How in the World Cup

Although few people may realize it there is a Baseball World Cup tournament which has been held roughly every two years since 1938. The World Cup is an international tournament made up of teams representing different countries. In 1938 the tournament featured 2 teams but has expanded to feature 16 teams. [Blog trivia, can you name the 2 teams in the inaugural World Cup in 1938 and who won the championship? The answer will be given at the end of this article.] The 2007 World Cup had representation by teams from the United States, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Italy, Spain, and South Africa which made up Pool A and Cuba, Australia, Netherlands, Korea, Canada, Venezuela, Germany, and Thailand which made up Pool B. The tournament was held November 6 – November 18 in Taiwan. The rosters from these teams are made up mostly of amateurs and/or minor league baseball players. The World Cup should not be confused with the World Baseball Classic which began in 2006 and whose teams were made up of professional players playing for their native countries.

The most prolific team in the history of the Baseball World Cup would have to be Cuba. Since the tournament began in 1938 Cuba has won 25 Gold medals, 2 Silver, and 2 Bronze. The United States is second having won 3 Gold, 8 Silver, and 3 Bronze so you can see the dominance that the Cubans have held in International play. In fact Cuba has been on quite a roll having won 9 World Cup titles in a row and 12 of the last 13. To say Cuba was the favorite going into the 2007 World Cup would be equivalent to saying that Tampa Bay is going to have a losing season. It’s pretty much a lock.

Cuba relatively cruised through their Pool play with a record of 6-1 the one loss coming against the Netherlands after they had locked up a spot in the quarter finals. The top 4 teams from each Pool advance to the elimination round. Advancing from Pool A was the United States (6-1), Chinese Taipei (5-2), Japan (5-2), and Mexico (4-3). Representing Pool B in the elimination round were Cuba (6-1), Australia (6-1), Netherlands (5-2), and Korea (4-3). The quarter finals saw the United States beat Korea 3-1 to advance. The Netherlands defeated Chinese Taipei 6-3 to move on in the upper bracket. Japan stunned Australia 3-0 to advance and Cuba defeated Mexico 6-0 earning a berth against Japan. The semi final games had the United States defeat the Netherlands 5-0 and Cuba defeating Japan 5-3. This set the championship game as Cuba versus the United States. Cuba was obviously highly favored in the game based on their experienced international competition roster. The United States roster in comparison were made up of Double-A and Triple-A players managed by Davey Johnson. So in a battle of David versus Goliath proportions the United States came out swinging. Backed by the hot bats of Jayson Nix and Jason Jarmillo who each drove in 2 runs the United States defeated Cuba to win their third gold medal in the history of the tournament. The last time the United States won the Baseball World Cup was during the Watergate era in 1974. This defeat had to be a shock to Cuba who for the second time in two years saw their best players defeated on the international stage. In the inaugural World Baseball Classic Japan defeated Cuba 10-6 and now here 2 years later they see their national team defeated by minor league players from the United States 6-3. For a country that lives and breathes baseball like Cuba this has to be paramount to a national crisis. Today Cuba has to be feeling like the Colorado Rockies after the Red Sox thumped them in 4 games. In the immortal words of Chicago Cubs fans everywhere, “well there’s always next year.”

[Trivia Answer: The first Baseball World Cup was played in Great Britain in August 1938 and featured the United States versus Great Britain. Great Britain won the five game championship beating the United States 4 games to 1.]

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