What are the top ten games in the history of the World Baseball Classic?
The World Baseball Classic is only in its fifth edition, but is already baseball’s premier international tournament. We look at its best moments.
International baseball competitions have a long and winding history, with the Olympics holding sway during the amateur years, plus several precursors to the current format.
Since the inception of the World Baseball Classic as a response to the International Olympic Committee’s decision to remove baseball as an Olympic sport, there have been four tournaments held.
The first WBC was held in 2006 and saw Japan defeat Cuba in the final to become the inaugural champions of this new competition. Conceived as a four-yearly event along the lines of the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup, the next competition was moved ahead to 2009, only three years after the initial event, in order to find a better gap in the international calendar. Japan defeated South Korea in the final to become the only nation to have successfully defended their WBC title.
The 2013 WBC saw the Dominican Republic defeat Puerto Rico in a thrilling final that saw the best team in the tournament crowned champion, while four years later, the United States would take home their first title in the 2017 games when they handily defeated Puerto Rico in the final.
Covid and the worldwide pandemic postponed the planned 2021 games and now after a six year hiatus, they are back. Great memories will certainly be made and here are a list of ten of the best ones so far.
2009 Final: Japan 5-3 South Korea (10 innings)
It is impossible to overstate the drama that was played out in this final game. Two evenly matched teams clashed and went to extra innings when Bum-ho Lee knocked in the tying run in the ninth. The legendary Ichiro Suzuki hit a rope straight back up the middle with a runner on and two outs to give Japan their second title.
2009 second round: United States 6-5 Puerto Rico
One of the most iconic moments of WBC history is when David Wright slapped a walk-off two-run single to right field to give the US the win. Emotions were running high, since Puerto Rico had humiliated the US with a mercy-rule loss in the opening round, and for the Americans this win only days later sealed a trip to the semi-finals.
2017 Semi Final: Puerto Rico 4-3 Netherlands (11 innings)
Extra inning games are always exciting, but this one was doubly so. The Netherlands had jumped out to an early lead, and the defense led the way for Puerto Rico, as Yadier Molina managed to pick not one but two runners off on the bases. In the 11th, Eddie Rosario’s sac fly to center scored Carlos Correa to give Puerto Rico a return trip to the final.
2017 first round: Italy 10-9 Mexico
Mexico had lost to Italy in their abysmal 2013 performance and were determined not to let it happen again. In front of a home crowd, the Mexicans took a 9-5 lead in the ninth, only to see Italy mount a stunning comeback, putting up five runs in the bottom half of the inning and capping it with a walk-off, two-run single from John Andreoli.
2006 second round: Mexico 2-1 United States
The US were heavily favored and Mexico needed to step up a level to meet them. Step up they did, holding the Yanks to just three hits and one run, as Mexico ran through their bullpen in the effort. On the other side, Team USA manager Buck Martinez pulled seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens with two on and one out, and Jorge Cantu singled in the go-ahead run off reliever Scot Shields.
2017 first round: Israel 2-1 South Korea (10 innings)
Israel were the Cinderella story of the last competition, as they qualified for the first time ever and pulled off a huge coup, going toe-to-toe with South Korea in Seoul. The Israelis would go on to defeat Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands to advance out of Pool A, but that first big win over South Korea set the tone.
2009 first round: Netherlands 2-1 Dominican Republic (11 innings)
Heavily favored in the 2009 tournament, the Dominican Republic had massive stars like Robinson Canó, David Ortiz and Hanley Ramírez, but the Netherlands had other plans. Having taken the first game off of the DR, the loser of this second meeting would be headed home. Both were pitch-perfect through 10 and then traded runs in the 11th. Ultimately, it was a bobbled ball at first base that allowed the winning run to score.
2017 first round: Dominican Republic 10-3 Colombia (11 innings)
Determined to win, the Dominican Republic struggled mightily against a solid Colombian side, nearly losing in the ninth until a laser-accurate throw from left field by José Bautista and Welington Castillo’s play at the plate prevented Oscar Mercado from sealing the win for the Colombians. Two extra innings went by before the Dominican bats came to life, posting seven runs on Colombia to get a win that was much closer than the score indicates.
2013 semifinal: Puerto Rico 3-1 Japan
Japan were the two-time defending champions and looked for all the world like they would walk through their third competition in similar fashion. Puerto Rico were determined, however, to end the hopes for a three-peat. The game was a close run contest, with the difference between the two teams coming down to a two-run Alex Rios home run in the seventh.
2017 second round: United States 6-3 Dominican Republic
The US would eventually go on to win the 2017 tournament in a lopsided final against Puerto Rico, but prior to that, the real tasty morsel of the Americans’ road to the final came in the second round when they had to face the defending champions in the Dominican Republic. Best remembered for Adam Jones’ iconic robbery of a Manny Machado home run, which would have tied the game up in seventh. Robinson Canó brought the Dominicans close with a solo shot, but the Americans added a couple more in the eight for insurance.