The 2009 baseball season was a roller coaster ride for baseball fans around the world. It was the year of storied franchises like Fortitudo Bologna (Italy), DOOR Neptunus (Netherlands) and the Therwil Flyers (Switzerland) returning to prominence.
And then there was the New York Yankees.
The Bronx Bombers boasting the best lineup that money can buy strung together a 100+ win season before disposing of the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, and Philadelphia Phillies to claim an unprecedented 27th World Series crown.
But, those are just a few of the headlines from the past year.
BaseballdeWorld’s Top 25 stories of 2009:
25. DOOR Neptunus Regains Dutch Title: One of the most dominating squads in European baseball history during the 1990s, the Rotterdam-based club erased recent playoffs debacles with its first championship since 2005.
24. Eri Yoshida Breaks Japanese Baseball Glass Ceiling: A tiny, 114-pound female pitcher with a 50 mph sidearm knuckleball became the first woman in Japan to play professional baseball.
23. Fortitudo Bologna Nets Italian League Crown: After dominating the IBL in 2008 before washing out in the playoffs, Bologna rebounded with another stellar season to bag the 2009 title.
22. New IBAF Commissioner: Italian Riccardo Fraccari succeeded American Harvey Schiller at the helm of the world governing body for baseball in a surprise uncontested election.
21. Kia Tigers Remain Perfect: Behind a strong 1-2 pitching tandem of Aquilino Lopez and Rick Guttormson, the Tigers topped SK Wyverns to remain unbeaten in 10 Korean Series appearances.
20. Japanese Pitching Prospect Yusei Kikuchi Stays Home: Despite previous announcements of his desire to play in the U.S., the 18-year-old southpaw was pressured by his prep coach and others to sign a deal with the Seibu Lions.
19. Detroit Tigers Collapse: Jim Leyland and company seemed a shoo-in to stay ahead of Minesota heading into the final weekend of the regular season. However, the Tigers completed one of the biggest collapses in MLB history when they fell to the Twins in a one-game playoff.
18. LSU Tigers Win CWS Title: Equipped with a top-notch pitching corps, the Tigers won both the SEC regular season and tournament titles before rolling to another CWS appearance where skipper Paul Mainieri’s troops outlasted Texas to win their sixth national championship.
17. Australian Baseball League To Debut In 2010: With the financial support from both MLB and the Australian government, a new and improved ABL will begin play next year with hopes of becoming a developmental league for major league-caliber prospects.
16. CPBL Rocked By Another Scandal: The annual match-fixing scandals plaguing Taiwan’s pro league nearly kills the circuit on the baseball-loving island. A muli-million dollar government plan, a new free agency system, and a minimum salary for players are just a few of the new iniatives in 2010 to help bring back the integrity of the game in the so-called renegade Chinese territory.
15. Andy Oliver Silences NCAA: The controversial no-agent rule was challenged by the Oklahoma State pitcher who received a $750,000 out of court settlement before getting drafted by the Detroit Tigers.
14. Yu Darvish Makes Surprise Asian Series Appearance: Japan’s top pitcher comes off the injured list in Game 2 of the Asian Series and beats the Yomiuri Giants despite pitching with a broken finger.
13. Team USA Wins IBAF Baseball World Cup: For the second consecutive tournament, the United States turned back Cuba to win the gold in a spectacular performance that included a 14-game winning streak.
12. IOC Rejects Baseball Again: The anti-American hierarchy of the IOC refused to acknowledge the growth of baseball as a global sport and instead chose a pair of elitist sports – golf and rugby 7 – to join the Olympic program.
11. Manny Ramirez Suspended: Although the moody superstar was caught taking a female hormone drug – not steroids – all trails led MLB officials to believe he had just ended a cycle of performance enhancing drugs.
10. Aroldis Chapman Defection: A southpaw with a “rocket” fastball is guaranteed to become an instant millionaire. But the question remains if the talented gunslinger will become a front-of-the rotation pitcher or a hard-throwing hurler who flames out in a few years.
9. Pat Murphy’s Resignation: One of the top collegiate baseball coaches in America was forced out at Arizona State University after the NCAA charged the Sun Devils with several major rules violations.
8. Stephen Strasburg Media Frenzy: The once overweight San Diego State standout withstood the spotlight and the hoopla and continued his amazing progress with a superb season for the Aztecs. The Washington Nationals took him No. 1 overall and dished out a record-setting contract to bag one of the best pitching prospects of all-time.
7. Dutch National Team Shocks Dominicans: Europe’s best squad took the baseball world by surprise by topping the star-studded Dominican Republic at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. However, it was the Orange and Black second upset of David Ortiz & Co. in the WBC that made the Dutch the best baseball cinderella story since the 1969 Miracle Mets.
6. Roy Halladay Trade: WOW! A pair of Cy Young winners and a truck load of prospects made this three-team trade one for the history books.
5. Derek Jeter Reaches Milestone: The Yankees captain became the all-time hits leader for the storied franchise while silencing his critics with a stellar season at the plate and with the leather.
4. Mark Buehrle Tosses Historic Gem: For only the 18th time in MLB history, a perfect game was tossed by the staff ace of the White Sox. However, it took a dramatic over-the wall catch by teammate DeWayne Wise in the ninth inning to preserve the historic feat.
3. Japanese Wins WBC Gold: Ichiro & Co. bagged their second World Baseball Classic title with a win over South Korea in an All-Asian final at Dodger Stadium.
2. Alex Rodriguez Admits Steroids Use: Baseball’s highest-paid and brightest star admits to taking performance enhancing drugs during the early 90s while a member of the Texas Rangers.
1. New York Yankees Wins World Series: The so-called Evil Empire went on a shopping spree during the winter of 2008 and rolls to their 27th World Series crown in 2009 to christen new Yankee Stadium the Steinbrenner way.
Photo courtesy of Ratti/FIBS