History of Dutch baseball: 1940-1960

After the Germans invaded Western Europe, the Netherlands surrendered after five days of fighting. During the German occupation baseball in the Netherlands went through a hard time, just like the Dutch people. Many supplies were claimed by the Germans for their army and war industry. So wood and leather were materials that were hard to get hands on. From 1943 balls were no longer made of leather. Tire company Vredestein jumped into the market and created balls made of rubber with a cork center. These balls didn’t have seams so pitchers cut out a little piece so they could throw curves. The quality of the balls was so poor that after a few hits the balls would literally break. Since wood was hard to get, clubs had to mend broken bats with screws or nails. Speaking of 1943. The Germans forbid almost everything that was American. So as an act of resistance a group of men in Rotterdam decided to establish a baseball club. So in 1943 the baseball branch of Neptunus was born, the club that would win many Dutch championships many years later.

Despite the hard years during WWII, baseball games drew large crowds. This photo has been taken during a game in Haarlem between Schoten from Haarlem and Blauw Wit.

After World War II the Americans helped Europe with the Marhall plan. Baseball in the Netherlands got a big boost because of large shipments with baseball materials: Bats, gloves and uniforms in any kind of colour. Teams like OVVO from Amsterdam and HHC from Haarlem played in red uniforms, a colour that wasn’t liked very much in those days by the Americans.

In the years after the war many games were played against American military teams. In their own leagues the Dutch could hit quite well, but against the Americans it appeared that hitting was a neglected part of the game. In their own league the Dutch could hit… but there was one pitcher who was practically unhittable. This young pitcher was Han Urbanus. He was a phenomenon in Dutch baseball. When you managed to get a hit when he was pitching, you could count on a call up for the Dutch national team.

In 1952 Dutch American journalist, Albert Balink, arranged two trips to the Spring Training camp of the New York Giants for Urbanus. Another player, Martin Jole, also went to a Spring Training camp. Jole was one of the hitters who could hit Urbanus. Jole went to the ST camp of the Cincinnati Reds. Overthere he learned that swinging a bat day after day would improve your hitting. Han Urbanus noticed that American pitchers threw about 20 miles faster than their Dutch colleagues. It became clear that the Dutch pitchers were pitching in a wrong way. When J.C. Grase translated the baseball rules from English into Dutch, the rule that a pitcher should keep contact with the plate on the mound was lost in translation. The Dutch pitchers literally kept contact with that plate, which led to a loss of velocity. From that year the Dutch had to adapt their way of pitching. It took them a while but eventually they gained a lot of speed.
Albert Balink did a lot more for our beloved sport. He introduced medals for the best players and best hitters and in this way he taught the Dutch that baseball was a game of stats.

In 1953 Han Urbanus received a phonecall from the USA. The New York Giants wanted to offer him a minor league contract. Despite feeling honoured by the offer, Urbanus didn’t accept it. He thought that he could contribute to Dutch baseball by teaching his fellow countrymen what he had learned in the USA during Spring Training.

In 1949 OVVO from Amsterdam started a streak that would last five seasons. From 1949 to 1953 the club would win five national titles in a row. In 1955 they would win it all one more time. Afterwards they would never win a Dutch championship again. OVVO stands for “Op Volharding Volgt Overwinning” (perseverance leads to victory).

OVVO Dutch champions of 1950.  Back row: Henny Regeling (1B); Meijer (catcher); Altink; Han Urbanus; Rozendaal;
Front row: S. Wey; Theo van der Walle; Charles Urbanus; Hennie van der Lugt

The help of the Americans improved baseball in the Netherlands tremendously. The level was even this good that the Dutch would clinch their first European title in 1956. Thanks to this win, the Dutch were allowed to participate at the Global World Series.

The Dutch national team that won the 1956 European Cup

In those years the Dutch hired many Americans to be the manager of the national team. Managers like Ron Fraser and Bill Arce helped the Dutch to improve very much. Everywhere in the Netherlands baseball fields were created. From now on Dutch pitchers would pitch from a mound instead of a hole in the ground.

Dutch champions from 1940-1960
1940 S.C. Haarlem Haarlem
1941 S.C. Haarlem Haarlem
1942 Ajax Amsterdam
1943 Blauw Wit Amsterdam
1944 Blauw Wit Amsterdam
1945 Blauw Wit Amsterdam
1946 Blauw Wit Amsterdam
1947 Schoten Haarlem
1948 Ajax Amsterdam
1949 O.V.V.O Amsterdam
1950 O.V.V.O Amsterdam
1951 O.V.V.O Amsterdam
1952 O.V.V.O Amsterdam
1953 O.V.V.O Amsterdam
1954 E.H.S. Haarlem.
1955 O.V.V.O Amsterdam
1956 Schoten Haarlem
1957 Schoten Haarlem
1958 E.D.O. Haarlem
1959 E.H.S. Haarlem

Irish American Baseball Society

Baseball from a Dutch point of view since 2014

Maritime Pro Ball

Blog advocating bringing minor league ball to the Maritime Provinces!

D-Backs Europe

Een kijk op de MLB met een vleugje Arizona Diamondbacks

Milujeme Baseball

Nejlepší český web o baseballu

Dutch Baseball Hangout

Baseball from a Dutch point of view since 2014


Follow my trip in the USA during the 2016 summer!

Honkbal Op Zolder

Blog over bijzaken in Major League Baseball

The Ball Caps Blog

Baseball caps and beyond

The Negro Leagues Up Close

A blog about a century of African-American baseball history

Baseball History Daily

Heroes, Villains, Oddities and Minutia--The Forgotten History of the National Pastime

The Midwest League Traveler

Traveling & writing about the Midwest League, past & present, since 2011

Ben's Biz Blog

The Greatest Minor League Baseball Blog of All Time

B3: Big, Bald and Beautiful

Your guide to all things prospect, courtesy of Jonathan Mayo

Universo Béisbol

Hagamos del béisbol un deporte más universal.

%d bloggers like this: