History of baseball outside the United States

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Part of the History of baseball series.

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 18881889, 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 (IBAF)

The International Baseball Federation (IBF) was founded in 1938, after the inaugural World Championships held in London. Only 6 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 organisation 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.

World Cup of Baseball

Officials from Major League Baseball and the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) are currently in talks to begin a regular "World Cup", to be first held in either March or November 2005. Note, however, that the IBAF has already organized 35 editions of the Baseball World Cup since 1938 in which Cuba has held the Baseball World Cup title for at least 24 times.

World Championships

The first 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 4, and became the first baseball World Champion. After this championship, the IBF was founded (see above).

Since 1938, 34 World Championships have been held:

Olympic Baseball

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.

There were plans for including baseball at the 1940 Olympics originally scheduled for Japan, but these plans were abandoned after Japan had to withdraw its bid because of its war in Manchuria.

After World War II, a Finnish game akin to baseball, pesapallo, 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 1986 IOC congress, it had been decided that the first official Olympic baseball tournament would be held in Barcelona, Spain in 1992.

At the 117th IOC Session, each of 28 existing sports in the Summer Olympics are voted for removal in 2012 Summer Olympics and they decided to remove two of them, baseball and softball, for the Games of the XXX Olympiad in London.

Barcelona 1992

This time, the strong Cuban team was present and it won all of its games, beating the US in the semi-finals 4-1, and routing Taiwan in the final 11-1. The United States was upset by Japan in the bronze medal match, losing 8-3. Final ranking:

  1. Cuba
  2. Taiwan
  3. Japan
  4. United States
  5. Puerto Rico
  6. Dominican Republic
  7. Italy
  8. Spain

Atlanta 1996

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:

  1. Cuba
  2. Japan
  3. United States
  4. Nicaragua
  5. Netherlands
  6. Italy
  7. Australia
  8. South Korea

Sydney 2000

For the 2000 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:

  1. United States
  2. Cuba
  3. South Korea
  4. Japan
  5. Netherlands
  6. Italy
  7. Australia
  8. South Africa

Athens 2004

Professional players are 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 4-9 in the preliminary round and again 0-1 in the semi-finals) knocked Japan out of the race for the gold. Cuba ended up winning the gold, defeating Australia 2-6, while Japan took bronze, beating Canada 11-2. Final ranking:

  1. Cuba
  2. Australia
  3. Japan
  4. Canada
  5. Chinese Taipei (Taiwan)
  6. Netherlands
  7. Greece
  8. Italy

(full results)

Baseball Worldwide


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.



The first baseball game recorded in Canada was played in Beachville, Ontario on June 14, 1838 (before the purported codification of the game by Abner Doubleday). Many Canadians, including the staff of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Marys, Ontario, claim that this was the first documented game of modern baseball, although there appears to be no evidence that the rules used in this game were codified and adopted in other regions.

The London Tecumsehs of London, Ontario were charter members of the International Association and won its first championship in 1877, beating the Pittsburgh, Alleghenies.

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 1977, the Toronto Blue Jays joined the American League. They won the World Series in 1992 and 1993.

In 2003 an attempt to create the Canadian Baseball League was launched, but the league folded halfway through its first season.



Main article: Japanese baseball

Baseball was introduced in Japan in the 1820s and it currently among the country's most popular sports. The first professional competitions emerged in the late 1800s. The current league consists of two leagues of 6 teams each. The country's national team has also been successful, having won two Olympic medals (bronze and silver), while the World Championships team never placed worse than 5th in its 13 appearances, winning second place once and third place three times. Recently, several Japanese players have also entered the U.S. major leagues, such as Hideo Nomo, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and most recently Kazuo Matsui.


A missionary, P. Gillett, introduced baseball in 1838. 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 and Kim Byung Hyun.


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, Matco Cobras, Sinon Bulls, and Uni-President Lions.

A handful of Taiwanese players are in the U.S. major and minor leagues, including Chen Chin-Feng.

Baseball has become so entrenched in Taiwanese culture that it is even depicted on the NT$ 500 note.[1] ,[2]


A European federation, the Confédération Européene 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.


Of the two major European nations, baseball was introduced in the Netherlands shortly after 1900. A baseball federation was founded in 1912, and a league was established in 1922, the first winner being Quick from Amsterdam. The Netherlands have won 15 European Championship titles, and participated in the Olympics twice, finishing fifth in 2000 after upsetting the Cuban team, though some of the players in the Dutch team were actually from the Netherlands Antilles. At the World Championships, a 6th position has been the best achievement so far. Four Dutch players have played in the Major Leagues, among which Robert Eenhoorn, who played for the New York Yankees. Also, Atlanta Braves star Andruw Jones is from the Netherlands Antilles. The World Port Tournament is an annual international tournament for national and club teams, organised in Rotterdam.


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 Italian national team have competed at all three Olympics, finished 6th twice. Best World Championships showing was a fourth place, in 1998.


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.

Australian Baseball History

External links

Year Host Nation Number of Teams Winner
1939 Cuba 3 Cuba
1940 Cuba 7 Cuba
1941 Cuba 9 Venezuela
1942 Cuba 5 Cuba
1943 Cuba 4 Cuba
1944 Venezuela 8 Venezuela
1945 Venezuela 6 Venezuela
1947 Colombia 9 Colombia
1948 Nicaragua 8 Dominican Republic
1950 Nicaragua 12 Cuba
1951 Mexico 11 Puerto Rico
1952 Cuba 13 Cuba
1953 Venezuela 11 Cuba
1961 Costa Rica 10 Cuba
1965 Colombia 9 Colombia
1969 Dominican Republic 11 Cuba
1970 Colombia 12 Cuba
1971 Cuba 10 Cuba
1972 Nicaragua 16 Cuba
1973 Cuba 8 Cuba
1973 Nicaragua 11 United States
1974 United States 9 United States
1976 Colombia 11 Cuba
1978 Italy 11 Cuba
1980 Japan 12 Cuba
1982 Korea 10 Korea
1984 Cuba 13 Cuba
1986 Netherlands 12 Cuba
1988 Italy 12 Cuba
1990 Canada 12 Cuba
1994 Nicaragua 16 Cuba
1998 Italy 16 Cuba
2001 Taiwan 16 Cuba
2003 Cuba 15 Cuba
2005 Netherlands 16 Cuba