Baseball was first played in the Olympics in 1904 and was a regular event until 2005 when the International Olympic Committee decided to drop baseball and softball after the 2008 Beijing Games, making them the first sports to be dropped since polo in 1936.
The two sports had hoped to be reinstated for the 2016 games, but instead the IOC this month voted to keep them out and instead let golf and rugby in.
It is widely suspected that one of the reasons for dropping baseball and women's softball, which is rapidly growing in popularity, is that the sports are too closely identified with the United States.
That may have been true at one time. Major League Baseball thinks of itself as the American national pastime, and we anoint the winner of the World Series as world champion although only MLB teams are eligible.
And the United States can hardly be accused of dominating those sports. In 2008 the United States took the bronze medal in baseball — South Korea took gold — and Japan won the softball gold medal.
Even as the IOC is trying to nudge baseball off the stage, the sport is becoming more international, even in its U.S. homeland. The Wall Street Journal reports that this summer, of 8,352 players under professional contract, major and minor, 3,500 are foreign. They include the first players from India and New Zealand's Maori tribe as well as players from Honduras, Haiti, Russia, Czech Republic, Brazil and Spain, as well as such traditional sources as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and newer sources like Japan and South Korea.
On the roster of the Boise Hawks, a Chicago Cubs farm team, 18 of 25 players are foreigners. Said the Journal, "the minors are fast turning into a veritable United Nations." That alone should cause the IOC to rethink its exclusion.
In addition to anti-U.S. bias, other reasons, valid are not, have been advanced for the exclusion — the lack of big-name Major League players on Olympic teams (the games come in the heart of the MLB season), lack of interest by the Europeans, the indeterminate length of a baseball game as the Olympics become more dependent on TV, hostility toward the two sports by IOC chairman Jacques Rogge.
Whatever the reason, the exclusion is wrong. The field of dreams is not just in Iowa anymore.