From Antwerp to Piemonte, 67 years of European Baseball Championship history

From Antwerp to Piemonte, 67 years of European Baseball Championship history
The Italian senior national baseball team won its first of 10 European Championship titles in 1954, while Kingdom of the Netherlands has won the Euro throne 23 times since 1956. Having not won the European Baseball Championship for nine years, Team Italy under the guidance of Azzurri manager Mike Piazza will attempt to reclaim the Euro Baseball Championship title on its home turf in Piemonte on the diamonds of Torino, Settimo Torinese and Avigliana from September 12-19, 2021.

68 years have passed since the founding of the European Baseball Federation, which chose top Italian manager Prince Steno Borghese to lead the charge. The debut of the European Baseball Championship dates back to 1954 when Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain faced off in Antwerp over one weekend. Team Italy was managed by coach/player Horace Mc Garity, who led Nettuno to three Italian titles and the first Gold Medal in the European Baseball Championship with the help of fellow Italian Baseball Hall of Famer Giulio Glorioso.

The following year Spain hosted in Barcelona and welcomed the addition of France. Spain won its only European Baseball Championship title in history in 1955, while Team Italy settled for fourth place. ​​

The Dutch entered the Euro federation in 1956 and changed the course of European Baseball Championship history by winning its first of 23 Euro titles to date. Belgium placed second, and Team Italy came in third. The first live Rai radio broadcast took place when commentator Mario Poltronieri hosted the Italy and Germany game live on-the-air.  The Netherlands sat on the Euro throne with won seven consecutive titles from 1956 to 1965. Team Italy won the bronze again in 1957 before taking silver every year through 1965.

The Italians did not participate in the 1967 edition of the Euros in Antwerp where host Belgium won its only European Baseball Championship title in history. The Netherlands took the next three Euros from 1969-1973, while Team Italy was runner-up until 1975 when the Italians went on to win three consecutive European Baseball Championship titles through 1979. The Netherlands turned the tables when hosting and winning the Euros in 1981. Team Italy answered when hosting the next edition and keeping the gold home in 1983. The Dutch won back-to-back Euros in 1985 and 1987. The Italians reclaimed the Euro throne in 1989 and 1991.

The Netherlands battled back with Euro Championship victories in 1993 and 1995, while Team Italy placed second every time the Dutch won gold since 1969. The Italians briefly put a stop to the four-year drought when winning the Euro title in 1997, but the Netherlands once again took control the European Baseball Championship title with five consecutive gold-medal finishes from 1999 to 2007.  

After playing for Team Italy in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, Mike Piazza was recruited to join manager Marco Mazzieri and pitching coach Bill Holmberg as part of the Azzurri coaching staff for the 2010 and 2012 European Baseball Championships. The synergy worked wonders as Team Italy won back-to-back European Baseball Championships. Since then, the Italians have not been able to capture another Euro title. The Netherlands have won the last three European Baseball Championships (2014, 2016 and 2019).

Last seen as the hitting coach for Team Italy in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, National Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza rejoins the Azzurri coaching staff as manager in the 2021 European Baseball Championship in Piemonte. With a 2-0 record in previous Euros when he was onboard as hitting coach, Mike Piazza puts his winning streak on the line for Team Italy. Forza #Italia! #PerBill

by Roberto Angotti