International Baseball Federation

Leslie Mann

Leslie Mann, nicknamed "The Major", is the father of international baseball. A former MLB player, Mann dreamed about seeing baseball in the Olympics.

The days of professional players in the Olympic Games were yet to come, so Mann put together two teams (World Champions and US Olympics) to play a demonstration game at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Mann himself umpired the game.

Leslie Mann

During the Games, Mann proposed the idea of an International Baseball Federation to the delegates of the 21 participating Nations. He was representing USA. England, France, Canada, Cuba and Hawaii (not yet a US territory) responded with enthusiasm.

International Baseball Federation (IBF)

The International Baseball Federation (IBF) was born in 1938. Mexico, Spain, Egypt, China, Japan, Peru, Philippines, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany joined the founding Nations. Leslie Mann was elected the first President.

France, The Netherlands and Hawaii played during the Paris 1937 World Exhibition a tournament that went into the record books as the first ever international baseball event.

Amateur World Series

The IBF President became aware of the existence of a successful National Baseball Association in England, supported by businessman and philanthropist John Moores. He made contact with Moores through the US National League President John Heydler and agreed on selecting a USA National Team and travel to Europe for a five-game series.

Mann was disappointed by the result, England defeated the USA 4 games to 1, but was enthusiastic about the crowds that the games had attracted. The series became the John Moores Trophy and would later be considered the first edition of the Amateur World Series, later to become the Baseball World Cup.

Jaime Mariné, the former President of the Direccion Naciónal de Deportes in Cuba, succeeded Mann as the IBF President and took the Amateur World Series to his home country.

Federación Internacional Béisbol Amateur (FIBA)

Jorge Reyes of Mexico succeeded Mariné in 1944 and changed the name of the organisation into FIBA (Federación Internacional Béisbol Amateur).

The Amateur World Series didn't become a real international tournament until 1969 when USA returned to the competition. The championship game that Cuba won against the United States was the peak of 15 years of activism that began in 1953 with the election of Carlos Zecca of Costa Rica as FIBA President.

Baseball became a demonstration sport at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. 

1956 Olympic Games - Melbourne

Rod Dedeaux, who would become legendary as a coach in USA College Baseball, and Nobuo Fujita, the director of a six-team University League in Japan, started the USA vs Japan Collegiate All-Star Series that stands to this day.

Juan Isa of the Netherlands Antilles succeeded Zecca and helped the Amateur World Series become a World Championship. 

Italy and the Netherlands took Europe to the world stage in 1970 in Colombia. Canada also made its debut. Japan became the first Asian Country to participate in 1972 in Nicaragua.

Associación Internacional Béisbol Amateur (AINBA)

Baseball also had two governing bodies acting at the same time. A total of 27 Countries, representing three Continents, left FIBA in 1973 to join FEMBA (Federacion Mundial de Béisbol Amateur). The two bodies would merge in 1976 into AINBA (Associación Internacional Béisbol Amateur).

Baseball was ready to leave the Americas. Italy hosted the 1978 World Championship and AINBA took it to Japan in 1980. Korea hosted the tournament in 1982 and Korea became the first non-American country to win the Baseball World Championship.

Dodger Stadium welcomes IBAF
AINBA Meeting at Dodgers Stadium

International success was the key that opened the door to the Olympics. Baseball became a demonstration sport in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and went back with the same status in 1988 in Seoul. Baseball became a medal sport officially in Barcelona in 1992.

International Baseball Association (IBA)

Robert Smith, USA, the President who led baseball into the Olympics changed the name of the world governing body into IBA, International Baseball Association.

International Baseball Federation (IBAF)

Aldo Notari of Italy succeeded Smith. He changed the name of the organisation to International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and re-named the World Championship IBAF World Cup before the 2001 edition, the first played by professional players. Notari suffered the exclusion of baseball from the Olympic programme in 2005.