In the 1800s, a new sport gained popularity in the United States. Baseball would become one of the biggest and most popular sports not only in the US but across the globe.
With its popularity, you might think that baseball has been in the Olympics for a while. However, it turns out that the game wasn’t included in the Olympics until the 1990s.
Baseball still has a storied history with the Olympic Games. Next, we will look at baseball at the Olympics and everything you need to know about it and the future of the sport in the Olympic Games.
The Early Years
Back in the 1800s, a new sport found its way into the parks and streets of America.
It wasn’t long before this new fad was being called America’s favorite pastime.
Why it became so popular is a question that can be answered a million different ways, but one thing was for sure – it was not going anywhere.
The Next Phase
It would bring many legendary players into the limelight. People like Willie Mays and Ty Cobb were crucial in the growth of the sport over the decades.
After the sport found its fanatical fanbase, what was next for the sport? As with many other popular sports and sporting events, the next step was the biggest stage of all…the Olympics.
Years Of Exhibition
From the 1800s into the beginning of the 20th century, baseball became one of the most popular sports in the US.
In 1904, it started its climb to becoming a recognized Olympic sport. In this year, the sport made its exhibition debut at the Games.
Unfortunately, the sport just wasn’t as energy-packed as the fans in the Olympic stands had thought it would be.
Baseball would reappear in 1912, and it got the same fan reaction. For the next few decades, wars would interrupt the process, but in the 50s, baseball made a comeback.
Still Not In the Olympics!
Even with many decades under baseball’s belt, the exhibitions did not yield the result that was hoped for.
The Olympic board continued to exclude the sport from the roster of sports that were present at the games. Luckily, the 80s would change their mind.
After 100 Years…
In 1992, the Olympics were held in Barcelona, and for the first time, baseball was included on the list of official events.
After years of exhibitions, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the sport would find its way onto the main roster.
As baseball prepared for its debut, many began to predict who the favorite teams were and who would be in contention for the medals.
Many felt the American team was a top-tier team, but many other teams had made that list, as well.
The Teams To Watch
Most of the predictions were quite accurate. The final teams were Japan, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, and the US.
It was thought that the US and Japan would make it to the finals, but they both lost. In the end, Chinese Taipei walked away with the very first gold medal in baseball.
1996 – Atlanta
The first foray into the Olympics was very successful for baseball, so four years later, it would be on the roster yet again.
In 1996, baseball would once again shine in the home of one of its biggest fan bases – the US. Most felt that the home-field advantage in Atlanta would give the US their first gold.
However, Cuba eventually came out on top and took home the gold. It appeared that Cuba was a strong contender for professional leagues to scout from.
This result was disappointing for fans of the US team.
How Did the US Team Do?
Fans of the US team didn’t have to be too bitter, though. The team did walk away with a medal.
The team came in third and brought home a bronze medal. The silver went to Japan, and with this, the three big teams were essentially cemented.
2000 – Sydney
Four years later, the players and teams went down under for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
The Australians made their way into the rankings but did not fare very well in the standings. However, the big three – Japan, the US, and Cuba – did well once again.
Japan ended up with the silver medal again after beating the South Korean team. There seemed to be a new team that might need to be added to the big teams in Olympic baseball.
Cuba didn’t medal, but they were part of the final four teams.
Finally, the Gold!
After three outings at the Olympics, the US finally captured that elusive gold medal after defeating Cuba in a 4-0 shutout.
Japan came in second to win the silver, and South Korea took the bronze. The US team was now able to truly claim that baseball was the nation’s pastime.
2004 – Athens
It seemed like baseball was on a roll and would become a permanent fixture at the games, and it returned to Athens for the 2004 games.
After a poor performance in their home country, Australia actually mediated in Athens. They would go up against Cuba in the finals.
Cuba would walk away with the gold, which would leave Australia taking the silver medal. Third place went to Japan.
This seemed like a strange trio because one major name was missing. Where was the US team?
Americans Didn’t Make It!
The US team did not qualify and was unable to field a team at the Athens games. They lost their bid for the games in a 1-0 defeat to Mexico.
This defeat left the field open according to some experts for the Australians to find their first medal in the sport.
2008 – Beijing
The US team would not miss out on the next Olympic Games in 2008, though. They would qualify and take their talents to the beautiful city of Beijing.
Though they would not win gold, the US team would walk away with a bronze medal.
The final game ended up being between Cuba and South Korea. After a competitive game, the Cuban team was dethroned.
South Korea won their second Olympic medal in baseball, this time taking away the gold.
Was This the Last Game?
In both the 2012 and 2016 games, baseball was left off the roster. It would seem to many that baseball’s time in the games was over.
But it was announced that the sport would return at the 2020 Tokyo games.
This made fans and players exceedingly happy and ready to show the world again just how exciting the sport is.
Will It Be In the Next Olympics?
You may want to get your fill of baseball, though, because the games in Paris in 2024 have already begun giving out the list of games to expect at these games.
The IOC began giving details of the new sports that will be added to the roster, and baseball was not amongst them.
Baseball is popular, but the committee feels that there are other sports that deserve a little more spotlight, such as skateboarding, surfing, break dancing, and sport climbing.
There are only so many slots available, and there were some sports that couldn’t make the list.
Not On the List!
Unfortunately, one sport that didn’t make the list is baseball. This decision was due to the new additions, as well as the venue itself.
France does not have a big baseball presence, which makes it difficult to organize a tournament that is not going to garner much attention or sales.
Conflicts In Scheduling
Other factors make it difficult to include baseball in the summer games. In the US, the MLB season is a summertime sport.
Because of this conflict, many of the higher-ups in the baseball industry feel it is not ideal for their players to participate in the Olympics.
The MLB commissioner made a statement about the Olympic Games and the inclusion of professional baseball players.
He discussed the number of players that would be absent from their teams and the effects of that on the season and the games.
Words From the Commissioner
Along with this concern, he also discussed the idea of taking a break in the middle of the season.
He stated that the impact of losing team members during the season would be hard.
But there was no way that the owners would support a mid-season break, as it would mess with the flow of the season.
Gone But Not For Good
Does its absence from the roster in 2024 mean that baseball is done for good?
It has been an inconsistent member of the roster for the last two decades, and it looks like it will continue having this relationship with the games.
It may depend on the location of the games. If there are limited facilities, then it is likely that baseball will be left off the list of sports.
This seems to be one of the biggest points of contention in the commission’s decision.
What About 2028?
What does that mean for 2028, when the games are set to be in the US.? The chosen city is Los Angeles, and there are several major stadiums in the area.
For baseball lovers, you can almost be certain that baseball will make a comeback in those games.
The history of baseball in the Olympic games is kind of a roller coaster ride, but because of its popularity, we are sure that the relationship will continue even if it is on and off.
As long as people clamor to sit in the stands and watch the game, it seems that the Olympic commission will continue considering it for the roster of events.