Baseball in the Netherlands
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Baseball in the Netherlands started in 1911, having been introduced to the country by English teacher J.C.G Grasé of Amsterdam, following a holiday to America. The first professional baseball league (now the Honkbal Hoofdklasse) began in 1922. The national governing body for baseball is the Koninklijke Nederlandse Baseball en Softball Bond (Royal Netherlands Baseball and Softball Federation).
The Netherlands National Baseball Team is consistently ranked in the top ten of the WBSC World Rankings and has won the European Baseball Championship twenty times. Although baseball is a minority sport within the Netherlands, it is the main sport of the Dutch overseas territories in the Caribbean (the former Netherland Antilles).
1911 - 1940
The driving force in the early days of Dutch baseball was J.C.G. Grasé of Amsterdam. After discovering baseball while on vacation in the United States, he introduced the game in the Netherlands in 1911. An English teacher by profession, Grasé was able to translate the rules of the game into Dutch. The first official games were played in 1911 and on 12 March 1912, Grasé founded the Dutch Baseball Union. Grasé was also the founder of the oldest baseball club in Europe, Quick Amsterdam (founded 1 March 1913).
The first official competition was played in 1922. The major league was formed out of four clubs that year: Ajax (a branch of the famous football club), Blue White (also a football club), Hercules and Quick Amsterdam. Quick Amsterdam became the first Dutch champion. During the early years, baseball was only played in Amsterdam, and quickly spread to Haarlem as well. These two cities dominated Dutch baseball until 1963.
In 1925, a ship of the US Navy visited Amsterdam. Players of Blue White heard of the visit and invited the sailors to a game of baseball. After one inning, the Americans led 14-0. After two hours of play, the final score was 27-2.
In the early days, the pitcher was the one who could throw the fastest ball. At the time, it was considered unsportsmanlike to bunt or to take advantage of the lack of control by a pitcher and was considered a humiliation to get a base on balls. It was far better to hit a fly out than to reach first base on four balls. Furthermore, the sport was played wearing shorts.
At the end of the 1937 season, EDO from Haarlem and Blue White from Amsterdam played each other to determine the Dutch champion. The game was played with a two-hour time limit. The coach of EDO thought that he had won the game after the final out of an inning, but according to the umpire, there were three more minutes to be played, so a new inning began. The players of EDO were furious and Blue White ended up winning and became Dutch champion. This was the final instance of a two-hour time limit, and beginning in 1938, games in the major league lasted nine innings.
In 1939, a team of Mormon missionaries from Salt Lake City played in the Dutch league under the name Seagulls. They only lost two games (vs. Blue White from Amsterdam 7-1, and vs. HHC from Haarlem 6-2).
|1923||Blue White Amsterdam|
|1931||Blue White Amsterdam|
|1932||Blue White Amsterdam|
1940 - 1970
After the German invasion in May 1940, baseball went through a difficult period. As the war continued, baseball materials became scarce. Starting in 1943, baseballs were made of rubber-like substance with a cork center. The balls, which were made by the tire company Vredenstein, could absorb little more than a couple of hits, before breaking apart. Some pitchers would cut out a small piece in order to throw a curve, because the balls didn't have seams. Clubs were forced to mend cracked bats with screws or whatever other materials were handy.
After World War II, the Americans helped Europe rebuild with the Marshall Plan. They also sent baseball materials to the Netherlands including uniforms, bats, balls, etc. Teams like OVVO from Amsterdam and HHC from Haarlem played in red uniforms.
Many games were played against military teams. In their own league, the Dutch could hold their own, but not against the better skilled Americans. Han Urbanus, was the best Dutch pitcher in these days. Getting a hit against him guaranteed a starting spot in the Dutch national team. A Dutch American journalist, Albert Balink, managed two trips to spring training camp for Han Urbanus. The journalist knew that the Dutchman would need a lot more experience to improve. Martin Jole, one of the players who could hit Hans Urbanus, went to a spring training camp with the Cincinnati Reds. He showed Dutch players how swinging a bat day after day could improve their hitting.
Albert Balink also introduced medals for the best players and hitters, which allowed him to show that baseball is a sport of stats. In 1953, Han Urbanus got a phone call from the USA. The New York Giants had offered him a minor league contract. He refused, due to the fact that he preferred to teach his fellow countrymen what he had learned in the USA.
Dutch baseball was dominated from 1949 to 1953, by OVVO from Amsterdam, which claimed five consecutive national titles. In 1955, the club won it for the last time, and would never win another championship again.
The post-war help of the Americans helped the Dutch earn their first European title in 1956 in Rome, Italy. Han Urbanus was a defensive force and the Dutch batters performed very well. Because of the European title, the Dutch were allowed to go to the Global World Series. American coaches like Ron Fraser and Bill Arce helped the Dutch to improve their game. The number of baseball fields built around the country increased dramatically.
In 1963, a real baseball stadium was built in Haarlem. This stadium would be the base of the Haarlem Baseball Week, a yearly event.
Prior to 1963, baseball was dominated by teams from Amsterdam and Haarlem. But in 1963, Sparta from Rotterdam became Dutch champion. From 1963 to 1974, Sparta clinched nine national titles, a record not exceeded until 1985 by the Haarlem Nicols. In the early sixties, each team played 14 games; one game every weekend.
|1943||Blue White Amsterdam|
|1944||Blue White Amsterdam|
|1945||Blue White Amsterdam|
|1946||Blue White Amsterdam|
|1961||Schoten Haarlem/Karoush Stark|
1970 – present
In 1970, a Dutch-born pitcher named Bert Blyleven made the Minnesota Twins roster. He had a very successful Major League career which lasted until 1992, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010. He was, however, raised in California and never played in the Dutch league. The first Dutch Major League Baseball player who actually grew up and learned the game in the Netherlands was Win Remmerswaal, who pitched briefly for the Boston Red Sox in 1979 and 1980.
