Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network)-
Abner Doubleday was the first to be officially recognized as the creator of baseball, but recent evidence may prove otherwise. Doubleday is credited with coming up for the rules of baseball in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York, the current site of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
However, mention of the game was reported in 1744 in London in John Newbery's, A Pretty Little Pocket-Book. In 1825 the Delhi (N.Y.) Gazette reported about a baseball challenge for $1 per game.
Although the rules of baseball have consistently changed since the mid 1800s, the basic knowledge of the game is simple. Teams each get a chance to play the field and also receive a turn at bat in an inning, of which there is at least nine per game.
The first year baseball was added to the Olympic schedule was 1992. Cuba won the gold medal both in Barcelona and in the 1996 Games in Atlanta, while the Americans won in 2000.
Eight teams will compete in the Olympics this year. They are: Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Cuba, Canada, Taiwan, Japan and Australia.
The games will be played on two fields at the Hellinikon Olympic Complex. One field will have a seating capacity of 9,000, while the other holds 4,000 spectators.
In 2000, Tommy Lasorda managed the U.S. team to the gold medal in Sydney and the Americans were among the favorites to repeat their title in Greece. Except, the U.S. failed to qualify for the Olympics losing to Mexico 2-1 last November in the quarterfinals of the Americas qualifying event.
|Simon Pond is among the notable younger players on Canada's roster.|
Canada did qualify, settling for a silver medal in the Americas qualifying, losing the final to Cuba, 5-0. It's the first time since 1988 that Canada has qualified for the Olympics, but then it was not a medal sport.
"This is a tremendous time for Baseball Canada and we are very excited about our Olympic team," said Ray Carter, the association's president. "The Olympic Games are the pinnacle of competition and to represent our country this summer is a great honor we hold very dear."
A total of 17 players on the team and the entire coaching and support staff are returning together after participating in the Olympic qualification tournament in Panama. The manager is Ernie Whitt, who played 15 seasons in the majors, most notably for the Blue Jays, from 1977-89.
Some of the notable younger players on Canada's roster are Simon Pond (27) of the Blue Jays, and Aaron Myette (26). Former major leaguers outfielder Rob Ducey and pitcher Paul Spoljaric are also on the roster.
Cuba has dominated the competition at the Olympics, winning the gold medal in 1992 and '96, before being shut out, 4-0 in the title game in 2000.
Japan and Taiwan will represent Asia in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games as a result of respectively winning the gold and silver medals from the Asian Championship. Japan was the silver medalist in 1996 and nearly won the bronze medal in 2000 but lost to South Korea. Taiwan won the silver in 1992.
By Eric Gold, Olympic Contributing Editor