1988 Baseball World Cup
The 1988 Baseball World Cup was the first time that the tournament actually used the "World Cup" name - it had previously been known as the Amateur World Series. The 30th competition of its kind, the Cup took place from August 23 through September 7 in Parma and Rimini in Italy. Cuba would win every World Cup/Amateur World Series it participated in between 1969 and 2005 but this one was perhaps their closest victory, despite a 13-0 record, as controversy marred the final game against a USA team loaded with future major league regulars and stars. The tournament was unusual in that it was not the major international event that year - the 1988 Olympics got much more attention. Many of the teams fielded for this tourney were the same ones that appeared in the Olympics, though one notable exception was the Cuban team, which had boycotted the Olympics but returned here.
Cuba managed to go undefeated, but needed two last-minute victories against the USA. The first came in the final game of the round-robin - both teams were 10-0 and the USA had allowed only 12 runs in their 10 games. They led 9-6 going into the 9th inning and had the lead since the 4th. Joe Slusarski relieved Charles Nagy to close up the game, but walked one batter and allowed a single before LF Lourdes Gourriel smashed a 3-run shot to tie the game with one out. Slusarski retired the next hitter, Pedro Rodriguez, but the #8 hitter, 1B Alejo O'Reilly, hit another home run to give Cuba and Euclides Rojas the win over Slusarski. It was the third one-run win for Cuba, a rarity, as they had also scraped by against Puerto Rico and Japan.
- Cuba 11-0, 112 runs, 35 runs allowed
- United States 10-1, 120, 22
- Chinese Taipei 8-3, 77, 32
- Japan 7-4, 65, 29
- Canada 7-4, 73, 72
- Puerto Rico 6-5, 77, 46
- Nicaragua 5-6, 46, 61
- South Korea 5-6, 59, 47
- Italy 4-7, 51, 78
- Netherlands 2-9, 49, 93
- Netherlands Antilles 1-10, 44, 115
- Spain 0-11, 9, 160
- Japan leads 3-2 entering the bottom of the 8th, but starter Hideo Nomo fades away and Takehiro Ishii provides little relief as Cuba tacks on five runs against Nomo and Ishii to put away a 7-3 victory. RF Daisuke Tsutsui goes 4 for 4 in a losing cause while Cuba goes with a more balanced effort.
- Taiwan tries six different pitchers and holds a 3-3 tie entering the bottom of the 8th, but as in the other semifinal, the favored team rallies to win as the USA picks up 3. 3B Robin Ventura (3 for 4, 3 RBI) and LF Ted Wood lead the charge. A shaky Ben McDonald is yanked in the fifth and Nagy and Slusarski pitched scoreless ball the rest of the way, Slusarski redeeming himself with a win after his loss in the prior game.
- The Gold Medal game featured archrivals Cuba and the USA in a fine rematch. The USA led 3-1 entering the bottom of the 9th, as Ventura had driven in 2B Ty Griffin with one and 1B Tino Martinez had hit two solo home runs. Starter Rene Arocha had been chased in the third and Jose Aleman had allowed two runs in 4 1/3 IP. Jim Abbott, meanwhile, had fanned 8 and allowed only the one run. A controversial ruling at first base put a Cuban runner aboard and Abbott then surrendered a home run to Gourriel to knot the score. Andy Benes relieved. He allowed a single to DH Orestes Kindelan, who was pinch-run for by Juan Padilla. Rodriguez singled to put two men aboard. Backup RF Ermidelio Urrutia successfully bunted the runners over. CF Victor Mesa, the #9 hitter, was intentionally walked to load the bases. 3B Lazaro Vargas came to the plate and singled over a drawn-in outfield to give the Cubans a contested one-run victory. Martinez, the tourney MVP, would speak for Team USA, saying "We thought we should have won." For the second time in two World Cup games against them, Rojas picked up the win, having worked two scoreless innings.
- In the Bronze Medal game, two Asian clubs faced off. 1B Kuang-Huei Wang's 3-run homer in the second against Tetsu Suzuki put this one away early as Taiwan won, 4-2, in the only game among the final four that lacked in drama. The first four batters in Japan's lineup combined for no hits and Ping-Yang Huang worked the final five innings without allowing a run for the victory.
