Baseball Demonstration at the 1968 Mexico Olympics
Baseball was played as a demonstration sport between 1904 and 1988 before becoming an official sport on the Olympic program. One of these demonstration events was around the time of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
The tournament, named the "Mexican International Baseball Tournament", was held from November 2-10, starting a week after the 1968 Olympic Games ended. The teams, which played a round-robin format, were USA, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba. The tournament was won by the USA.
While the details of the tournament are not readily available, I have been able to put together a picture of what went on through article and book extracts, plus feedback from readers, including several players from that tournament.
From the NCCA News, Nov 1968, vol 5, no.9
Michigan State University baseball coach Dan Litwhiler has taken a United States team to Mexico City to play in a tournament that’s an extension of the Olympic Games.
A roster of 18 players, 16 of them from NCAA institutions, has been picked from nominations from all over the country.
Countries expected to compete in the round-robin tourney are Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States. The tourney will run Nov. 2-10.
“This tournament is not actually a part of the Olympic Games, because baseball is not an official Olympic event,” says Litwhiler. “We are holding it with the idea of getting it into the Games in the future.”
Included on the roster are All Americas Mark Marquess of Stanford, James Cardasis of New York University and Gary Sanserino of UCLA.
Assisting Litwhiler are Frank Sancet of Arizona, Virgil Yelkin of Nebraska at Omaha and Elmer Kosub of St. Mary’s (Texas). The team has been in training at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. Ariz.
Also traveling to Mexico with the team were U. S. Baseball Federation President William Fehring, publicity director Abe Chanin and trainer Charles Ott of Arizona.
Squad members are: Victor Ambrose, Albuquerque; John Bell, Jacksonville (Fla.); James Cardasis, NYU; Larry Gura, Arizona State: Richard Hinton, Arizona; Robert Jones, Amherst; Harry Kendrick and Marvin Knight, Michigan State; James Koch, St. Mary’s (Tex.); John Lucenta, Lewis; Mark Marquess, Stanford: Dana Miller, 1J.S. Naval Academy; Lawrence Pyle, Miami.
From newspaper clipping "Adrian's Mickey Knight Selected To Play In Mexican Tournament"
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)
The name of the 18 collegiate players to compete in the Mexican International Baseball Tournament next month have been released by Danny Litwhiler, Michigan State coach and coach of the U.S. Baseball Federation team.
The tourney will be played Nov. 2-10 following the Olympic Games at Mexico City. Expected to compete in the round robin tourney are Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States.
"This tournament is not actually a part of the Olympic Games because baseball is not yet an official Olympic event." Litwhiler said. "We are holding it with the idea of getting it in the games in the future.
Litwhiler said the tourney will be beld after the Olympics. which run through Oct. 26, because sponsors did not want to anything to detract from the Olympic Games.
Litwhiler said players included in the roster include three 1968 NCAA All-Americans and four others honored on all-district teams.
Litwhiler, his three assistant coaches and U.S Baseball Federation President William Fehring selected the final roster. They reported more than 100 nominations were received from coaches across the country.
Assisting the MSU coach will be coaches Elmer Kosub of St. Mary's of Texas. Frank Sancet Arizona and Virgil Yelkin of Nebraska of Omaha. Also on the traveling roster will be Fehring, publicity director Abe Chanin of the Arizona Daily Star and trainer Charles Ott of Arizona.
The team will train from Oct. 26 through Nov. 1 at Tucson, Ariz.
From "Danny Litwhiler: Living the Baseball Dream" a book by Danny Litwhiler. p262
"In 1968 during the Post Olympic Games, we were playing Cuba for the championship when the game turned into a near disaster. My assistant coaches were Elmer Kosub of St. Mary's University, Frank Sancet of the University of Arizona, and Virgil Yelkin of the University of Nebraska in Omaha. William "Dutch" Fehring, a former catcher who spent part of the 1934 season in the majors and who was the Sanford's head coach, was America's delegate to the games as president of the USBF.
A strange thing happened during our final game in Mexico. Early in the contest, a cuban player attempted to steal second base." Our catcher easily threw ..... (the rest is not available online!)
From a biography of Danny Litwhiler, Michigan State Spartans head coach from 1964-82
"In 1968, Litwhiler coached at the Mexican International Baseball Tournament, which was held in conjunction with the Olympic Games in Mexico. Two of his Spartans, catcher Harry Kendrick and pitcher Marvin Knight, were members of his team."
