The WBC: A Long Time Coming

As this fascinating interview makes clear, attempts to spread the gospel of baseball to the four corners of this planet date back to the 19th century, and today’s WBC has more than a few things in common with those first forays abroad. Spalding’s World Tour will have pride of place on our bookshelf. Highly recommended for yours.

17 comments… add one
  • good interview.
    Here’s a question re: this post. Is the WBC really an attempt, like Spalding’s tour was, “to spread the gospel of baseball to the four corners of this planet” or is it an attempt to spread American major league baseball across the globe. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Spalding’s trip, which I know was based in mercenary interests, introduced the game anew to different areas of the world. A beautiful thing in my mind. But, I look at the WBC and I see Mexico, Venezuela, Asia, all these areas in which baseball is pretty popular. Isn’t this a case of preaching to the converted? And more cynically,isn’t this a case of MLB (somewhat late in the game by the way) getting a piece of these receptive markets at the expense of local leagues? Or is the WBC bringing the game of baseball to uninitiated parts? And while I understand why a business like baseball should do this for reasons of self-interest, is it really as noble an endeavor as Spalding’s tour seemed to be?

    NickYF March 6, 2006, 5:09 pm
  • Well, I don’t know how “noble” that Spalding tour was. He was looking to develop territories for foreign investment, and his primary targets were really the Australian territories, and to a lesser extent England. There was never really any serious belief it would catch on in what we consider the third world, or even non-english-speaking nations. Playing before the pyramids, the Coliseum, the Eiffel Tower; those events were all publicity stunts intended to keep the game in the American press during the offseason, and also to emphasize the “Americanness” of the game, by force of juxtaposition.
    While it is no doubt true the League has been slow to embrace Latin American and Asian baseball, I’m not sure why we should look only with a cynical eye toward the movement to do so now. More than 40 percent of players under MLB contract (major and minor leaguers) are foreign born. To me, that’s positive—though the labor conditions could use a lot of work. And keep in mind that this is also very much intended to spread the game in Asia, especially in China, a potentially enormous pool of untapped interest.

    YF March 6, 2006, 5:33 pm
  • What he said.

    SF March 6, 2006, 6:43 pm
  • The problem is that it’s been so badly done, which is what we’ve come to expect from Bud Selig, the used car salesman (literally).
    When John Norquist was Mayor of Milwaukee, he tried to work with Selig to bring the Brewers downtown and to hire a good architect. It was like talking to a brick wall. (Norquist is the President of the Congress for the New Urbanism, author of the book The Economy of Cities, client of Santiago Calatrava, and client of Phil Bess, of City Baseball Magic fame).
    In Europe, they do this right. All the soccer teams are involved in national and European tournaments, in addition to their league championships. So that every year, there is a European champion, determined when the teams are at full strength.
    Of course the fact that baseball is played almost every night makes that more complicated, but if Selig can’t deal with things like that, why are they paying him the big bucks? ($5 million a year a few years ago, and presumably more now.)

    john March 6, 2006, 7:58 pm
  • Well, not the best thread but very sad news about Kirby Puckett.

    walein March 6, 2006, 8:42 pm
  • John: The WBC has nothing to do with Selig’s stadium issues. And maybe you’d be better off not prejudging the success of this tournament.

    YF March 6, 2006, 10:33 pm
  • I still find it amazing that the Netherlands, Italy and South Africa are fielding teams. That’s really pushing it IMHO.

