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US minor leaguers pull off major upset of Cuba

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Tommy Lasorda, manager of the United States Olympic baseball team, is nothing if not irrepressible. Long ago, he retired the trophy on hyperbole.

So when he says something, the best approach is to chuckle and ignore. Coming into the Olympics, Cuba was a top-heavy favorite and several other teams, including South Korea, looked formidable. The somewhat rag-tag Americans were generally considered to be in a pool of others.

When Lasorda was asked how his team of minor leaguers - mostly AAA, some AA - could leave here with gold medals around their necks, he said, "They're going to want it more than the other team, and that's the way we're going to win."

Most chuckled and ignored.

But, as sure as former Los Angeles manager Lasorda bleeds Dodgers blue and is still the only person extant who refers to the World Series as the Fall Classic, the US won the Olympic baseball title here last night because, frankly, they wanted it more than the other team. Much more.

It was a rout, an easy 4-0 victory.

The other team also happened to be the feared Cubans, who had won gold medals in the only two previous Games in which the sport was contested.

The Cubans seemed supremely confident. That was a justifiable feeling. After all, heading into the game, they were 25-1 in Olympic play (uncharacteristically, they lost earlier to the lowly Netherlands), they have 12 players who were on the Atlanta Olympic team, and their record against the US in major international events was 25-3.

Cuban captain Antonio Pacheco said, "I'm very confident no matter what sort of rival we meet, whether they are professionals, wizards, or ghosts." And Cuba pitcher Lazaro Valle exuded invincibility, saying, "This team is tuned for the championship."

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