Baseball as American Military Footprint

world baseball classic

World Baseball Classic
So Korea got a little bit of revenge against Japan by beating them 1-0 to take the Pool A title, after being humiliated by 12 points in their first game. That was a night after taking out their frustration against China for a 14-0 whupping. That must have been cathartic. I wasn’t able to see the 1-0 game because I was at work. That was the close tight game that I expected in their first meeting.

I’ve never seen so many games end in mercy rules during this tournament (four so far). And it was shocking to see the Dominican Republic be taken out twice by the Netherlands. The Domincans were my pick to win this whole thing. Now? I’m not so sure.

World Baseball?
Even though the tournament is supposed to be global, spanning continents, countries like the Netherlands, South Africa, Italy and Australia were supposed to be sacrificial lambs. But there’s the Dutch beating the best team in the tournament twice. Australia beat Mexico in Mexico, and went toe to toe with powerhouse Cuba. Even Italy beat Canada.

When I looked at the rosters for these teams, I found that most of the Italians are actually Italian-Americans. And most of the Dutch are from Curacao, the Antilles and other Dutch possessions in the Caribbean. So all in all, baseball is still a North American (which includes the Caribbean) and East Asian game.

Geographically, baseball’s popularity seems to overlap with America’s sphere of influence. South Korea and Japan both still have a large US military presence. And the history of the Caribbean is littered with American intervention. Even Cuba still has a large US naval base.

I doubt Iraq or Afghanistan will have pickup baseball games any time soon. The sport of choice for most American soldiers now seems to be basketball (to play) and football (to watch).

For baseball to be popular I posit that the US military presence has to have existed during the 50’s and before. But I wonder why baseball hasn’t caught on in Germany or the Philippines, places where there were major US military bases during that period? Or maybe it’s popular in those places and I just don’t know about it.

Photo: Jung Keun Bong allowed three hits over 5 1/3 shutout innings. (Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)