- Best Batting Average (in Round-Robin) - Antonio Pacheco, Cuba
- Best ERA (in Round-Robin) - Ben McDonald, USA
- Most RBI - Robin Ventura, USA
- Most HR - Luis Casanova, Cuba
- Most SB (in Round-Robin) - Julio Medina, Nicaragua & Kenji Tomashino, Japan
- Most Runs (in Round-Robin) - Ty Griffin, USA & Omar Linares, Cuba
- MVP - Tino Martinez, USA
- P - Takehiro Ishii, Japan & Jim Abbott, USA
- C - Pedro Rodriguez, Cuba
- 1B - Tino Martinez, USA
- 2B - Antonio Pacheco, Cuba
- SS - Matt Stairs, Canada
- 3B - Robin Ventura, USA
- OF - Luis Casanova, Cuba
- OF - Lourdes Gourriel, Cuba
- OF - Daisuke Tsutsui, Japan
- DH - Mike Fiore, USA
- Canada matched their best finish until 2009 with a 5th-place spot, just missing the playoffs. They hit .307, tied for third, and their 14 home runs ranked third as well. Among the heavy hitters were 2B Greg Roth (.359/.469/.821, 11 R, 10 RBI, 4 HR), SS Matt Stairs (.362/.367/.511, 9 RBI, the only All-Star not from a final four team), 3B Warren Sawkiw (.405/.442/.649, 11 RBI), 1B Greg Duce (.359/.457/.513, 12 R) and OF James Kotkas (.357/.426/.667, 3 triples, 11 RBI). The problem was a 6.16 staff ERA. Frank Humber (3-0, 3.60) and Barry Parisotto (2-0, 1.10) were the bright spots on the hill. Dave Wainhouse (6.91) was handed two losses. Rheal Cormier (1-1, 5.71) whiffed 22 in 17 1/3 but also walked 10 and allowed 19 hits.
- Cuba kept up their winning ways, winning their 11th Cup in a row in which they had appeared. The 4 one-run victories, though, especially the controversial nature of the last one, marred their performance. Additionally, for once, they did not have the best run differential, as the USA was ahead of them. Still, a Gold is a Gold. The brighter spots included All-Star RF-1B Luis Casanova (.392/.446/.893, 15 R, 21 RBI, a tourney-high 7 HR), All-Star LF Lourdes Gourriel (.500/.579/1.000, 11 R, 12 RBI, the two dramatic homers against the USA), 3B/SS Omar Linares (.345/.357/.709, 17 R, 15 RBI, 6 HR, no errors), All-Star 2B Antonio Pacheco (.479/.528/.667, 14 R, 4 SB) and All-Star C Pedro Rodriguez (.455/.486/.970, 10 R, 11 RBI, 4 HR). As a team, they batted .363, best in the competition, with the most home runs (30). Their 3.02 ERA was only fourth. Euclides Rojas (4-0, 0.77) won more games than any other pitcher, including both important victories over the USA.
- Italy only played close games against the 5-6 teams, beating Nicaragua and losing to South Korea. They routed the three clubs with worse records and were generally not in it against the teams that finished higher. Reliever Fulvio Valle (0-0, 1 Sv) allowed only one earned run in 17 1/3 IP and finished 6th in the tourney in ERA. RF Giuseppe Carelli hit .389/.477/.611 with 9 runs and 9 RBI to lead the offense.
- Japan had a 2.58 staff ERA, second to the USA, and their pitchers led with 114 strikeouts. The offense was in the middle of the pack, but they still almost made the finals, ruined by an 8th inning collapse against Cuba in the semifinals. The top hitters were All-Star RF Daisuke Tsutsui (.439/.500/.800, 4 SB, 9 R, 11 RBI, 6 doubles, 3 HR) and 1B/DH Takeshi Omori (.409/.471/.591, 9 R). Going on to brilliant careers in Japan would be catcher Atsuya Furuta (.346/.379/.423) and SS/3B Kenjiro Nomura (.320/.370/.480, 4 SB). The mound corps featured Tomio Watanabe (1 hit, 0 R in 7 1/3 IP, 1-0), All-Star Takehiro Ishii (3-0, 1 Sv, 0.99, 15 H, 2 BB, 32 K in 27 1/3, the tourney leader in strikeouts), Tetsu Suzuki (1-1, 1 Sv, 2.22), Shuji Yoshida (1-1, 2.70), Tetsuya Shiozaki (1-1, 3.21, 20 K in 14 IP) and Hideo Nomo (0-3, 4.24, 17 K in 17 IP).
- Netherlands only hit .243/.292/.341 as a team. No one slugged .500. The best OPS was posted by 1B Bill Groot (.326/.341/.465). Like many of the teams, they had a shortstop who went on to a notable career - future major leaguer and Dutch national team manager Robert Eenhoorn (.256/.283/.395, 8 errors in 11 games for a .887 fielding percentage). A staff ERA of 8.56 did not help matters. Geoffry Kohl (1-0, 4.50) had the lowest ERA on the staff.
