March 28, 2003

The International Pasttime: "Every pro sport wants to conquer the world. For many years football, basketball and baseball have boasted about their ambitions to develop a true international identity. Who thought that baseball, so backward at times and blockheaded at others, would establish itself as such an exemplary international sport?"

posted by kirkaracha to baseball at 11:46 AM - 15 comments

I love baseball. But I think that this is a love letter to MLB asking for the Expos hand in marriage. Also, everyone knows that futbol is king.

posted by silent4lie at 12:30 PM on March 28, 2003

I think congratulations are premature. International, yes. Conquering the world, no. Three continents? North America and South America, yes. Japan is not a continent. Where's Europe? Where's the rest of Asia? And, what silent4lie said.

posted by worldcup2002 at 12:57 PM on March 28, 2003

Old codger reminiscing here. I saw a number of the baseball games at the '96 Olympics. The teams I saw play included those you would immediately think of, the US, Cuba, Japan, and South Korea, and I saw a few you wouldn't. I remember being particularly impressed with the Italian team. They were playing the eventual gold medalists (Cuba), and they acquited themselves well. They could hit well, throw well, and play defense well. Their pitching wasn't of the same caliber as the Cubans, but whose pitching is? The one real flaw they had in their game (and it cost them a number of runs) was baserunning. Other than some bonehead plays on the bags, they almost came from behind to catch the Cubans, and I was cheering for them all the way (Forza Italia!). Also, according to a friend of mine who lived in Northern Italy for three years, there were a number of baseball teams scattered about in the towns in the Piedmont region. Of course, some of the players were ex-pat Americans, but the league had a rule limiting these, and filled their rosters with Italians. Does all this mean that baseball is an internationally acclaimed sport on the order of soccer/football. No. Does it mean that it is growing and is currently enjoying grassroots success in places you would never expect it such as Australia (home of Giants pitcher Damian Moss), New Zealand (home of Braves prospect Travis Wilson), Italy (see above), The Netherlands, and South Africa (both representatives in the last olympic games)? I'd say yes. Of course, I'm biased as good-ole American baseball and true international sport, the beautiful game, are my favorite sports to watch and participate in.

posted by trox at 03:47 PM on March 28, 2003

So baseball has about the same international appeal as cricket. Woo.

posted by salmacis at 04:13 AM on March 29, 2003

And yet, cricket is still more exciting than baseball.

posted by jmd82 at 09:21 AM on March 29, 2003

Keep it up once the season starts and I'll show up in every football thread asking "Are you guys talking about soccer?"

posted by yerfatma at 04:44 PM on March 29, 2003

trox: You international statesman, you. trox for President!

posted by worldcup2002 at 12:26 AM on March 30, 2003

Every pro sport wants to conquer the world. For many years football, basketball and baseball have boasted about their ambitions to develop a true international identity. What, no mention of hockey? [blatant bitching by a resident-hockey fan] Does anyone have any statistics for the numbers of nationalities represented per North American professional league? I have found '19' for the NHL -- but I'm not sure how up to date that is. I do know that there are players from Brazil, South Africa (Kolzig), and (?) Bermuda, though most of them were born to missionaries or ex-Pats or immigrated at a young age. But I do agree that Baseball has a lot of potential for internationalization, though it's premature to cheer now. All you need is a bat and a ball to play, and that opens itself up to poorer people in poorer nations. That's why soccer (futbol) is so popular internationally: all you need is a ball.

posted by mkn at 04:31 PM on March 30, 2003

You want international? Try the EPL.

posted by squealy at 04:42 PM on March 30, 2003

mkn: For basebell, you need a ball and a bat and a glove. I don't see how you can play proper baseball and field properly without a glove. But, what do I know? (as I'm sure many soccer-haters will say)

posted by worldcup2002 at 10:22 PM on March 30, 2003

Soccer-lovers as well, worldcup2002.....

posted by salmacis at 06:40 AM on March 31, 2003

Many of the players from the Dominican Republic played baseball as a kid without a bat (they used wood from a construction site and whittled it down), a ball (they often used hardened rolls of tape) or a glove (they used a piece of cardboard in the shape of a glove, worn down to have a pocket to catch the ball). An example of this type of make-do process can be found in the biography of Sammy Sosa. I'm just saying...

posted by grum@work at 06:45 AM on March 31, 2003

Folks, just because MLB can't keep its act together doesn't mean the entire game of baseball is in the crapper. Little kids in the Dominican Republic don't start playing ball because they want a pension someday, or they hope for random drug testing. They want to be Sammy or Pedro, and that's all the majors have to offer to keep baseball going. Soccer will ALWAYS be more popular around the world because the game is far less structured than baseball. Not only do you just need a ball you only don't have to have bases, a field or anything else. You just need a space, and your game can progress. At a certain point, you just can't play baseball anywhere ... you've got to play on a FIELD. As for international popularity, the only continent I know that ISN'T playing ball is Africa. The Intercontinental Cup ( brings out the prominent teams in amateur ball, and there are professional leagues scattered throughout the world.

posted by wfrazerjr at 08:43 AM on March 31, 2003

wfrazerj: Nobody said it was in the crapper. I was responding to the hubris of the "conquering the world" statement. The NBA comes much closer to being a world sport than baseball. There are more basketball pro leagues all over the world and national teams, too.

posted by worldcup2002 at 09:36 AM on March 31, 2003

For basebell, you need a ball and a bat and a glove. For games with friends? Small community events? For Soccer, you also need goal posts -- but often times, a pair of rocks is sufficient. If you're talking about higher-end competitions, then yes. But at the lower levels, where you foster the game, then no, you don't. I remember many a baseball game in my youth, most played with just a single bat and a tennis ball.

posted by mkn at 09:43 PM on March 31, 2003

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