On This Date: September 27, 2000 – USA vs. Cuba (Sydney Olympic Games)

Team USA captures first-ever Olympic gold medal with win over Cuba

On this date in USA Baseball history, Team USA captured its first-ever Olympic gold medal by defeating Cuba 4-0. Ben Sheets earned the win on the mound as Team USA finished the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games with an 8-1 record.

In a rematch for the ages, Sheets took the mound with teammate Pat Borders behind the plate. Borders had been battling an ankle injury that occurred during the first matchup between the two squads and was returning for the first time since.

After using ace Jose Contreras to beat Japan in the semifinal, Cuba went with typical closer Pedro Luis Lazo as the starter. Lazo had managed the first two outs of the game when Team USA’s Mike Neill hit a solo home run to left field to open up the game and put the American’s on top early, 1-0.

In the bottom half of the first, Sheets struck out the first two batters before giving up a single to Cuba’s Omar Linares. Shaking off the early hit, Sheets recorded another strikeout to end the inning and with one inning under their belt, Team USA never looked back.

John Cotton led the second inning off with a double and forced the hand of Cuba’s pitching staff, bringing in Jose Ibar to relieve Lazo. Ibar and Sheets went to head-to-head in the second, third and fourth innings, matching zeros heading into the top of the fifth with Team USA still ahead 1-0.

In the fifth, Team USA broke through again as Doug Mientkiewicz managed a walk. Pat Borders doubled to right center, easily bringing home Mientkiewicz and extending the lead to 2-0. Borders was thrown out at third on a bunt by Adam Everett, however in the next at bat, Brent Abernathy recorded a base hit and put runners on the corners.

Cuba made a second a change on the mound bringing in Maels Rodriguez and hoping the sudden increase in speed could slow down the Americans. However, Team USA couldn’t be shaken at the plate as Wilkerson forced a walk and loaded the bases for Mike Neill.

Neill, with a home run already in the game, couldn’t repeat and struck out for the second out in the inning. Ernie Young, who had gotten hit in the pool play matchup with Cuba, came through for Team USA with a two-run single right back up the middle, running the score to 4-0 for Team USA.

With top notch defense backing up Sheets, including a Mientkiewicz diving stop in the fourth, Everett stopping every groundball that came near him and a Young sliding catch to end the eighth inning, manager Tommy Lasorda refused to take him out of the game, even after surpassing the 90-pitch count.

The Cubans had only managed three singles heading into the bottom of the ninth and Sheets wouldn’t have them add any more. Finishing the game, the way he started, Sheets struck out the first two batters in the final inning.

With one out left in the Olympics, Neill made the sliding snow cone grab in left field for the final out. For the first time in USA Baseball history, Tommy Lasorda and Team USA were Olympic Gold Medalists.


  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
USA 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 4 9 0
CUB 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
Win: B. Sheets Loss: P. Lazo | Box Score | Watch On Demand


- Ben Sheets earned the win recording five strikeouts and allowing only three hits in nine innings
- Mike Neill was 2-for-5 with an RBI and a home run
- Ernie Young was 2-for-4 with two RBIs
- Pat Borders was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI




- “From Day One, we knew if we had one player we could build around, if we needed to have somebody who could win the gold medal for us, that player was Ben Sheets. We didn’t have the prettiest team, we didn’t have a Ferrari. But if we did have one, it was Sheets.” Paul Seiler (Baseball America, Miracle on Grass)

- “I was fired up. I knew it was an opportunity of a lifetime, and I was ready for it.” Ben Sheets (Miracle on Grass)

- “I can’t describe the feeling. We came here to do one thing, win the gold, and nobody gave us a chance to do it. We proved everybody wrong.” Brent Abernathy (Baseball America, Miracle on Grass)

- “Everybody had set the Cubans as the standard for this sport. But this is our sport. Baseball was started by us and it’s played by us. And now we’ve won the gold medal. These were the best games of my life, and if I don’t ever play again, I’ll be happy I was able to play in this game tonight.” Ernie Young (Baseball America, Miracle on Grass)

- “Well, you know when they said that the coaches don’t get medals, I got my medal when I saw them put those gold medals around my players. I got my medal when they played the National Anthem. I got my medal when they not only played the National Anthem, but when they raised the American flag, that’s when I started to cry. And when they played our National Anthem, I knew that we had done something. We had won for our country. Tommy Lasorda (Miracle on Grass)

- "It’s bigger than the World Series. It’s bigger than the Los Angeles Dodgers. And I have to say that it’s the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.” Tommy Lasorda (Miracle on Grass)