Welcome to the WORLD Series
By Jon Scher
BARCELONA, Spain--On a cool fall day, the last day of the 1992 Olympics, baseball's greatest drama was staged more than 3,000 miles from Yankee Stadium.
But the Yankees still won. And although he has suffered through three crushing World Series defeats as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Roger Clemens at least has the satisfaction of having clinched the first real World Series for the United States.
Clemens made Silvestre Campusano his 15th strikeout victim with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth to preserve a 3-2 lead over the Dominican Republic. Clemens pumped his fist and leaped high in the air, celebrating a victory that gave the United States the gold medal in the first international competition to allow professional baseball players.
Campusano quickly went from hero to goat. His two-run homer off Clemens in the first inning proved to be the only scoring the Dominicans could muster. They were hampered by Toronto slugger George Bell's decision to quit the team before the final game, when manager Manny Mota announced plans to start fellow Blue Jay Campusano in the outfield and move Bell to DH.
The U.S. and the Dominicans entered the final game of the double-elimination tournament with one loss--each had beaten the other. And it took a two-run homer by the Reds' Eric Davis off Cincinnati teammate Jose Rijo in the top of the ninth to put the feisty Dominicans on the ropes.
Record crowds and a worldwide television audience of more than two billion watched the U.S. claim its first Olympic gold medal. In 1984 and 1988, when baseball was a demonstration sport played by amateurs, the Americans finished second and third.
Cuba, long considered the world's dominant national team, was ousted on a titanic, ironic homer by Cuban-born Jose Canseco earlier in the week.
A pipe dream
Wake up, baseball fans. You're dreaming.
But it's fund to think about. A true World Series, featuring the best baseball players on the planet. Facing each other, say, in the Olympics--yeah, that's the ticket.
Not that the Olympics are a bad thing now. Far from it. But the idea of the best against the best . . . what possibilities.
As Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Syd Thrift, a man ahead of his time, likes to say: "Do you realize it's only 12 years till the year 2000? Don't you think we should start acting like it?"
Eligibility for the Olympics is determined by the international governing body of each sport. Some, like hockey, soccer, tennis and track and field, have begun to allow professionals to compete. There's a distinct possibility that National Basketball Association players may be made eligible in the near future. Why not baseball?
And if it's too farfetched to consider an open Olympics, couldn't baseball state a non-Olympic event along the lines of hockey's Canada Cup, which pairs Canadian professionals against the Russian national team?
According to the development director of the United States Baseball Federation, which selects Team USA, the possibility hasn't received much serious consideration. Scott Bollwage suggests the U.S. doesn't really need to use pros to have a good shot at the gold.
"When we sit down and think about it, if we could get the best (amateur) players available, we really think we could beat anybody," Bollwage said. "The only talk that's ever gone around about using professionals is that there might be some way of reinstating for professional players.
"I think down the road they might either take players who haven't played above a certain level or who have been out of the game for a certain time."
Lifetime Triple-A players, take heart.
Players like the idea
Although the logistics might be a little difficult--interrupting the major league season every four years could get kind of annoying--the big league players Baseball America spoke with seem to like the idea of participating in the Olympics.
"That would be interesting," said Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser. "The U.S. would definitely be putting their pride on the line.
"That would be a proud moment, to make the team and put that uniform on."
Don Mattingly said he'd consider playing for the U.S. The Rangers' Ruben Sierra told us he'd love to play for Puerto Rico. Even Ferguson Jenkins, the former Cub from Canada, said he wished he would have had a chance to represent his country.
Tom Grieve, general manager of the Texas Rangers, says he wouldn't mind--as long as the event was staged after the season. And Grieve dismisses suggestions that the U.S. would destroy all comers.
"I think the competition would have a better chance facing our players than they would facing our NBA players," he said.
"Obviously we'd win . . . I'd like to think."
Let's find out.
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