Baseball is played throughout Europe with the Netherlands and Italy as hot spots. Besides the oldest club of Europe, AHC Quick from the Netherlands, there are only a few clubs that are nearing their centennial. This is an overview of the oldest clubs per European country.
Even though the US occupation brought baseball to Austria after World War II, the development of the game stalled after the Americans left. But in the early 1980s teams were founded again and the Austrian Baseball Federation was founded in 1983. In 1982 three clubs were founded in Vienna: WBV Homerunners, Roadrunners and City Boys. Of these three clubs, only the WBV Homerunners still exist. There is a rather odd situation that the club is operating three teams in the Austrian baseball leagues: The Vienna Metrostars, the Vienna Mets and the Freudenau Mets. The Homerunners won the Austrian championship in 1985-1989, 1992, 1994 and 1996 under the name Vienna Lions, in 2005-2007, 2011, 2014 and 2018 as Vienna Metrostars.
In Belarus, baseball took off in 1988 when the first clubs were founded. None of them exist nowadays. The oldest club around in Belarus is BK Minsk, the current champion. BK Minsk was founded in 1993. and won its first championship in 1997 and then in 1999, 2001, 2006, 2015-2019. This year the club also participated in the Lithuanian championship which it won as well.
The Antwerp Eagles were founded in 1923 and are the oldest still existing baseball club in Belgium. The team was founded as Antwerp Black Cats. In 1974 a merger between the Black Cats and the Rizia Baseball Club led to the Royal Antwerp Eagles Scaldia Shipping Baseball Club. Two years later the name was changed to the current name: Royal Antwerp Eagles Base- and Softball Club. Even though the Eagles are the oldest club in Belgium, it did not lead to immediate success. The first official Belgian competition took off in 1947. The Eagles would win their first Belgian title in 1983. They would dominate the league for the next six years and would repeat one more time in 1991. After that, the club didn’t play a role of any importance. Last season the club earned a promotion from the second Belgian division to the first division (one level below the highest Belgian League (BBG).
Academics Sofia was one of the first baseball clubs in Bulgaria as it was founded on March 31st, 1988. The club won the first three editions of the Bulgarian championship (1990-1992). After those three years, the Blagoevgrad Buffaloes dominated Bulgarian baseball with twenty-two titles. But nevertheless, Academics Sofia, founded as baseball branch of the University of Sofia, is the sole club of the first three Bulgarian baseball clubs that survived.
Baseball history in Croatia dates back to 1918 when US sailors of the ships USS Pittsburgh and Olympia docked in Split after World War I and introduced baseball in that part of Europe. Still part of Yugoslavia, a club was founded in Salona (a town 5km away from Split) in 1974. It took until 1978 before the first actual game between Yugoslavian clubs was played. The club from Salona had moved to Split and was called Nada Split. That club faced Jezice from Lubliana (now the capital of Slovenia). Nada Split has won championships in 1980,1981 (still as Yugoslavian champions), 1992, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2019.
Baseball was introduced by an American ex-pat who lived in Prague in 1919. During World War II, baseball wasn’t played but in the short occupation of the Western part of Czechoslovakia by the Americans near the end of the war, baseball saw the light again. But with a new communist government in place, baseball was officially banned. Nevertheless in the early 1960s baseball reared up its head again in Czechoslovakia. Tempo Praha was founded in 1963. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Czech Republic and Slovakia went their own way. In the Czech Republic, the Extra Liga was founded. Tempo Praha merged with VSK Tegola Chemie Praha in 2001 and became Tempo Titans Praha. In the communist days, Tempo Praha won the first championship of Czechoslovakia in 1979 and repeated in 1980. Since then the club hasn’t won a title.
Baseball is a small sport in Denmark. Nevertheless, the country has a six-team league. The oldest existing team is still part of that league: Århus baseball. The club was founded in 1984. Last season the club finished in fifth place with a 4-12 record. The club hasn’t won a Danish championship yet.
Even though Finland has its own kind of baseball, called Pesäpallo, baseball in the shape as we know it is played in competition since 1981. The oldest club in Finland, the Helsinki Puumat (Cougars) was founded in 1981 and was named Helsinki Hawks first, followed by the name Wranglers. In 1983 the club adopted the current name. The Puumat won the Finnish championship in 1981-1984, 1987, 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1999.
The baseball branch of PUC (Paris University Club) is part of an Omnisports club that was founded in 1906. It is home to several sports like soccer, rugby, track and field, and volleyball. The baseball branch was founded in 1923 and makes it the oldest existing baseball club in France. Since the first official competition in France in 1954, PUC has won the most French championships (1955, 1965, 1966, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and 2000).
After World War II baseball was introduced by the American forces. The first official competition was played in 1951. As expected teams from the American occupation zone dominated German baseball in those days. After 1970 the German competition folded. Only in 1982, a new competition was founded. In the twilight years between 1970 and 1982 baseball still existed. In that era, the Mannheim Tornadoes were founded in 1975.
