Baseball at the Summer Olympics
|Baseball at the Summer Olympics|
Baseball at the Summer Olympics had its unofficial debut at the 1904 Summer Games, and it became an official Olympic sport at the 1992 Summer Olympics. Baseball has a long history as an exhibition/demonstration sport in the Olympics prior to its receiving official medal status by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Olympic baseball is governed by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF). The event was last played in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing with South Korea taking the gold.
At the IOC meeting on July 7, 2005, baseball and softball were voted out of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom, becoming the first sport voted out of the Olympics since polo was eliminated from the 1936 Olympics. The elimination excised 16 teams and more than 300 athletes from the 2012 Olympics. The two slots left available by the IOC's elimination were subsequently filled by golf and rugby sevens in 2016. This decision was reaffirmed on February 9, 2006. In the stands during the 2008 bronze medal game between the U.S. and Japan, IOC head Jacques Rogge was interviewed by MLB.com's Mark Newman and cited various criteria for Baseball to earn its way back in: "To be on the Olympic program is an issue where you need universality as much as possible. You need to have a sport with a following, you need to have the best players and you need to be in strict compliance with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). And these are the qualifications that have to be met. When you have all that, you have to win hearts. You can win the mind, but you still must win hearts." It was officially decided in August 2009 at the IOC Board meeting in Berlin that baseball would also not be included in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
In August 2011, Olympic news source Around the Rings reported that the ISF and IBAF would not rush into an Olympic proposal, and that the IBAF was working on forming a temporary commission to analyze the prospect of a joint proposal. "In the past, baseball and softball were running alone, and the result was that baseball and softball stayed out," IBAF president Riccardo Fraccari said in reference to their decades-long push for Olympic inclusion.
Although little was recorded, Olympic baseball first appeared in 1904 St. Louis. Eight years later in 1912 Stockholm, a United States team played against host Sweden, winning 13-3. Baseball was also played at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, the American team beating the French team (the local Ranelagh Club) 5-0 in a four inning exhibition game. In 1936 Berlin, two United States teams played each other before approximately 90,000 - 100,000 spectators at the Reichsportsfeld. The 1952 Helsinki event was a modified form of the sport, Finnish baseball, played by two Finnish teams. Australia played a one-game exhibition against the United States in 1956 Melbourne and Japan did the same in 1964 Tokyo. With a crowd of nearly 114,000 spectators, this game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground held the record for the highest attended baseball game ever until a 2008 American exhibition game in Los Angeles.
After a twenty-year hiatus, Olympic baseball (labelled an exhibition sport/event by the IOC) returned but with tournament formatting (1984 Los Angeles). In 1988 Seoul, it was termed a demonstration sport. Japan defeated the United States in the inaugural tournament finale in 1984. However, in 1988, the United States won over Japan.
Baseball became an official sport at the 1992 Summer Olympics, with the familiar eight team tournament. Players were required to be amateurs. The tournament consisted of a round-robin, in which teams played each of the other teams, followed by semifinals and finals. The format of the competition remained the same after that, with the only major change being that starting in 2000 players were not required to be amateurs.
||Cuba (CUB)||Chinese Taipei (TPE)||Japan (JPN)|
||Cuba (CUB)||Japan (JPN)||United States (USA)|
||United States (USA)||Cuba (CUB)||South Korea (KOR)|
||Cuba (CUB)||Australia (AUS)||Japan (JPN)|
||South Korea (KOR)||Cuba (CUB)||United States (USA)|
The host nation was always guaranteed a place in the Olympic baseball tournament. The other seven places were generally determined by continental qualifying tournaments. For the 2008 Games, the Americas received two places, Europe received one place, and Asia received one place.
The final three places were given to the top three nations at an eight-team tournament held after the continental tournaments. Qualification for this tournament was determined by those continental tournaments. The third and fourth place American teams, second and third place European teams, second and third place Asian teams, first place African team, and first place Oceania team competed in that tournament.
This qualification tournament was new for 2008. It was created after heavy criticism of the previous qualification standard. In previous Olympics, only two teams from the Americas were able to qualify for the Olympics, despite the fact that the vast majority of the top baseball-playing nations in the world came from this region. Europe, whose baseball nations were substantially weaker, also entered two teams.
Olympic baseball was nearly identical to most professional baseball. Aluminum bats were disallowed after 1996 Atlanta. There was also a mercy rule that was invoked if a team was winning by 10 or more runs after 7 innings (or 6.5 innings if the home team was leading). For Sydney 2000, rosters were expanded to 24 players.
The tournament consisted of a round-robin preliminary round in which each team played all 7 of the other teams. Only the top four teams advanced to the medals round. In that round, semifinals were played between the 1st/4th place teams and the 2nd/3rd place teams. The semifinal losers then played a bronze medal game, with the winner earning the medal and the loser receiving 4th place. The semifinal winners played in the final, which awarded the winner a gold medal and the loser a silver medal.
During the 2008 games a unique rule went into effect during games which went into extra innings. If the game was still tied after the completion of the tenth inning base runners were automatically placed on first and second base with no outs. IBAF created this rule to encourage scoring late in the game in order to determine a winner and to address criticisms from the IOC that a baseball game's length was unpredictable.
The following 16 nations took part in the baseball competition. The numbers in the table refer to the final rank of each team in each tournament.
- Associated Press (9 July 2005). "They'rrre out! Olympics drop baseball, softball". NBC Sports. Retrieved 15 August 2008. "Rogge has basically conspired against the sports to get them removed"
- de Vries, Lloyd (9 February 2006). "Strike 3 for Olympic Baseball". CBS News. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 15 August 2008.
- Newman, Mark (August 23, 2008). "IOC: MLB players needed for 2016 bid". MLB.com.
- Wilson, Stephen (August 13, 2009). "Golf, rugby backed by IOC board for 2016 Games". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Associated Press (March 28, 2012). "Baseball, softball consider joint 2020 Olympic bid". FoxNews.com. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
- Associated Press (2013-09-08). "Wrestling gets reinstated for 2020 Olympics". ESPN. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- Associated Press (2008-07-25). "IBAF changes rules for extra-inning games in time for Beijing". ESPN. Archived from the original on 1 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-31.