Baseball begin in Italy during World War II as American G.I.'s brought the game with them, teaching it to local children. The first championship was held in 1948, and today there is a major league, complete with a playoff series in which teams compete for the championship, called the Scudetto.
The Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball, similar to Major League Baseball, is the organization that operates the major professional baseball league in Italy. It is currently composed of 10 teams. In the A1 league (the highest level) teams play 54 games during the regular season. The top four teams participate in the playoffs, which features best-of-seven semifinals followed by a best-of-seven Italian championship known as "Lo Scudetto."
The two teams with the worst record in A1 are demoted to A2 for the following season to be replaced by the two best A2 teams. There are 24 A2 teams throughout Italy, with most concentrated north of Florence, while a few are scattered around Grosseto, Nettuno and on the island of Sicily. There is also a third level, known as "B" level, which has 40 teams around the country and is also heavily concentrated in the north. Italy also boasts an eight-team Winter League.
Italian American Major Leaguers
There have been many Italian-American baseball heroes. In fact, if one were to pick a team composed of Italian-Americans who have excelled in baseball over the past century or so—many are, in fact, enshrined at the National Baseball Hall-of-Fame in Cooperstown—the following would be a formidable team:
Manager—Tommy Lasorda / Joe Torre
C—Yogi Berra, Mike Piazza, Joe Torre 1B—Tony Conigliaro, Jason Giambi
OF—Joe DiMaggio, Carl Furillo, Lou Piniella
SP—Sal Maglie, Vic Raschi, Mike Mussina, Barry Zito, Frank Viola, John Montefusco
RP—John Franco, Dave Righetti
Special mention to A. Bartlett Giamatti, who served a brief stint as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball in 1989.