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Take Baseball Out Of The Olympic Ballgame; WBC's Sulaiman Visits P.R.

By Gabrielle Paese

November 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

I never thought I'd be saying this, but for the first time ever I agree with former Puerto Rico Baseball Federation president Osvaldo Gil Bosch. He was right: keep the pros out of Olympic baseball.

After last week's Americas Olympic qualifying fiasco in Panama, I have an even better idea. Let the IOC take baseball out of the Olympic lineup completely. I mean, really. Who wants to watch The Netherlands and Greece go at it for nine innings?

After a lot of hemming and hawing, the International Baseball Federation finally opened the door for pros in 1996. After even more foot-dragging, Major League Baseball cleared the way this year for minor leaguers (only players not on the 25-man roster of a major league team as of Aug. 31 were fair game for the qualifier).

Each organization has a strike against it after this tournament. The Baseball Federation should have checked its swing when it allowed just two spots to the Americas. What were they thinking?

The federation's third vice president Miguel Angel Pozueta said this week that the organization is aiming to give the Americas more than just two qualifying spots for Peking 2008 just as it is trying to assure the presence of Major Leaguers for those Olympics.

"Baseball is most popular in the Americas, but in the International Federation each country has a vote and in Europe there are 41 countries.

They all joined in to vote with the Asians in limiting the Americas continents' presence to just two teams," Pozueta said.

Cuba and Canada eventually won those Olympic berths in a qualifier that featured more chaos than order. The United States was upset in quarterfinals by Mexico, a team that barely made it out of the first round. The Mexicans beat Puerto Rico in the consolation final for third place.

OK, that was strike one. But Major League Baseball deserves the blame for not even seeing the pitch low and inside. In essence, an invitation to the Olympics is a chance to globalize baseball, something Commissioner Bud Selig admitted his organization has been slow (and positively xenophobic) about.

When the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) allowed NBA players in for the 1992 Olympics, the NBA didn't waste anytime translating "I love this game" into 50 different languages. No CBA players were sent in to the Portland qualifier to test the waters. The NBA sent in the army -- Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone et al.

Granted, Barcelona didn't conflict with the NBA season, but David Stern knew enough to shoot the ball. Look what it did for the NBA, which is now watched in more countries than any other U.S. pro league.

Major League Baseball could use a shot of new fans. After the Panama disaster, Selig told reporters again that the Olympics conflict with the Major League season. Tell us something we don't know. Make some kind of adjustment -- shorter season, mid-August break every four years. Most of the players complain the season is too long, anyway.

This week, MLB officials told the Associated Press they're thinking about getting a World Cup with eight national teams together by 2005. Yawn. This is what's wrong with baseball. It takes too long for them to move. We've been talking about a baseball Dream Team since 1995. You could see this coming. Why take so long to act? MLB spends more time in committee than Congress.

That's why I say boot baseball out of the Olympics. Let in one of those other sports that so desperately wants a chance -- like ballroom dancing, trampoline jumping or bodybuilding. For Puerto Rico it's especially painful to know the island has the potential to put together a gold-medal team, but Major League Baseball won't make our players free agents for two weeks in August every four years.

It's time to just strike out. Strike three: put Olympic baseball on waivers.

Let Bob Costas do the play-by-play for Olympic dominoes in Peking 2008.

WBC chief Sulaiman promises to renew ties to Puerto Rico

Like anxious suitors, boxing's entities have all come calling in San Juan this year. The IBF held its annual convention here, the WBO is headquartered here and this week, WBC president Jose "Pepe" Sulaiman made a rare visit.

The WBC is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and although the organization hasn't had a Puerto Rican champion since Felix "Tito" Trinidad held two titles, Sulaiman said that will soon change.

The Mexican boxing expert was staying in Puerto Rico at the behest of veteran manager Yamil Chade, who for years was Don King's link in Puerto Rico. Chade is the man behind a Don Khan-promoted fight card this weekend in Fajardo featuring WBO junior flyweight champion Nelson Dieppa (19-2-2, 11 KO) versus interim challenger Kermin Guardia (35-2-0), of Colombia. Dieppa has not fought since that fateful head-butt versus Colombian Jhon Molina on Don King's Little Giants card in Carolina, Puerto Rico, in early 2002.

IBA featherweight champion Angel "Avispa" Chacon (29-4-2, 15 KO) is also stepping back into the ring after a long layoff -- 11 months in his case. He fights Mexican Joe Morales (19-7 4 KO).

During a luncheon midweek, Sulaiman gave special recognition to Puerto Rico's WBC champions: Carlos "Sugar" De Leon, Jose "Chegui" Torres, Felix Trinidad, Carlos Ortiz, Esteban De Jesus, Edwin Rosario, Juan Laporte, Hector Camacho, Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfredo Benitez and Alfredo "Salsero" Escalera.

Gomez, Benitez and Escalera attended the ceremony. Other former Puerto Rican champions who made an appearance were Rafael del Valle, Sammy Fuentes and Tonito Rivera.

Puerto Rico's current crop of fighters, including WBO mini flyweight champ Ivan Calderon, WBO junior flyweight champ Nelson Dieppa, WBA flyweight champ

Eric Morel, Angel "Avispa" Chacon and Miguel Cotto. P.R. Boxing Commission officials, including president Jose "Toto" Penagaricano and executive director Dommys Delgado, were in attendance as well as WBC legal consultant, Gabriel Penagaricano. Promoters Peter and Ivan Rivera and Khan all showed up.

Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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