History of Dutch baseball: 1980 – 2000

The eighties and nineties will be bad decades for many baseball clubs.

In 1986, Charles Urbanus jr. decided that it would be his last season. In the long run (2 years) this was a huge blow for his club, Amstel Tijgers. Urbanus was a magnet for players. It was an honour to play with him. But an Amstel Tijgers without him, suddenly is not so special anymore. After the 1988 season the club was not capable to field a decent team anymore. The members decided to vote for a merger with H.C.A.W. from Bussum, a club that did demote to the lower Overgangsklasse. In this way the club could return to the Hoofdklasse (major league) in 1989 again. None of the members of Amstel Tijgers played for the new merger club H.C.A.W. – Tijgers.

At the end of the 1986 season Charles Urbanus and Harm Horeman retired and a special game vs a Dutch All-Star team was organized at the homefield of Amstel Tijgers. On this day, both players said goodbye to an active career in baseball. Both players were celebrated after the game and Urbanus received a pin of the KNBSB (Royal Baseball and Softball Federation). Amstel Tijgers’ catcher Paul Smit retired from his active career as a catcher for the Dutch national team.

Charles Urbanus during his farewell game. (photo by Sander Verberkt)

Charles Urbanus receives the pin of the KNBSB (photo by Sander Verberkt)

Special pennant to commemorate the farewell game of
Charles Urbanus and Harm Horeman

In 1988 Giants from Diemen (near Amsterdam) moved to Almere. This move would be the herald of a new club, Almere ’90. Strangly, the new club would not play in the Major League for the last 12 years of the 20th century.

In 1994 the legendary Haarlem Nicols was declared bankrupt. The pay of the players costed the club dearly. One of the big players that played for the Haarlem Nicols is Stan Bahnsen. He played one season with the club in 1992.

In 1981 Neptunus (baseball branch founded in 1943) from Rotterdam won the pennant for the first time. It would be the first of eleven titles in the next decades. Because of a good youth program and a very professional approach, the club will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

Despite the dominance of Neptunus HCAW from Bussum, would contend in the coming years.

In 1994 HCAW attracted a new manager: Craig McGinnis. McGinnis was a former pitcher in the Dutch leagues and set a couple of records that still stand today. He also threw a no-hitter in 1989, a rare feat in the Dutch Hoofdklasse. McGinnis promised that the club would become champion within three years. Apparently he wasn’t bragging because HCAW celebrated championships in 1996 and 1998. These championships were extra sweet because the biggest part of those teams was homegrown.

Picture from a Dutch newspaper. Players from HCAW are anxiously waiting for the final out in 1996

Craig McGinnis is celebrated by his team in 1996 (photo by Ed Oudenaarden/ANP)

The eighties will be the decade in which the World Port Tournament will be born. This bi-annual event is organized in Rotterdam since 1985. The mayors of Rotterdam and Havana (Cuba) are behind the creation of this tournament. Both mayors visited the Haarlem Baseball Week in 1984. According to Rotterdam mayor Bram Peper, Havana Mayor Ferdinand Mell said: If you organize a similar tournament, I will send a team from Havana.
The first years, only clubs from cities with harbours would attend (including the Dutch national team), but later this eroded a bit when only national teams appeared. During first World Port Tournament teams from Havana, Kobe (Japan), Dallas (USA) and Alpha (Curacao) attended. The tournament was a huge success. Over 30,000 fans passed the turnstiles. In 1993 a team of MLB alumni participated. Former MLB players like Bert Blyleven en Joe Rudi participated and won the tournament.

In the meantime, the World Port Tournament has proven to be a mainstay and it is an important part of Dutch baseball calendar in odd years.

Dutch champions  from 1981- 2000
1981 Neptunus Rotterdam
1982 Haarlem Nicols Haarlem
1983 Haarlem Nicols Haarlem
1984 Haarlem Nicols Haarlem
1985 Haarlem Nicols Haarlem
1986 Amstel Tijgers Amsterdam
1987 Pirates Amsterdam
1988 Haarlem Nicols Haarlem
1989 Haarlem Nicols Haarlem
1990 Pirates Amsterdam
1991 Neptunus Rotterdam
1992 ADO The Hague
1993 Neptunus Rotterdam
1994 S.C. Kinheim Haarlem
1995 Neptunus Rotterdam
1996 H.C.A.W Bussum
1997 Pioniers Hoofddorp
1998 H.C.A.W. Bussum
1999 Neptunus Rotterdam
2000 Neptunus Rotterdam

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