Thursday, May 21, 2015

1973 World Baseball Cup

This was a big event for the WBC. Venezuela was the first host in South America, showing a sign of growth for the sport of baseball. Dave Concepcion was the face of Venezuelan baseball, and he did all he could to promote the event. In the 1972 qualifying, two teams were added from the last version. Cuba was once again reinstated, but by a baseball fan in Miami from Cuba. The team would be based out of Miami, and would compete in the North American division from now on. It gave MLB players a chance to play for their country of origin, and the WBC would get another team to compete, and wouldn't have to deal with upsetting any of their democratic allies. The team was weak in 1972 due to the small player pool, and wouldn't qualify for the tournament. Israel began competing in the World division, with a big amount of their players being Jewish minor leaguers. When all said and done, the same 8 teams made the tournament for the 3rd straight time.

Two teams really shocked the world in this tournament. Going into the tournament, The USA and Venezuela were considered favorites. The Venezuelans lost to Japan in the opener, but salvaged group play with 2 wins. But the Canadians went on to beat the Dominicans and Japanese to advance to the knock out round for the first time. The USA and Panama emerged as the two best teams in Group B. The Panamanians were able to beat the USA in the 3rd game of group play, thanks to a big traveling fan base. Puerto Rico had a hard time coping with the loss of Roberto Clemente, and only one the final game against Mexico.

The USA and Venezuela fought in the first round, and the Venezuelans overpowered the Americans and assured that there would be a new champion crowned. Panama played Canada and won, setting up a Concepcion vs Carew final. The hometown Venezuelans won in Caracas, earning their first and only championship.

The 70s marked a new era of uniforms. Pull over shirts and stretchy pants loosened up the jerseys. Some teams carried over the previous look onto a new style, those are Canada, Mexico, and Panama. The rest almost completely rebrand. The Dominicans went to navy from the royal blue they had been wearing. Japan went with pinstripes and new logos. The Puerto Ricans wore their infamous "spoon" uniforms, complete with a tri-color cap. The USA also had tri-color caps with the uniforms they would wear the next 5 tournaments, one of the most iconic looks in WBC history. Finally, the host and champions made their uniforms more colorful and nationalistic with maroon and the flag colors.

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