The game of baseball is known in Italy since the end of the 19 th century, but it developed much later.
The first edition of the championship that would have been the Italian Baseball League was played in fact in 1948. Fastpitch softball became an organized sport even later, since the first ever championship was played in 1969All this said, it would be unfair to forget what happened before. Let's get started form the 19 th century.
In 1884 sailors from the ships Lancaster and Guinnebaug docked in Livorno on January 23rd and played a game attracting the interest of the daily paper "La Gazzetta Livornese"
In 1889 Italy was reached by the tour (organized by Albert G. Spalding) of 2 teams made of professionals.
They played exhibition games in Florence, Naples and Rome from February 22nd to 27th. Even the King and Queen of Italy, the American press reported, stopped to watch "for a moment or 2"
During World War 1st baseball was used to create social relations between the Italian and the American army.
Many games were played and Captain Fiorello La Guardia, who one day would be the Mayor of New York City, was one of the coaches.
In the years after the War, 2 pioneers did a lot for the development of the game.
We are talking about Max Ott (a son of emigrants who was born Massimo Ottino) and Guido Graziani (a Physical Education Teacher). Max Ott was all over the game of baseball, while Graziani thought that the game could be introduced in Italy starting from softball, an easier sport to teach, since it didn't require the same athleticism. Unfortunately for both the pioneers, American games where banned in the 1930ies by Mussolini's Fascist Regime. So baseball and softball, and Max Ott and Guido Graziani, had to wait the end of World War 2 nd.
In 1947Graziani founded the LIS (Lega Italiana Softball) and in 1948 Ott founded the LIB (Lega Italiana Baseball).
In the same year Prince Steno Borghese founded the AIB (Associazione Italiana Baseball.
Soon LIS and AIB merged into FIBS (Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball). Borghese is the first president and the new Federation organized (on June 27th 1948) the very first baseball game played by Italians. The game is played at the "Giuriati" stadium in Milan and 2,000 people attend.
Vice President Bruno Beneck had been trying to force LIB to have relations with FIBS.
When Max Ott leaves the presidential chair, Beneck agrees to a merge. It's the dawn of 1949 and the organization was ready to organize women softball games. The game spread all over the country, but failed to become an organized sport.
In 1950 Borghese changed the name of the organization to FIPAB (Federazione Italiana Palla Base).
It was one of the many moves Borghese did to have his Federation recognised by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI). The most dramatic was the first international game played on the Italian soil (1952 in Rome) against Spain.
FIPAB gained the Status of "federazione aderente" (an association recognized but external) in 1953 and was granted the Status of a CONI member Federation in 1957.
By that day Borghese had already shown he could win a European Championship (1954) and even organize one (1956).
Borghese got stuck in the rivalry between Rome and Milan. The northern cities wanted their president and in 1960 elections they joined to vote Giuseppe Ghillini, an ingeneer from Bologna.
Ghillini was focused on building baseball fields and on creating a better relation with the Americas. But he was not interested in women softball and publicity.
These were the main reasons why the 1968 Congress elected Bruno Beneck as their President.
Beneck immediately changed the name of the organization back to FIBS and in 1969 launched the first ever women fast pitch softball championship.
Beneck, a television director, gave baseball in Italy a cultural shock. He had Italy participate in their first ever World Cup (1970).
Allowed teams to sign foreigners, had players developed in the USA but of Italian heritage play for the National Team and organized in Italy the first
Intercontinental Cup (1973), the first ever World Cup played in Europe since 1938 (1978) and the first women softball
European Championship (1979)
Beneck's baseball Team Italy won (3 European Championships in a row: 1975. 1977 and 1979). The wins came mostly thanks to Italian Americans, but Beneck had his own development program: the Club Italia. The best prospects played in the pre and off season around the world.
Beneck chased his Olympic Dream, a medal in the Los Angeles 1984 Games. He invested huge resources in the challenge, but at the end of the games he was overwhelmed by a scandal and had to resign.
Aldo Notari, Beneck's Vice President took over in 1985.
The first years of his presidency took an opposite direction to Beneck's. He banned Italian Americans from the National Team and reduced the number of foreigners allowed in the top league.
Notari won in softball (the 1986 Euros) and baseball ( 1989 and 1991 Euros).
This led the Italian President to an astonishing international career. By 1993 he was both European and World President.
In 2000Italy participated to the Olympics in baseball and women softball.
At the end of 2000 Notari was beaten at the presidential election by journalist Everardo Dalla Noce. The new president term lasted only 8 months.
On December 8 th 2001 FIBS had a new President: Riccardo Fraccari, the most popular Italian umpire and the former Vice President for Notari.
Fraccari was voted President also in 2004,
2008 and 2012. His terms will be remembered for the creation of the Italian Academy, a new relation with Major League Baseball, the era of player free agency and the birth of the Italian Baseball League, the first ever top league in all of Italian sport without relegation.
Fraccari was voted the new President of the International Federation on December 6 th 2009 and confirmed in April 2013. He was also elected the first Presidente of the World Baseball Softball Confederation ( WBSC) and will be in office until 2021.
On November 26 2016 Andrea Marcon, a former softball umpire, became the seventh President of FIBS.
He beat in the election ballot former Fraccari's Vice President, and future Hall of Famer, Massimo Fochi.
At age 43, Andrea Marcon is the youngest President elect. The history of Italian Baseball and Softball is told in the book Azzurri on the Diamond, that you can download from this page for free. The book was printed in March 2009.