Today, Dutch soccer legend Johan Cruijff passed away at the age of 68. Last year in October he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Earlier this year he was still hopefull and said that he felt that he was leading 2-0. But all of a sudden, he is no longer among us.
You may think “What on earth does this has to do with baseball?” Well, there was a time when baseball was considered the ideal summer sport for soccer players. There was a time that almost every soccer club had its baseball branch. When baseball was introduced in the Netherlands around 1908, there was a loose structure as the first real competition was played in 1922. One of the pioneering clubs, AHC Quick, sent people to soccer clubs to convince them to start a baseball branch. We can say that without soccer, baseball might not have developed as much as it did in the Netherlands.
Johan Cruijff, born in 1947, was also a gifted baseball player. As a kid, he played catcher at the baseball branch of Ajax Amsterdam. There is one team photo on which he is shown wearing his catcher gear. Yes even in his younger years, Cruijff wanted to be in control already.
Cruijff also represented the Netherlands as he played in one of the Dutch youth teams in those years.
At some point, Cruijff had to choose between soccer and baseball. The rest is history. But because of his playing days, he always remained interested in our beautiful sport. Several times he threw out first pitches at international tournaments like the Haarlem Baseball Week or the European Cup.
Cruijff’s soccer jersey number (14) has been retired by Ajax in 2008 already. At times Johan Cruijff could be a Mr. Know It All but he will always be remembered for his unparalleled sayings. With his passing, the Dutch sports community loses a legend that knew a lot about soccer and baseball as well.