Wednesday, May 6, 2015

1961 World Baseball Cup

The third tournament was awarded to what many people considered the 3rd strongest baseball nation. The games would be split between the newly built Estadio Hiram Bithorn in San Juan, and the Estadio Francisco Montaner in Ponce. Hiram Bithorn is one of 4 stadiums that have hosted group play twice.

The qualifying was a major talking point in 1960. The year prior saw the WBC staple Cubans turn communist. Dwight D Eisenhower wrote a letter to the IBF president to ban the Cubans from competing, especially since Major League Baseball has such a voice in the IBF, and would be hosting the tournament some time in the near future. The Cubans were given an indefinite ban. Elsewhere, the Nicaraguans put together a national team in an attempt to qualify for the 1961 tournament. The North American and Latin American teams that finish last in their group would be matched up with Japan in the playoff. Japan was without a confederation, and the best option was to travel and play in a play in game.

The tournament saw the two favorites matched up in Group A. The host Puerto Rican team couldn't slow the American bats in an 8-1 win to open. The Americans went on to set the record for runs scored in group play. In Group B, Japan was the only team that finished with a different record than 1-2. Canada, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic beat up on eachother, with the Dominican's advancing on runs scored. The Americans looked unstoppable when they beat the Dominicans 10-2 to advance to the finals, a rematch with the Puerto Ricans. The Puerto Ricans held the US to 3 runs, and hit a walk off bloop single to become the first team outside of the USA to win the World Baseball Cup.

Only a few changes uniform wise. The Venezuelans would be wearing their pinstripes with the V cap logo on the chest. The Dominicans went with a weird uniform, that inspired the Seattle Pilots 8 years later. Finally, after being asked by the IBF officials, the Japanese decided to put "Japan" on the chest of their jersies. They dropped the piping and made the road uniforms a sand color.

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