Rays-Cuba game joins list of landmark international events

Archer hoping to lay foundation for Cuba (2:02)

Rays pitcher Chris Archer joins Hannah Storm to talk about what it is like to visit Cuba, how he hopes their trip can improve things for the people of Cuba and what it meant to have a catch with a young Cuban baseball fan. (2:02)

The Tampa Bay Rays are making baseball history with this week's visit to Cuba.

It marks only the second time a major league team has traveled to the island nation since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. More importantly, the trip coincides with a diplomatic sojourn by President Barack Obama, who plans to attend the game. It's the first visit by an American president to Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. The contingent representing MLB on the trip includes commissioner Rob Manfred, Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Joe Torre, players union executive director Tony Clark and former Yankees star Derek Jeter.

Tuesday's game is not being contested without controversy. ESPN's Dan Le Batard explains the opposing perspective in this column.

Nevertheless, the Rays' visit represents a significant event for American sports in the international arena, and with that in mind, we assemble a list of similar landmark moments:

April 1896: First modern Olympics

The athletic tradition of ancient Greece was resurrected more than 1,500 years after being discontinued in the fourth century A.D. Fourteen nations were represented by 241 athletes in the 1896 Games. The first gold medal went to James Connolly of the United States for winning the triple jump. The most decorated medalist was gymnast Hermann Weingartner of Germany, who won three golds, two silvers and one bronze. Americans won gold in nine of the 12 events in track and field.

January-February 1924: First Winter Olympics

Sports such as figure skating and ice hockey were previously contested as part of the Summer Olympics, but that changed with the introduction of the Winter Games in Chamonix, France. The most decorated medalist was speed skater Clas Thunberg of Finland, who won three golds, one silver and one bronze. Charles Jewtraw was the only American to capture a gold medal, winning the 500 meters in speed skating. The U.S. took silver in ice hockey, losing 6-1 to a Canada team that outscored its opponents by a combined 122-3.

July 1930: First World Cup

Soccer was contested at the 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympics, but it wasn't until Uruguay played host to the inaugural World Cup that the beautiful game had a global stage all its own. Uruguay, having captured the first two Olympic championships, defeated Argentina 4-2 before a crowd of 60,000-plus in the tournament final at Montevideo. Argentina's Guillermo Stabile scored a tournament-high eight goals among the 13-team field. Pedro Cea scored five goals to lead Uruguay. The U.S. lost 6-1 to Argentina in the semifinals.

August 1936: Summer Olympics in Berlin

The Nazi government of Germany intended to use the 1936 Olympics as a propaganda festival for the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. Instead, those Games are best remembered for the achievements of African-American sprinter Jesse Owens, who won gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and 4x100-meter relay. Including Owens' four golds, the United States won 25 medals in track and field -- nine more than the host nation. With the onset of World War II, the Olympic Games wouldn't be held again until 1948.

April 1971: Ping-pong diplomacy

The United States table-tennis team was competing at the world championships in Japan when it was invited to the People's Republic of China. The offer was viewed as an opportunity to thaw relations between two nations that didn't share diplomatic ties. Nine athletes and a handful of associates and journalists became the first Americans allowed to visit China since its 1949 communist revolution, as the team toured and played exhibition matches. President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, and the U.S. officially recognized the People's Republic of China in 1979.

March 21, 1980: Olympic boycott

In response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States would boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Dozens of other nations joined the abstention, although the action didn't provide the intended result of a Soviet military withdrawal. Four years later, the U.S.S.R. and many of its allies subsequently boycotted the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. Cable television magnate Ted Turner helped thaw relations between the two factions by arranging the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow.

November 1990: Suns vs. Jazz in Japan

The NBA held its first regular-season games outside North America when the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz met for two games at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gym. Tom Chambers scored 38 points to lead the Suns to a 119-96 win in the opener. Karl Malone scored 29 points for Utah in its 102-101 win the following night. Attendance for both games was 10,111.

November 1991: First Women's World Cup

Twelve nations were represented in China when FIFA first held a women's tournament for its signature event, although the tournament wouldn't officially be granted the "World Cup" title until 1995. The United States defeated Norway 2-1 in the final on Nov. 30 in Guangzhou. American forward Michelle Akers led all scorers with 10 goals in the tournament.

June-July 1992: The Dream Team

The 1992 United States Olympic men's basketball team arguably represents the greatest assembly of talent ever in any sport. Eleven future Hall of Famers, highlighted by Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, appeared on the Dream Team roster. The team went 8-0 in the Olympics, winning by an average of 43.8 points en route to the gold medal. That performance marked the tipping point for the worldwide popularity of basketball. The number of foreign players in the NBA ballooned in subsequent years, and by 2002, the U.S. lost its global superiority by finishing sixth at the world championships.

August 1996: Mets vs. Padres in Mexico

In the first regular-season MLB games held outside the United States and Canada, the New York Mets and San Diego Padres faced off in a three-game series in Monterrey, Mexico. Fernando Valenzuela earned the victory in the series opener for San Diego, and Ken Caminiti hit three home runs as the Padres won two of the three games. MLB has subsequently held regular-season games in Japan and Australia.

October 1997: Canucks vs. Ducks in Japan

The first NHL regular-season games held outside North America were played when the Vancouver Canucks and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim opened the 1997-98 season at Yoyogi Arena in Tokyo. The teams split two games in a series that preceded the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, by three months.

March 28, 1999: Orioles play in Cuba

The Baltimore Orioles became the first MLB team to visit Cuba since Castro came to power when they arrived to play against a national all-star team. Baltimore won the game 3-2 in 11 innings. Charles Johnson hit a two-run homer, and Harold Baines delivered the winning RBI. The Cuban team reciprocated the trip on May 3, 1999, defeating the Orioles 12-6 in a game interrupted by protests at Camden Yards.

Oct. 2, 2005: 49ers vs. Cardinals in Mexico

The NFL's first regular-season game held outside the United States was contested in Week 4 of 2005, when the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals squared off at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The attendance figure of 103,467 set a record, since broken, for an NFL regular-season game as the Cardinals won 31-14. The NFL subsequently has held regular-season games in England and Canada, and the league expressed interest Monday in staging contests in China, Germany and Brazil.

March 2006: First World Baseball Classic

Baseball introduced its own version of the World Cup a decade ago with an inaugural global tournament featuring professional players. Games were played in Japan, Puerto Rico and the continental United States. Japan captured the championship with a 10-6 win over Cuba in San Diego. The U.S. failed to advance to the championship round after losses to South Korea and Mexico in pool play.