last), while the rebel FEMBA, with the greater number of paricipants held its own in Nicaragua, with Honduras and Costa Rica hosting games. St. Petersburg in Florida held the 1974 championship, and then peace was brokered in 1976.
In 1970, for the first time ever, European countries participated as Holland and Italy traveled to Cartagena, and then in 1972 the first Asians since Hawaii went to Managua, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, and the first South American-non Caribbean nation showed up, Brazil.
Finally, in 1984, in Los Angeles, baseball was admitted as an Olympic exhibition sport.
After Seoul'88 the games became open to professionals, but baseball, finally an official sport, refused to use pros.
Finally, baseball became Open in the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, but Major League Baseball allowed only minor leaguers to participate. Very few pros were playing in the Amateur Series, even though more than 60 countries were participating in the qualifiers.
The name was changed to Baseball World Cups.
In 2009, a great last try to keep baseball Olympic. A whole continent became the host nation, Europe. 22 nations participated. In Germany, baseball outdrew soccer 9000 to 2000 for one game, Germany-USA. But baseball was kicked out, Selig gave in too late. Besides, the commissioner has his Baseball Classic.
Panama is the last goodbye for the dream of Les Mann.
Maybe some day the Classic will be played seriously, and so finally replace the World Cups...
Last edited by titorondon; 06-17-2011 at 01:21 PM.
Reason: typing mistake
The 39th edition of the World Cup will start October 1st and end on the 15th. The teams have been divided into two groups. A will be comprised of the host team, Panama, plus Canada, Greece, Japan, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Taiwan nad the United States, and will play in two stadiums in Panama City, one of them being Rod Carew inaugurated in 1999. Group B has Australia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Italy, Nicaragua, South Korea and Venezuela. They will play in the provinces of Veraguas and Herrera.
Of the 38 previous championships Cuba won 25, the US four, Venezuela 3, Colombia 2 and South Korea, England, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico one each.
In total medals, Cuba has 30, the USA 15, Venezuela and Nicaragua 10, Puerto Rico 9 and South Korea 8.
Pros have been allowed since 1998, and wooden bats used since 2001.
It has been very difficult to get permission for pro players to participate in this event, in contrast to the Olympics.
After Cuba won nine Cups in a row, and 12 of 13, the US has won the last two.
That's a shame. When was it announced this would be the last ever World Cup?
RIP - HGF [1937-2009]