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It Is Not Finnish Baseball! So, What Are The Rules Of Pesäpallo?

  • Move over MLB, Finland already has baseball
  • What is Pesäpallo, if it is not baseball?
the rules of pesapallo

Just don’t call it baseball! Pesäpallo may be played with the same tools as the American game, but that is where the similarity ends. We journey North to Finland and look at the Rules of Pesäpallo.

“Maybe a little bit boring” – Jussi Pyysalo, Chief Executive of Superpesis

These may sound like harsh words but it is exactly what Pyysalo said when asked for his opinion about baseball. Major League Baseball is rumored to be looking for ways to grow the support base in Europe amongst a younger generation. In Finland, though, there is no room for another ball game. They have one already: It’s called “Pesäpallo”. 

Pesäpallo was invented by Lauri “Tahko” Pihkala in the 1920s. The word Pesäpallo literally means “nest ball” and is colloquially known as Pesis. To the uninitiated, it is referred to as Finnish baseball. It a fast-paced bat and ball game, which is considered as the national sport in Finland. The top professional league is known as the Superpesis. Such is the national pride in the game, their official site is in Suomi only.

The basic idea of pesäpallo is similar to that of baseball. The offense tries to score by hitting the ball successfully and running through the bases, while the defense tries to put the batter and runners out. So far, so simple. It is no less competitive than the American games and online sportsbooks in Finland offer regular markets for both the male and female Superpesis leagues.

The Rules of Pesäpallo and baseball are not the same!

The most important difference between pesäpallo and baseball is that in the Finnish game, the ball is pitched vertically, which makes hitting the ball much easier. It also allows better control of the power and direction of the hit. This gives the offensive game more variety, speed, and tactical aspects compared to baseball. The fielding team is forced to counter the choices of the batter with defensive schemes and anticipation. Pesäpallo, therefore, becomes more of a mental exercise.

The manager has a pivotal role in pesäpallo, leading the offense by giving signals to the players using a multicolored fan. The defensive team play is directed by the manager’s orders and hand signals from the fielders. On the whole, pesäpallo is conceptually the same as baseball. The rules of pesäpallo, however, are slightly different. One such difference is the home run. Whilst this is a much-lauded feat in the world of baseball, the smashing of the ball directly over a boundary in pesäpallo is considered a foul. Now we understand the mental exercise side of the game.

The Rules of Pesapallo Pitch Stadium
Raksila Pesapallo Stadium

The Finns will argue, because it is their national game, that it is a world away from baseball. And they would be right. Some of the main differences, which surprisingly are a lot, can be found here

Can I bet on Pesa-what’s-it?

Yes, you definitely can! While pesäpallo may not enjoy as much international fame as the MLB, a betting market does exist. One such online sportsbook that we found, Betway Sportsbook, had up to the minute offerings for upcoming games.  In fact, betting on pesäpallo has actually been written into gambling folklore. According to a story we read in online sportsbook news in Finland, over the course of two match days in 1998, a total of five matches were fixed. This eventually resulted in 30 people facing charges for it. The match-fixing scandal cost the national betting agency 14 million Finnish marks (2,3 million euros).

the rules of pesapallo
Pesäpallo Equipment (Image source: Santeri Viinamäki [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
The global reach of pesäpallo is quite the misnomer as there is no global reach. Yet it is most often found in semi-urban and rural municipalities. Here pesäpallo can have significant attendance figures in comparison to the surrounding population. Very much a case of “Let’s go to the ball-game”. Despite it is a national sport in Finland, there have been several Pesäpallo World Cup competitions. These international competitions have attracted an array of teams from Australia to Switzerland  It will come as no surprise to anyone that Finland have won them all. Nine in total.

Pesapallo World Cup is coming soon…

The next iteration of the World Cup will be in November and will take place in Pune, India. At present, there is no firm team line up. Liking to keep our finger on the pulse and reviewing what is available for discerning bettors. We suggest the latest review about Betway Sportsbook as a go-to for keeping tabs on pesä-what’s-it. Organizers are confident that the line up will include many of the usual suspects, to entertain the Finns. They hope to see teams in the local area, where the game is growing in popularity as well as in new European countries. 

Content that we have done our duty we will leave it at that. Pesäpallo, like a lot of indigenous sports, has a long and colorful history. Hopefully, it has a colorful future ahead.

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