International baseball competitions have a long and varied history, with the Olympics in the amateur years as well as several precursors to the current format.
Since the inception of the World Baseball Classic in response to the International Olympic Committee’s decision to abolish baseball as an Olympic sportfour tournaments were held.
The first WBC was held in 2006 and saw Japan defeat Cuba in the final to become the first champions of this new competition. Conceived as a four-year event modeled on the Olympic Games and World Cup, the next competition was postponed to 2009, just three years after the first event, to find a better gap on the international calendar. Japan defeated South Korea in the final, becoming the only nation to have successfully retained its WBC title.
The 2013 WBC defeated the Dominican Republic Puerto Rico in a thrilling final crowning the best team in the tournament as champions while four years later The United States would take home its first title at the 2017 games when they confidently defeated Puerto Rico in the final.
Covid and the global pandemic the scheduled games for 2021 have been postponed and are now back after a six-year break. Great memories are sure to be made and here is a list of ten of the best so far.
Final 2009: Japan 5-3 South Korea (10 innings)
It’s impossible to overstate the drama that unfolded in that final game. Two even teams met and went into the extra innings when Bum-ho knocked Lee in the ninth heat for a tie. The legendary Ichiro Suzuki returned a rope straight to the middle with a runner on and two outs to give Japan their second title.
2009 second round: USA 6-5 Puerto Rico
One of the most iconic moments in WBC history is the when David Wright hit a walk-off two-run single into right field to give USA the win. Emotions ran high as Puerto Rico had humiliated the USA in the opening round with a Mercy Rule defeat and that win just days later sealed the Americans’ entry into the semifinals.
2017 semifinals: Puerto Rico 4-3 Netherlands (11 innings)
Extra-inning games are always exciting, but this one was twice as exciting. The Netherlands had an early lead and Puerto Rico led the defense. as Yadier Molina managed but not select one two Runners off on the bases. On the 11th, Eddie Rosario’s deep stall scored Carlos Correa in the middle to give Puerto Rico a trip back to the finals.
First round 2017: Italy – Mexico 10:9
Mexico had lost to Italy in their miserable performance in 2013 and were determined not to let that happen again. In front of their home crowd, the Mexicans took a 9-5 lead in the ninth. only to watch Italy stage a stunning comeback and hit five runs in the bottom half of the inning and capped it off with a two-run John Andreoli walk-off single.
2006 second round: Mexico 2-1 United States
The USA were heavily favored and Mexico had to step up a notch to meet them. They did, keeping the Yanks on just three hits and one run while Mexico ran through their bullpen in the effort. On the other hand, Team USA manager Buck Martinez pulled off seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens with two ons and an out, and Jorge Cantu prevailed on Reliever Scot Shields’ go-ahead run.
First round 2017: Israel 2-1 South Korea (10 innings)
Israel were the Cinderella story of the last competition, like them qualified for the first time ever and pulled off a major coup by taking on South Korea in Seoul. The Israelis would then defeat Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands to get out of Group A, but that first major win against South Korea set the tone.
1st round 2009: Netherlands 2-1 Dominican Republic (11 innings)
The Dominican Republic were heavily favored in the 2009 tournament and featured big stars like Robinson Canó, David Ortiz and Hanley Ramírez, but the Netherlands had other plans. After the DR’s first game was picked up, the loser of that second meeting would go home. Both were Pitch perfect by 10 and then traded runs on 11. Ultimately, it was a bobbled ball at first base that made the winning goal possible.
First round 2017: Dominican Republic 10-3 Colombia (11 innings)
Desperate to win, the Dominican Republic put up a mighty fight against a solid Colombian side and nearly lost in game nine A laser-precise throw from left field by José Bautista and Welington Castillo’s play on the plate prevented Oscar Mercado from sealing the win for the Colombians. Two extra innings went by before the Dominican at-bats came to life and put down seven runs at Colombia for a win that was much closer than the result would suggest.
2013 semifinals: Puerto Rico 3-1 Japan
Japan were two-time defending champions and looked for all the world to see through their third competition in a similar vein. However, Puerto Rico was determined to end hopes of a three-peat. The game was a close contest, with the difference between the two teams coming down to a double Alex Rios home run in the seventh.
Second round 2017: USA 6-3 Dominican Republic
The USA would eventually win the 2017 tournament in a one-sided final against Puerto Rico, but before that came the really tasty bite on the Americans’ way to the final in the second round, when they faced the defending champions The Dominican Republic. Best remembered for Adam Jones’ legendary robbery of a Manny Machado home run, which would have ended the game in seventh place. Robinson Canó brought the Dominicans closer with a solo shot, but the Americans added a few more in the eight to reassure themselves.