1987 Pan American Games
The 1987 Pan American Games were the second Pan American Games held in the US, as they were staged at Bush Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. The US had one of its best showings in a Pan American Games tournament, only to fall short at the last moment. The Games served as qualifiers for the 1988 Olympics, with the top two teams making it onwards.
In the round-robin phase, the Dutch Antilles, Venezuela and Aruba (newly independent from the Dutch Antilles) all went 1-6 while Nicaragua was 3-4. Venezuela did the best of the three 1-6 teams, with a -25 run differential (64-39) while Nicaragua was outscored 58-34.
Making it to the medal round were the US (7-0, 81 R, 20 runs allowed), Cuba (6-1, 75, 15), Puerto Rico (5-2, 51, 21) and Canada (4-3, 61, 55). Cuba had taken its first loss in the Pan American Games since 1967 thanks to a dramatic 9th-inning home run by Ty Griffin. USA employed a "pitching-by-committee" approach, with its starter usually going 3 innings and 3 or 4 pitchers splitting the rest of the game according to head coach Ron Fraser.
In the semifinals, Cuba beat Puerto Rico in a close 6-5 affair whiler the US also had a one-run contest, topping Canada, 7-6, as each of the top teams almost was upset.
In the bronze medal game, Puerto Rico routed Canada, 12-2. Puerto Rico was led in the tournament by Efrain Garcia (.500, 16 RBI, 4 HR) and hurlers Wilfredo Velez (3-0, 0.86, 23 K, 11 H in 20 IP) and Jesus I. Feliciano (2-1, 1.80).
That led to a gold medal rematch of the United States and Cuba. The US jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and was ahead 8-5 after 4. Their lead had been trimmed to 9-8 by the 8th inning, when ace reliever Cris Carpenter came apart, allowing five unanswered runs to give Cuba the win.
For the US, Mike Fiore had hit .444 to lead the team while Rick Hirtensteiner (.409) had led the Games with five stolen bases. Griffin scored the most runs in the round-robin (14). Another notable name offensively in retrospect was Tino Martinez, whose 19 RBI led the round-robin phase. On the hill, Jim Abbott went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA, 6 hits allowed and 15 strikeouts in 13 innings after having carried the USA flag in the Games' opening ceremonies. Carpenter finished 3-1 with a save and a 0.90 ERA. In 20 innings, he struck out 23 and allowed 11 hits and four walks. He led the tourney in wins and had been unscored upon before the last two innings of the Gold Medal game. Despite his collapse, Carpenter won the MVP award for the Games. Joe Slusarski (3-0, 2.75) pitched well and Gregg Olson also was a key member of the staff. Ron Fraser was the team's coach.
For Cuba, top performers were Omar Linares (.529, 14 R, 5 HR, the average leader), Orestes Kindelan (.486, a leading 8 HR and 23 RBI), Luis Casanova (.433, 12 R, 4 HR), Antonio Pacheco (.429, 3 HR, 13 R) and Luis Ulacia (.406). Pablo Abreu (2-1, 1.08) and Omar Ajete (2-0, 1.10) led the staff while Euclides Rojas did not allow a run in limited action.
Also see 1987 Pan American Games (Rosters)