- Netherlands Antilles competed separately from The Netherlands and was one of the two teams to do worse than the main Dutch entry. They had their one win in fashion, pounding Spain 20-2, the second-highest offensive total of the tourney, following the USA's 28 against Spain. They only lost to Nicaragua 6-5 but were otherwise uncompetitive. IF Arthur Mari (.308/.357/.478) led the offense, which hit .224/.288/.296 overall. The staff had an ERA of 10.00; the lowest ERA was 4.12 but it came from a pitcher with a 11.12 RA.
- Nicaragua liked 6-5 games, playing four of them. They beat Puerto Rico, South Korea and the Netherlands Antilles by that margin and lost by that score to host Italy. DH Ariel Delgado hit .341/.408/.568 with 8 RBI as their top batsman. Eloy Morales had a 1.50 ERA to lead the staff.
- Puerto Rico beat both #3 Taiwan and #4 Japan and lost to #1 Cuba by just one run. On the other hand, losses to Canada, Nicaragua and South Korea kept them out of the final four. CF Angel Morales (.395/.490/.737, 14 R, 14 RBI) and DH Helson Rodriguez (.300/.462/.650) guided the offensive charge. Victor L. Martinez was 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA, the lowest on the staff.
- South Korea was rarely blown out, losing to Cuba by 4, Taiwan by 2 and Nicaragua, Japan and Canada by 1 each. Only the USA (by 7) kept them out of the game. Similarly, their wins were rarely blowouts, beating Italy by 1 and Puerto Rico by 2. They did easily beat the bottom three clubs. The top two hitters had the same family name - 3B Young-soo Kang (.286/.333/.571, 14 RBI) and DH Ki-woong Kang (.370/.393/.556, 4 SB in 4 tries). Kang-chul Lee (2-0, 0.63, 16 K in 14 1/3 IP) was fourth in the tournament in ERA, Kwang-woo Lee was 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA and Dong-hee Park was 0-2 with a 2.77 ERA. The first 200-game winner in the history of the Korea Baseball Organization, Jin-woo Song, had a 4.66 ERA and one save in 3 games. In 9 2/3 IP, he struck out 12 but allowed 11 hits and six walks.
- Spain lost to Puerto Rico by six and South Korea by 7 but dropped every other game by at least 10 runs. They were shut out five times in 11 games and peaked at three runs scored. A .157/.218/.196 batting line told the story, as did a .884 fielding percentage (43 errors) and a 13.38 ERA. Their pitchers allowed 155 hits and 69 walks while striking out 19 in 75 1/3 IP. Perhaps they could blame stage fright - it was the first appearance in the Cup for the Spanish national team.
- Chinese Taipei had a solid tournament, finishing third in the round-robin and keeping even with the USA until the 8th inning in the semifinals. They then claimed the Bronze, medalling for the third straight competition. They have not yet had as good a run (through 2006). The club tied for fifth in average (.302) and third in ERA (2.89), showing good balance. DH Tsung-Chiu Lin (.349/.420/.628, 13 RBI), SS Fu-Lien Wu (.390/.537/.537, 8 R, 9 RBI) and 3B Shih-Hsih Wu (.429/.471/.536, 9 R, 9 RBI) were the top hitters in a fine offense. Cheng-Cherng Kuo (2-0, 0.73) was the ace of the staff. The club was the only one in the top five not to have anyone on the All-Star team.
- United States had won every game by at least four runs in their first 10. Things then came apart with the 9th-inning loss to Cuba in the final round-robin game, a 3-win win against Taiwan in which they had to rally in the 8th and the devastating finale against Cuba in which umpiring possibly cost them the contest. It was one of the best performances by an American team in the tournament; from 1978-2006, they only had one other Silver Medal turn, in 2001. The US hit .346 with 21 home runs, both second to Cuba, but led with a 1.98 ERA, .6 ahead of Japan. The offense was led by All-Star DH Mike Fiore (.444/.556/.556, 10 R), 2B Ty Griffin (.348/.500/.652, 19 R, 13 RBI, 4 HR), MVP 1B Tino Martinez (.407/.452/.796, 12 R, 6 HR, 21 RBI), C Doug Robbins (.391/.533/.522, 13 R), All-Star 3B Robin Ventura (.434/.508/.736, 15 R, 8 2B, 32 RBI) and OF Ted Wood (.404/.517/.638, 14 R, 14 RBI). Backup Ed Sprague Jr. (.313/.421/.563) went on to a productive MLB career. Ben McDonald (2-0, 1.31), Mike Milchin (0 R in 5 2/3 IP), Charles Nagy (1-0, 0 R, 22 K, 6 H in 15 2/3 IP) and Jim Abbott (2-0, 1.57) led the tourney's top pitching staff. No one had an ERA over 4 as Andy Benes (2-1, 3.92, 22 K in 20 2/3) and Joe Slusarski (1-1, 1 Sv, 3.86) pulled up the rear.