The Other Baseball Sport Called Pesapallo

The field
The field
The stadium
The stadium

It is true that baseball is truly an American sport. It was exported to Japan, Cuba, where it has become their national sport, yet, the rules remain the same. There is another place where it was exported to in an alternate form.

In Finland, baseball is called Pesapallo, In 1907, Lauri Pihkala was studying in the USA and attended a baseball game in Boston. He found the game fascinating but rather slow for his personal likes (that complaint still echoes with many Americans today making it a boring game). He went on to develop an alternate version of baseball, which one can definitely see similarities. The game was originally used as a military training exercise in the 1920's, but the sport became very popular and by 1952, a sport in the Olympics. It remains a national sport in Finland. The sport takes away most of the slow pace, idling, laziness, from the American version with the average player running 10 km in a game. Players seldom just stand around. Nearly every ball pitched is put into play.

The playing field resembles the American roots, but is narrowed. First base is not in the same place but second and third bases are. Instead of real grass, the field is artificial turf covered with a thin layer of sand. The only requirement that the pitcher must comply with is that he toss the ball at least 3 feet above the batter's head. Players do not sit in dugouts but surround the home base area to heckle the opposing pitcher. The game is also 40 minutes shorter than the American version. Home runs must land within the playing field, not out of the park. A home run is the same as a triple. The team that is not batting uses an array of defensive formations, much like the NFL, and is constantly changing schemes depending on the batting team. The most important difference between pesäpallo and baseball is that the ball is pitched vertically, making hitting the ball easier and therefore, action packed. The game is played in two periods of four innings each. Each side has nine players and the batting team can have three designated hitters called Jokers. Catching a ball in flight is not an "out", but forces all players on bases to stay put or return if they tried to advance. The batter does have three strikes. The point of hitting a high-fly ball into the outfield is to give runners on bases to advance, since it the ball is caught, it is not an out.

American baseball scouts go to Finland, like Cuba, looking for new talent. Some of the Finns toss a ball over 90 mph. But, any Finn will have some bad habits they would need to correct.

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Comments 7 comments

Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 16 months ago from Burlingame, CA

Interesting. I've never heard of or seen this game. It does look like faster paced baseball in some ways.


JJ 16 months ago

Stadium in picture is Saarikenttä (Island Field). If you hit ball inside boundaries and then rolls to river ball is in play. Here are examples some funny moments. https://youtu.be/_Or8Jkuoyls https://youtu.be/IelN8X4pZ-c https://youtu.be/CWY96APWyJA


perrya profile image

perrya 16 months ago Author

Thanks for the comments, how could the ball still be in play?


JJ 16 months ago

"how could the ball still be in play?" Is the right term live ball? In Pesäpallo there is no "over the fence" style home run so you can't walk your HR. Those who want to watch game here are two links to same match. 1 TV production (Finnish of course) https://youtu.be/8ZD6eJObjwI 2. Static cam https://vimeo.com/105950063


perrya profile image

perrya 16 months ago Author

What if the player cannot locate the ball in the water?


JJ 16 months ago

It's like inside the park homerun in baseball and new ball to play. Ball in the river is specialty of this ballpark. Every ballpark have own specialties around fair territory (trees, fences, downhills etc).


perrya profile image

perrya 16 months ago Author

Interesting, thanks.

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