Dutch baseball was dominated by Sparta from Rotterdam in the early 70s. The "magnificent three" from the Dutch Antilles were unstoppable: Hudson John, Simon Arrindell and Hamilton Richardson, who all had a big influence on Sparta, but by 1974, the era was over.
At the end of the 1972 season, the football club Ajax decided to cut loose the baseball branch, ending the ball club.
At the end of the 1977 season, there was some turmoil at OVVO from Amsterdam. This baseball club was also a branch of a football club. The football club, an amateur side, decided to turn professional and begin paying players. The baseball branch did not agree, and big names, like Han Urbanus, decided to leave and founded a new club: Amstel Tigers. Other players like Charles Urbanus Jr. (pitcher/shortstop), Jan Hijzelendoorn (pitcher), Paul Smit (catcher) and Don Wedman decided to follow suit, along with almost the entire team. The Dutch Baseball Federation tried to mediate, but the players did not come back. The city of Amsterdam appointed a terrain in the Western part of the city. The Amstel Tigers thought that field would be too far away, but ultimately the new club built a baseball field there, which is now used by Quick Amsterdam.
In the meantime, OVVO would not be persuaded to take a step back to a lower division. The Amstel Tigers started their first season in the overgangsklasse; a league one level lower than the hoofdklasse. With such strong players, the Tigers were quickly promoted to the top division in 1979. OVVO's 1978 season was a disaster and the team was relegated. The Amstel Tigers went on to become champions in 1979, 1980, and 1986.
In 1979, a Dutch pitcher made his MLB debut on the mound in Milwaukee. The Red Sox were trailing 4-1, as they called pitcher Win Remmerswaal. His debut was a good one, even though his team lost 5-3. After the game, journalists seemed fascinated that a Dutch player could have come so far in the game. The MLB career of Win Remmerswaal only lasted two seasons, due to injuries. After the 1980 season, Remmerswaal pitched 22 games (3 victories and 1 loss). His short career among baseball's elite lasted 55 innings. After his Major League career, Remmerswaal went to Italy, and played on several teams for many years.
The eighties and nineties were bad decades for many baseball clubs. In 1986, Charles Urbanus, Jr. decided that it would be his last season. This was a huge blow for his club, the Amstel Tigers. Urbanus was a magnet for players, who considered it an honour to play with him. But an Amstel Tigers without him was not as attractive to new talent and the club lost competitiveness. Eventually, the members voted for a merger with HCAW from Bussum, a club that was playing the lower league. The new club, HCAW Tigers, were promoted to the major league in 1989 and would go on to win the title in 1996 and 1998, albeit without any of the old Amstel Tigers players. Haarlem Nicols were particularly dominant in the 1980s with seven pennants over ten years, but declared bankruptcy in 1994, just five years after winning their last pennant.
In 1981, Neptunus Rotterdam won the pennant for the first time since the baseball team's foundation in 1942. Neptunus began to dominate the championship during the 1990s and 2000s, winning eleven pennants in total including seven consecutively between 1999 and 2005.
|1978||S.C. Kinheim Haarlem|
|1992||ADO Den Haag|
|1994||S.C. Kinheim Haarlem|
|1996||H.C.A.W Bussum Tijgers|
|1998||H.C.A.W Bussum Tijgers|
|2006||S.C. Kinheim Haarlem|
|2007||S.C. Kinheim Haarlem|
Baseball World Cup
In 2009, the Netherlands defeated the heavily favored Dominican Republic twice to qualify for the second round of the World Baseball Classic. The Dutch upset the Dominican team 3-2 in their first meeting and 2-1 in 11 innings in a qualification game.
In 2011, the Netherlands defeated the former World Baseball Championship winner, Cuba, and became world champion for the first time in history. Their team captain, Brian Farley led them to a 2-1 victory. Players De Jong and Smith scored for the Dutch team. Record holder, Cuba, has won 25 out of 39 matches.
First round: Netherlands - Taiwan 2-1,
Netherlands - Greece 19-0,
Netherlands - Japan 5-2,
Netherlands - Puerto Rico 5-0,
Netherlands - USA 7-5,
Netherlands - Canada 4-5,
Netherlands - Panama 7-3.
Second round: Netherlands - South-Korea 5-1,
Netherlands - Australia 2-1,
Netherlands - Cuba 4-1,
Netherlands - Venezuela 12-2.
Final: Netherlands - Cuba 2-1.
- Haarlem Baseball Week
- Holland Series
- World Port Tournament
- Baseball teams in the Netherlands
- Baseball awards#Netherlands
- "In Netherlands, Soccer Is King, but Baseball Eyes Crown". The New York Times. 21 May 2008.
- Visser, Nadette De (31 October 2015). "The Unknown Caribbean Island Breeding Baseball Stars".
- "Dutch celebrate historic baseball World Cup victory".
- History (in Dutch)
- de Nederlandse honkbalsite (Dutch)
- KNBSB (Royal Netherlands Baseball and Softball Federation) (Dutch)
- Dutch Baseball and Softball Museum website. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
- Dutch Baseball Hall of Fame webpage. Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
- Forum: History of Dutch baseball (a messageboard thread with a fairly complete history). Baseball Fever (part of Baseball-Almanac)
- Connor, Joe. Welcome to the Netherlands. ESPN (MLB), January 17, 2006. Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- Remington, Alex. Honkbal! Netherlands Bids to Host MLB in 2014. FanGraphs. September 1, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-03.
- Rodney Daal Signs Pro Contract with San Diego Padres Organization. August 24, 2010. Mister Baseball: All about Baseball & Softball in Europe