Some comments received about the 1968 tournament
message from Mickey Knight (Oct 2022)
"The American team practiced at Hi Corbett field in Tucson, Arizona. We were housed on the Davis-Monthan Air Force base in the transit barracks during our practice session which lasted about 2 weeks.
The games were played in Social Security Stadium in Mexico City. The teams in the tournament were Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and team USA. Due to concerns of violence occurring in and around Olympic village we and the team from Puerto Rico were housed in the Hotel Astoria in Mexico City.
Attendance at the games was large and very enthusiastic with Cuba having the largest and loudest group. The teams were very competitive and the games were hard fought. We had only 1 loss with Cuba and Mexico having 2 and Puerto Rico having more.
Our only loss came against Mexico. I remember the ending of this game well as I was pitching in relief with the strong potential for a storybook ending. Mexico was the home team, the score tied, no outs and a man on third having just tripled. I struck out the next 2 batters and had 2 strikes on the next; he checked his swing but made contact with the ball forcing it high into the air, falling fair out of reach of a charging very fast 1b Mark Marquess. Perfect unintentional bunt, easily scoring the runner. We lost. Wrong team had the storybook ending.
Two other memories that are still embedded: the tremendous long home run careening off the advertising billboard at the back of the left center outfield bleachers hit by Gary Sansarino against Cuba and the riot near the end of the game. Cuba was losing badly and out of pitchers when a call was made by home plate umpire generating an argument and the Cuban players rushed the field and stands in back of USA dugout attacking fans, seizing our bats from bat rack. I was in the right field bull pen along with several others and we ran to our dug out without any problem as all the angry attention was focused on the Cuban Expats sitting behind and cheering for team USA. Very violent. Police didn’t attempt to intervene other than to escort all the team USA players through the locker room and onto the bus which promptly took us away and to our hotel. We were awarded the gold metal later without ceremony."
message from Cy Prendes (June 2013)
I remember the 1968 tournament called "Mexico 68", some of the players for the USA team were: Gary Sanserino (ss), Victor Ambrose (2b) Glenn Redmon (3b) Larry Pyle (outfield) Vince Adimando (cf) Mike Rowosinsky (+ -) Larry Gura (p) Brent Strom (p) Mark Marquess (1b) Steve Rogers (P). The incident was while hitting Felix Rosas from the Cuban team and was the end of the ball game. Sanserino hit a homerun against Liaño in that game and also was picked up on first. Rowosinsky pinch hit for Pyle and was the key for the victory. Also in that game there was a ground ball hit to third that the cubans said hit the runner in fair territory (was Lenny Randle the runner?). The cuban manager was Juan Gómez and was strongly criticized in Cuba when he changed the pitchers (Huelga for Liaño).
I received this email from Gary:
"For some reason documentation of the 1968 Mexico Olympic demonstration event of baseball is hard, maybe impossible to find! I know that it occurred because I was a member of the tournament winning US team. Danny Litwhiller (University of Michigan) and Frank Sancet (University of Arizona) headed up our coaching staff. Both were legends in the college ranks. We beat Cuba twice during the tournament. I'm very proud to say that with two out in the bottom of the ninth I had a walk off the field base hit to win the first one. The second game against Cuba was really something. We were beating the Cuban handily when many of their players stormed the stands. The entire stadium erupted in a melee in no time. As you probably know, the 1968 games were very violent and our tournament was no exception."
I received an email from Gus in April 2009, who was also a member of the baseball team at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City:
"I remember the riot that day we were playing our last game against Cuba. At one time I had pictures of the riot but cannot find them."
I also received a message from Rik who was on the team, and he mentioned another player from the team was Larry Gura.
Also: "Hey my health teacher Gus Bell was in that game. That is so cool, he must of been good" (from Timmy Beacham, Sep 2011)
a message from Gary Sanserino (May 2012)
" ... interestingly, it was a round robin tournament. Best that I can recall it was USA, Mexico, Cuba, Japan, and one other country. Brent Strom is another former Major Leaguer. More details to follow as I try to locate the old clippings."
and this from Peter:
There is a comment posted from a Gary (above), apparently a baseball player, 1968 Mexico Olympics. I am completing research on an article that identifies different Olympic baseballs by model number, 1904 - 2008. We digress on Olympic match and Pre-Olympic match play. This 1968 "tournament" is a revelation!
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