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Template:Infobox Olympic sport Baseball at the Summer Olympics had its unofficial debut at the 1904 Summer Games and its official sport at the 1992 Summer Olympics. Baseball has a long history as an exhibition/demonstration sport in the Olympics. However, for 1992 Barcelona the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted the sport medal status. Olympic baseball is governed by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF).
At the IOC meeting on July 7, 2005, baseball and softball were voted out of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, becoming the first sport voted out of the Olympics since polo was eliminated from the 1936 Olympics. The event was last played in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing with South Korea taking the gold. The elimination will excise 16 teams and more than 300 athletes from the 2012 Olympics. The two slots left available by the IOC's elimination were subsequently filled by golf and rugby sevens. This decision was reaffirmed on February 9, 2006.
Although little was recorded, Olympic baseball first appeared in 1904 St. Louis. Eight years later in 1912 Stockholm, a United States team played against host Sweden, winning 13-3. In 1936 Berlin, two United States teams played each other before approximately 90,000 spectators at the Reichsportsfeld. The 1952 Helsinki event was a modified form of the sport, Finnish baseball, played by two Finnish teams. Australia played a one-game exhibition against the United States in 1956 Melbourne and Japan did the same in 1964 Tokyo. With a crowd of nearly 114,000 spectators, this game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground held the record for the highest attended baseball game ever until a 2008 American exhibition game in Los Angeles.
After a twenty-year hiatus, Olympic baseball (labelled an exhibition sport/event by the IOC) returned but with tournament formatting (1984 Los Angeles). In 1988 Seoul, it was termed a demonstration sport. Japan defeated the United States in the inaugural tournament finale in 1984. However, in 1988, the United States won over Japan.
Baseball became an official sport at the 1992 Summer Olympics, with the familiar eight team tournament. Players were required to be amateurs. The tournament consisted of a round-robin, in which teams played each of the other teams, followed by semifinals and finals. The format of the competition remained the same after that, with the only major change being that starting in 2000 players were not required to be amateurs.
The host nation was always guaranteed a place in the Olympic baseball tournament. The other seven places were generally determined by continental qualifying tournaments. For the 2008 Games, the Americas received two places, Europe received one place, and Asia received one place.
The final three places were given to the top three nations at an eight-team tournament held after the continental tournaments. Qualification for this tournament was determined by those continental tournaments. The third and fourth place American teams, second and third place European teams, second and third place Asian teams, first place African team, and first place Oceania team competed in that tournament.
This qualification tournament was new for 2008. It was created after heavy criticism of the previous qualification standard. In previous Olympics, only two teams from the Americas were able to qualify for the Olympics, despite the fact that the vast majority of the top baseball-playing nations in the world came from this region. Europe, whose baseball nations were substantially weaker, also entered two teams.
Olympic baseball was nearly identical to most professional baseball. Aluminium bats were disallowed after 1996 Atlanta. There was also a mercy rule that was invoked if a team was winning by 10 or more runs after 7 innings (or 6.5 innings if the home team was leading). For Sydney 2000, rosters were expanded to 24 players.
The tournament consisted of a round-robin preliminary round in which each team played all 7 of the other teams. Only the top four teams advanced to the medals round. In that round, semifinals were played between the 1st/4th place teams and the 2nd/3rd place teams. The semifinal losers then played a bronze medal game, with the winner earning the medal and the loser receiving 4th place. The semifinal winners played in the final, which awarded the winner a gold medal and the loser a silver medal.
During the 2008 games a unique rule went into effect during games which went into extra innings. If the game was still tied after the completion of the tenth inning base runners were automatically placed on first and second base with no outs. IBAF created this rule to encourage scoring late in the game in order to determine a winner and to address criticisms from the IOC that a baseball game's length was unpredictable.
Elimination as Olympic sportEdit
Speculation over reasons for removal of baseball and softball from the Olympic games include, but may not be limited to:
- The IOC's anger at American Major League Baseball "for refusing to suspend the season and allow Major League Baseball players to participate in the Olympics
- "Conspiring" by IOC President Jacques Rogge
- The "domination of American women in softball"
- "A lack of fan support"
- The way Major League Baseball tests and punishes its players for drugs
- The unpredictable length of baseball games
- A pro-Europe bias of the IOC
- An anti-American bias of the IOC
The following 16 nations took part in the baseball competition one or more times. The numbers in the table refer to the final rank of each team in each tournament.
|Baseball at the Summer Olympics|
| 1912* • 1920-1932 • 1936* • 1948 • 1952* • 1956* • 1960 • 1964* • 1968-1980 • 1984* • 1988* • 1992 • 1996 • 2000 • 2004 • 2008|
* Demonstration sports at these Games
See also: List of Olympic medalists in baseball