NEW YORK -- The International Olympic Committee delivered a
shocking message to baseball and softball on Friday: Yer out!
The two sports were kicked out of the Olympics, unwanted by
international sports officials who felt they were too American for
the world sports stage.
The decision, made during a secret vote in Singapore, is
effective for the 2012 London Games, meaning the two sports will
have a final fling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The sports, the
first eliminated since polo in 1936, are eligible to reapply for
the 2016 Games.
Baseball and softball are out for 2012 but should golf and rugby be in?
Vote: What would you drop?
U.S. women won all three gold medals since softball joined the
Olympics, at the 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Games.
American pitcher Lisa Fernandez, a three-time gold medalist, blamed
the decision on IOC president Jacques Rogge.
"Rogge has basically conspired against the sports to get them
removed. We had done our job as a sport world wide to show we
belong," she said. "I feel one person, the president of the IOC,
a person from Europe, has taken it upon himself to ruin the lives
of millions, actually billions of women."
Crystl Bustos, who hit a record five homers during the 2004
Olympics, said the one-sidedness of the softball tournament should
not have been used as a factor. The Americans outscored opponents
"If that did play a role in the decision, then that's pretty
pathetic," she said. "I don't mean to cut anybody down, but it's
supposed to be the best of the best, and if you get knocked for
your excellence, then that's just not right."
Two-time gold medal-winning infielder Dot Richardson said the
Olympic dream "was ripped away from the 126 countries that play
the sport of softball, that just vanished."
"I've always seen in athletics an anti-American sentiment
throughout the world. Most of it is through jealousy or envy," she
said. "I just don't know if this had anything to do with that."
Jennie Finch, the U.S. team's star who pitched two shutouts in
Athens, was shocked by the news.
"It's devastating and heartbreaking, all combined," she said.
"Especially because the sport's at an all-time high right now. I
know it's devastating for the young girls.
"We're going to do all we can to get the sport back for 2016."
Baseball was a demonstration sport at the 1984 Los Angeles Games
and 1988 Seoul Games and became a medal sport in 1992 at Barcelona,
where Cuba won the gold. The Cubans beat Japan in the 1996 final at
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where the 32 games had an average
attendance of 28,749.
While professionals were first allowed to participate in 2000,
major league baseball didn't allow players on 40-man major league
rosters to go. The U.S. team won the gold, led by former Dodgers
manager Tommy Lasorda and current Milwaukee pitcher Ben Sheets, but
the Americans didn't even qualify for the Athens Games, eliminated
with a 2-1 loss to Mexico in a qualifier.
"I think they've made a big, big mistake," Lasorda said.
"Baseball is played by all countries now, and softball, too. I
think that's really going to hurt the Olympics."
Cuba won in Athens for its third gold medal in four tries.
"That's like the World Series for people here," Chicago White
Sox pitcher Jose Contreras, who played for Cuba in the 2000
Olympics, said through a translator. "Not having the Olympics will
be a big hit in Cuba and for the fans in Cuba."
But for U.S. baseball players, the Olympics were less important.
"There isn't any player growing up thinking they want to play
in the Olympics," said Sheets, who won a gold medal in 2000.
"That was one of my greatest moments, but it has nothing to do
with the big leagues."
Each of the 28 existing sports was put to a secret vote by the
IOC, and baseball and softball were the only two that failed to
receive a majority. The IOC then rejected adding squash and karate,
which failed to get the necessary two-thirds approval.
IOC officials were unhappy about the absence of major leaguers.
The NBA has sent its best players since 1992 and the NHL stopped
its season for 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics.
"The lack of the MLB players -- I think people have looked and
said, `Well, all right, if there's to be a change, that seems to be
the logic of it,"' British IOC member Craig Reedie said.
Cuban Baseball Federation president Carlos Rodriguez took a
"Those who bear most of the blame are the owners of the
professional leagues who refuse to free up their ballplayers to
compete," he said.
The drug-testing provisions of major league baseball's
collective bargaining agreement, which are more lax than World
Anti-Doping Agency rules, were cited as a factor by Australian IOC
member John Coates.
"Problems with doping in U.S. baseball probably cost the sport
dearly," Coates said.
Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball
Players' Association, said the IOC's decision "won't affect
baseball very much one way or another."
"You can't shut down major league baseball, you just can't do
it and nobody can reasonably expect us to," he said. "Baseball
will go on just fine. It's never depended in any way, shape or form
even slightly on the Olympics."
San Diego Padres chief executive officer Sandy Alderson, until
April an executive vice president in the major league
commissioner's officer, traveled to Singapore this week and was
surprised by the decision.
Major league baseball and the players' association plan to start
their own 16-nation tournament, the World Baseball Classic, next
March and have a launch announcement scheduled for Monday in
"Since 1990, the number of national baseball federations has
grown from 60 to 122," said Bob DuPuy, major league baseball's
chief operating officer. "By deleting baseball from its Olympic
Games, the International Olympic Committee has made a mistake that
will adversely affect millions of sports fans worldwide."
San Francisco Giants outfielder Michael Tucker, a 1992 Olympian,
thought the IOC might restore the sports for 2016.
"It's just a matter of what's popular right now," he said.
"You might see poker on there."
Dominican Baseball Federation president Hector Pereyra and
Mexican Olympic Committee president Felipe Munoz intend to work
toward baseball's restoration.
"This is the moment to start the race to return to the Olympic
stage in 2016," Pereyra said.