Leslie Mann founded the International Baseball Federation (IBF) in 1938 and thought that international baseball was going to be showcased at the Summer Olympics. The 1940 Games were going to be hosted in Tokyo and Mann was getting ready with a USA squad. Looking for competition, he got in touch with a businessman called John Moores, who was supporting the British National Association. They decided to organize a series to be played in England in the Summer of 1938.
Mann's Team USA consisted of high school and college players. Even a future big leaguer, Mike Schemer (who would play for the New York Giants in the 1940s) was on the team.
England's squad was coached by George McNeil. McNeil looked to the Yorkshire Lancashire League, a semi-pro league played almost entirely by athletes born in Canada, to fill out his roster. The star of the British team was pitcher Ross Kendrick, who led his team to a 3-0 victory in the opening game.
England claimed the Series 4 games to 1 (3-0, 8-6, 0-5, 4-0, 5-3). These 5 games were played from August 13th to 18th in Hull, Rochdale, Halifax and Leeds, attracting crowds up to 10,000 fans.
The win made John Moores so happy that he decided to donate a tropy to the winners. The tournament was renamed 'The John Moores Trophy'
The 1940 Olympics never happened, but the idea of playing baseball internationally was still alive. Leslie Mann met the President of the Cuba Direcion de Deportes Jaime Mariné and agreed with him that amateur baseball was ready for a world tournament. ‘La Tropical’ stadium in La Habana hosted the second edition of the Amateur World Series, since the 'John Moores Trophy' had been considered the first one. Mann and Mariné invited 12 teams, but only 3 (Cuba, Nicaragua and the United States) accepted. Cuba won undefeated behind their star pitcher Conrado Marrero.
In 1940 the Amateur World Series where played again in La Habana and during the tournament Mariné officially succeeded Mann as the IBF President.
In 1941 the winners were awarded with the ‘Copa Presidente Batista’ (this was probably the condition for the participation of the Dominican Republic). Venezuela won the 9 team tournament behind star pitcher Daniel Canonico, nicknamed El Chino.
Before the end of the 1942 edition, Team USA withdrew as a form of protest against the influence of Dominican dictator Truijllo.
The tournament was merely a central American and Caribbean affair in those years. In 1944 Jorge Reyes of Mexico succeeded Mariné and changed the name of the Federation to FIBA (Federaciòn Internacional Béisbol Amateur). The FIBA merely existed to organize the Amateur World Series and when the tournament did not happen after the 1953 edition (a record one, with 13 team participating), it looked like the end of it. The Amateur World Series did not involve teams outside Central America and in the area they were overshadowed by the ‘Serie Interamericana’, that would later develop in the Caribbean World Series, and by the Pan American Games, that opened in 1951 in Buenos Aires with baseball on the program. Furthermore, developing European countries had formed their own Continental Confederation and organized a European Championship, but did not show any interest in the activity organized by the FIBA.
It would be 10 years before the tournament would resume in 1961. FIBA President Carlos Zecca (elected in 1952) hosted the championship in his home country of Costa Rica. The Amateur World Series picked up right where it had left off, as Cuba won the 10 team tournament.
Don Zecca was very much involved in taking FIBA to different directions. He wanted international competition for youngsters, he was attracted by the Little League World Series and supported the neverdending campaign for Olympic baseball, that led to exhibition games in Melbourne (1956) and Tokyo (1964).
He did not forget the Amateur World Series, but could organize the next edition only 4 years later. The tournament was played in 1965 in Colombia, where the hosts won a 9 team edition.
The Amateur World Series was not played again until 1969, when Federation President Juan Isa (Netherland Antilles) organized in the Dominican Republic an 11 team tournament that Cuba won.
It was a historical edition. Before leaving, Carlos Zecca had convinced Team USA manager at the Tokyo Olympics Rod Dedeaux to field a team for the tournament. The USA had been absent since 1942 and the Dominican Republic was not exactly the best place for an american side to feel at home, since the US Army had been involved in the 1965 Civil War.
The USA played with an escort by the Marines, but managed to make it to the final. They lost (2-1) an emotional championship game to Cuba.
The win was considered a sensation by Cuba's President Fidel Castro, who was quoted as follow: "The north americans may have landed on the moon, but cannot beat us at the game of baseball".
Juan Isa was succesful in involving Europeans in the Amateur World Series. In 1970 Italy and The Netherlands joined the tournament, that was soon to become a real world competition. Canada represented North America together with the USA and in 1972 Japan was part of it too.
The 1972 edition of the Amateur World Series was a 16 team tournament hosted by Nicaragua and definitely made history.
At the end of the competition FIBA accused the organizers of diverting funds. The 1973 Congress suspended Nicaragua for one year. It was the sign european and asian countries had waited for. Italy organized the first Intercontinental Cup and, during the tournament, was born the alternative FEMBA, that involved European (except for The Netherlands), Asian and North American countries.
While FIBA organized its own Amateur World Series in Cuba (8 teams; Cuba won), FEMBA organized an 11 team World Championship in Nicaragua, where the United States claimed the victory.
The FEMBA World Championship was again staged in 1974, with hosts Team USA repeating as champion.
After the two competing organizations merged into the International Baseball Association (AINBA), the World Championship took place bi-annually beginning in 1976 and evolved into a world tour.
In 1978, the tournament made it out of the Americas and was exported to Italy.
In 1980, the World Championship was hosted by Japan and remained in Asia in 1982, when South Korea hosted and won the tournament.
In 1988, the tournament returned to Italy. Cuba won an emotional final against a young but powerful Team USA that featured future Major Leaguers such as Robin Ventura, Tino Martinez and Jim Abbott.
The Federation (IBA) decided that after 1990, the World Cup would be staged every fourth year.
In 1998, Italy became hosts for a third time. This particular event was noteworthy because professional players were allowed to participate for the first time. There was no agreement with MLBand players in american organized baseball were not allowed to participate.
In 2001, the tournament was given its definitive name, the IBAF World Cup. Chinese Taipei was the host to what is commonly considered as being the most talent rich World Cup. Japan for instance, was represented by an actual All-Star team of its Major Leagues, the NPB. Team USA was managed by future World Series winner Terry Francona.
The 2005 World Cup was contested in The Netherlands by a record 18 teams.
In 2007 in Chinese Taipei (16 participants), fielding a team as good as to include future All Star Evan Longoria, Team USA claimed their first gold medal in the tournament since 1974.
The participation record was broken again in 2009, when the World Cup was played in 7 different European Countries (Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Czech Republic and Croatia) by 22 teams.
In the Fall of 2011 Panama hosted the World Cup. The Netherlands claimed the gold medal and became the first european team to be named baseball World Champion.
In the near future the World Champion title will be awarded by the World Baseball Classic. The IBAF is working to organize a new international top tournament: the Premier 12, that is planned to open in 2015.