    Joe in NYC March 7, 2006, 12:22 am
  • The WBC has nothing to do with Selig’s stadium issues.
    WBC = mismanagement by Selig
    Brewers = mismanagement by Selig
    I’m not sure why you’re so attached to this, YF, that you seem to think others are being ridiculous to hold other opinions.
    And maybe you’d be better off no prejudging the success of this tournament.
    Yes, Godfather.

    john March 7, 2006, 10:43 am
  • Even though I love to blame Selig for stuff, complications in the WBC aren’t really his fault. In his defense, there is a lot of prima-donna resistance from owners and players. It’s to be expected the first time out. After this generation of players retires, I think we’ll find that more players will be looking at it as obligatory simply because the tourney has been around. The ‘it messes up my spring routine’ excuse will fade because it will be a part of the spring routine.
    If we want to look at FIFA and the World Cup as an example we need to understand that when it began in 1930, soccer was exclusively a European/South American game. Even though every World Cup champion since then has been from those two continents, the tournament is still responsible for spreading the game to North America, Asia and Africa. Look at what hosting the tournament did for soccer in the US. We went from being nothing in the 80s to being currently ranked ahead of many European countries (via FIFA’s rankings), including England. We’ve also launched a domestic league as well as seeing many more of our players playing for top European teams. So, I think that while we’re preaching to the converted in some instances, baseball can still make significant inroads in those regions where it isn’t the number one sport, like say Mexico or Italy.
    And NickYF, in response to issues you raised yesterday, I can, in fact, say with 90% certainty that this tourney is a historical inevitability. While it is controversial in this country, the response is off the charts in others – and in that sense john, it’s already successful. MLB is committed to it over the long haul (and that’s really the only thing that matters) even though some in this country view it with skepticism. The key trend that will carry the tourney is that the number of foreign born players in MLB is rising each year.
    And again, I raise the World Series and the All Star game as exhibition games that were bashed initially for similar reasons. Now they are MLB institutions. To lump this tournament into the same category as failed sports leagues, which economically depend upon an entire different set of factors than a 2 week, once every 4 year international tournament, is erroneous. I would point to NBA players’ involvement in international basketball and what that has done for the NBA as a more accurate forecaster than the XFL and failed basketball(?) leagues.

    lp March 7, 2006, 10:54 am
  • Great points, LP.

    YF March 7, 2006, 10:57 am
  • YF, John’s new object of scorn. Prepare yourself for the illogic. Who says there’s no God?!
    lp makes some excellent points, we’re with YF on this one, and we’re also happy to find another footie-knowledgable commenter here. MLB would do well to learn from FIFA’s experience regarding their strategies towards the international growth of the sport, while bearing in mind that the beautiful game also suffers from seasons that are too long, minor international and in-league tournaments that are far too frequent, and troublesome synergistic coordination issues between national club leagues and the aforementioned international competitions. FIFA has a monstrous job as the umbrella organization for a sport far more popular than baseball, so by comparative scale MLB should be able to learn well from that organization’s successes and failures.

    SF March 7, 2006, 11:15 am
  • Anyway, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Or is it putting? No idea. But we do know this: the DR takes on Venezuela today at 1. Then the US vs. Mexico at 4. We’ll be watching. USA!

    YF March 7, 2006, 11:33 am
  • lp, good points, although the only thing we can be 90%-100% certain about is the historical inevitability of the Yanks winning the world series in 2006 (despite Bud Selig’s best attempts to thwart George’s grand plan). Yeah, you might have noticed that I don’t have a strong opinion either way on the WBC. I could be converted in due time, but as of right now I’m not excited about the games. Though, it’s true, as the author of Spalding’s Tour and Neyer both say, these games beat the hell out of the dull Month of March when Barry Bonds dressed in drag is the high point.

    NickYF March 7, 2006, 11:38 am
  • the dull Month of March
    Written like a true non-college basketball fan. Is that accurate?

    SF March 7, 2006, 11:43 am
  • oops! I forgot about that. I’m a non-college basketball fan but there’s nothing as good as that tournament. I have no rooting interest in any team except for the underdog.

    NickYF March 7, 2006, 11:46 am
  • SF –

    john March 7, 2006, 11:49 am
  • I’ve basically been doing nothing to speak of. Basically nothing seems worth thinking about. I feel like a void, but that’s how it is. I’ve just been hanging out doing nothing.

    surface September 23, 2007, 6:12 pm

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