Baseball Demonstrations at the Olympics

Baseball has had a long history of competition in various forms at the Olympic Games. Early on it was included as a demonstration sport only, with it not achieving full sport status until 1992, and being dropped again after 2008. However, baseball is back on the program for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (but unfortunately not for 2024).

Baseball was first played at the 1904 Games in St Louis, although little was recorded of this event (see comment below). lists Washington University was the winners of the tournament

In 1912 at Stockholm, an American team played against the host country Sweden, a match at the Östermalm Athletic Grounds on July 15th. The US team was made up of volunteers from the track & field team, the Swedes were represented by a local club Vesteras. Eight Olympic medalists took part in the game. The USA won the game 13-3. On the next day two American teams played a second exhibition match. This second match included Olympic great Jim Thorpe (the previous day's game had clashed with his decathlon event). See other demonstration sports for 1912.

Baseball Demonstration at the 1912 Olympic Games Baseball Demonstration at the 1912 Olympic Games (Sweden batting).
from: The Fifth Olympiad: The Official Report of the Olympic Games of Stockholm 1912, published in 1913.

In 1924 in Paris there was baseball played as part of the children's games and sports demonstration.

In 1936 Berlin, two American teams played each other. The squad of American players were divided into two teams, the "World Champions" and the "U.S. Olympics". The World Champions won 6-5.

The 1952 Helsinki event was a modified form of the sport, called Pesäpallo (Finnish baseball), played by two Finnish teams: the Finnish Baseball Federation and the Finnish Workers' Sports Federation. The Finnish Baseball Federation won 8-4.

At the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, baseball was one of two demonstration sports. Australia played a one-game exhibition against the United States. The Americans beat the Aussies, 11-5. The other demonstration sport that year was Australian Rules Football.

An all star Japanese team played a one-game exhibition against the a team of United States college players in 1964 Tokyo. USA won 6-2.

Baseball was also played as a demonstration sport at the 1968 Olympics, in Mexico City. The teams involved were USA, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

After Mexico, there was a break of 16 years before baseball returned to the Olympics. For the first time, in 1984, the sport was played in a tournament format, though still as a demonstration event. In this event, Japan defeated the United States in the final.

In 1988, US and Japan met again in the final, with Team USA the winner.

Baseball became an "official" sport at the 1992 Olympics, with the familiar eight-team tournament. For more information, see Baseball at the Olympic Games. Baseball was dropped from the 2012 Games though is back on the program for just the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Some Comments about the 1904 Game

an email from Phil:

"Although an amateur baseball tournament was SCHEDULED in September 1904 at Francis Field in St. Louis, there seems to be no documentation that this tournament was ever actually held, in either the official Olympic history or in any of the St. Louis newspapers for that month. Do you have any such documentation or evidence that the 1904 Olympic baseball tournament was ever actually held?"

Some Comments about the 1968 Tournament

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 critized 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."

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!

Another reader also asks if the games in 1968 were played at Social Security Stadium in Mexico City?

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)

"Peter: 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."

from Mickey Knight (Aug 2021)

"Was given your article on 1968 Baseball Olympic Exhibition Team. I was a pitcher on that team and would be pleased to share information and memories if you are interested. "


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