MA in Sports Journalism at St Mary's University

Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

The Finnish version of the “American pastime”

Most people know about American baseball, but did you know that there is a Finnish version of the game? And no, it doesn’t involve snow or wife carrying.

Finnish baseball, Pesäpallo, also known as Pesis, was created in the 1920s by Lauri Tahko Pihkala at the same time that Babe Ruth was hitting home runs in the MLB.

It is the national game of Finland, and you won’t find a Finnish child who hasn’t played this version of the American sport at school. Pesäpallo has grown its popularity which has created strong roots in the Finnish culture.

While these two sports are similar, there are a few things that make them vastly different from each other.

1. The Rules

In the Finnish Pesäpallo the ball is pitched ‘under-arm’. The batter and the pitcher are facing each other, standing one meter apart. The pitcher throws the ball in the air, and the ball has to go at least one meter above the pitcher. If the ball isn’t thrown high or straight enough, the batter gets to walk to the first base.

In Pesäpallo, the players don’t run counter-clockwise. Instead, they start at home base and go left then switching directions to go right heading towards the second base. From the second base, they turn left and continue to the third. And if a player manages to do this in one run, it is considered home run. At this point, they have an opportunity to get an extra point if the hitter hits the ball good enough to let the player on the third base to get home.

2. The Ball

The baseball used in American baseball is white with 108 red stitches, while in Finland it is yellow with three black stripes.

Credit: Wikipedia

Now you might be wondering, if this game is played outside Finland? Even though it is the Finnish national sport, it is getting more international. This year marks the 10th anniversary for the Pesäpallo World Cup.

This year Pesäpallo will make its debut in Asia, as the World Cup will be played in India for the first time. According to the Finnish Baseball Association, Pesäpallo is ‘experiencing a big expansion internationally.’

The federation really hopes that Pesäpallo will make its mark internationally in the future and they look forward that ‘the national treasure of Finnish sports tradition could be known around the world.’

With MLB scouts recently gaining interest in pesäpallo, who knows we might see a Finnish player in the MLB in the near future.

Next time, you are planning a trip to Finland, instead of meeting reindeer and Santa Claus, head to a Pesäpallo field and enjoy a match of the purest sporting culture in Finland.

Co-written with Rachael Mathewson.

Featured Photograph/ Pohjalainen