The club won the championship in the new competition in 1982 and would dominate German baseball in the next sixteen years although the club did not win a championship in 1983, 1990, 1992, 1995 and 1996. After its last championship in 1997, the club remained in the first German Bundesliga but never managed to play a role of any importance.
The Liverpool Trojans was founded in 1946 in a period after World War II in which baseball wasn’t played in a competition. British baseball took off again in 1948. It took the Trojans thirty years to win their first national title. Two years later in 1978, the club won its second national championship and in 1980 the Trojans won their third. After 1980, the club moved down to AAA level where it dominated the league since the establishment of the BBL (British Major League).
As baseball in Ireland isn’t that old yet, not everything is recorded. The first official competition was played in 1997. The Greystones Mariners are the oldest club in Ireland as the club was founded in 1991. In 2014 the club won its first and only Irish championship.
With the allied forces landing at Anzio in 1944, neighboring Nettuno was the first city in Italy that saw baseball. This resulted in the founding of Italy’s first baseball club Nettuno baseball 1945. Even though it was the first baseball club in Italy, it didn’t win its first Italian championship until 1951, followed by titles in the next three seasons. In total the club won championships in 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1971, 1973, 1990, 1993, 1996, 1998, and 2001. In the past years, the club did not play in the highest Italian league (Serie A1). Next season the club will likely play in the Serie A2.
As baseball set foot on Dutch soil in the early twentieth century, it would take until 1912 until the Dutch Baseball Federation was founded. In those days clubs came and went. In 1913 AHC (Amsterdamsche Honkbalclub) Quick was founded. In the first years of existence, it played some games vs the four other baseball clubs in the Netherlands/Amsterdam. Eventually, in 1922, the first official Dutch competition was played and Quick was crowned as the first official Dutch champion. Three years later the club would win its second Dutch title. In 1935 the third championship could be celebrated. Currently, the flagship team of the club is playing in the second class (a fifth tier league).
Baseball in Norway doesn’t exist very long. The Norwegian Baseball Federation was founded in 1991. In the same year a few baseball clubs were founded but the Oslo Alligators, founded on January 1st, 1991, is the oldest of them all. Currently, the club is playing in the Federation League. This is one level below the Norsk Baseballiga, Norway’s highest baseball level. Through the years, the Alligators won the Norwegian championship in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2003.
The first official competition in Poland took off in 1984, during communist rule. But the first contacts with baseball in Poland appear to have been in the 1950s/1960s. A friendly game between a Polish team and Forresters from Heiloo (Netherlands) in 1983 is regarded as the first official baseball game in Poland. The oldest club in Poland was founded in 1921 already. The club was founded as Gwiazda Rybnik, which changed the name into KS Silesia Rybnik later. KS Silesia Rybnik was the very first Polish champion in 1984 and won more titles in 1985-1987, 2017, and 2018.
Just like in the Netherlands, many Spanish soccer clubs had their baseball branch. For example Real Madrid, Espanyol and FC Barcelona. The game of baseball was introduced by Cuban immigrants who took their game with them. The oldest existing baseball club in Spain is from Barcelona: CB Viladecans. The club was founded in 1945. It is one of the few Spanish clubs that survived the hard times of the seventies and eighties when soccer drew much more attention thanks to multiple TV channels. Viladecans won four Spanish championships (1980, 1985, 1987, 1993) and won the Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) nineteen times (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000).
The oldest club in Sweden is the Leksand Lumberjacks. The club was founded in 1959. The Lumberjacks was not the first baseball club in Sweden but it outlived Solna for example. In 1957 the first official competition started in Sweden. Five years after its foundation, the Leksand Lumberjacks won their first Swedish title. Through the decades, twenty-two more would follow: 1964, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1987, 1987, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2004, 2005, 2016, and 2018.
The Swiss Baseball League started its first season in 1981. In 1980 several clubs in Switzerland were founded but the oldest, still existing, club is the Therwil Flyers. The club was founded in September 1980. Since their debut in the National Liga A in 1985, the club has won the Swiss championship twelve times: 1988, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2009, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019.
Baseball in Ukraine took off in the 1980s as it still was a part of the Soviet Union. In 1988 a club was founded in Kropyvnytskyi with the name Icarus. The team changed its name several times. Eventually, in 2003 the name was changed in KNTU, the name club still has. KNTU has dominated Ukrainian baseball throughout its existence. KNTU won titles in 1992, 1994–2003, 2005–2019. Only two other teams managed to win a championship in those years.
A big thank you goes out to Massimo Moretti, Ian Blease, the Finnish Baseball Federation, Andrew Johnson, Sebastian Zwyer, the Irish Baseball Federation, and Alex Setchko for getting me the much-needed information about Italy, Great Britain, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Ireland, and Belarus.
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