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Baseball in Puerto Rico

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Title: Baseball in Puerto Rico  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Baseball in Puerto Rico, The Massachusetts Game, Baseball in the Netherlands, Women in baseball, History of baseball in the United States
Collection: Baseball in Puerto Rico, Sports Leagues in Puerto Rico
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Baseball in Puerto Rico

Baseball is the most popular sport in Puerto Rico. In terms of spectators and active participants, it is the premier sport on the island. It is also the only sport with its own professional league: the Puerto Rico Baseball League.

The game was introduced to the island in the late 19th century and the first two baseball clubs were founded in 1897, before the American invasion of 1898 known as the Spanish–American War. The sport was initially ridiculed as an effete, unmanly exhibition. However, when local Puerto Rican teams regularly defeated and embarrassed the more "experienced" American teams, the sport began to catch on.

As of 2012, over 100 Major League Baseball players were active in the Puerto Rico Baseball League, in addition to the many hundreds who participated in the past.

Some of the most famous baseball players from Puerto Rico include Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Alomar; as well as Jose "Cheo" Cruz; Iván Rodríguez; Edgar Martínez; Juan González; Victor Pellot; Yadier Molina; and Bernie Williams.

Contents

  • Early history of baseball in Puerto Rico 1
  • Chronology of major events 2
  • Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente 3
    • Inception and early years of the league (1938–1940) 3.1
    • Professional status 3.2
    • New stadiums built 3.3
    • Emergence of Clemente and Cepeda 3.4
    • Economic and political factors 3.5
    • New leagues, series and stadiums 3.6
  • Re-emergence in the Caribbean Series 4
    • Rivalry with LBPRD and "Dream Team" 4.1
    • Suspension and re-structuring 4.2
    • The return of Pudge Rodríguez 4.3
    • 2009–2010 season 4.4
    • 2010–2013 4.5
    • International reputation 4.6
    • Current teams 4.7
    • Former teams 4.8
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early history of baseball in Puerto Rico

The game of baseball was introduced to the island in the late 19th century, by Puerto Ricans and Cubans who had learned the game in the United States. At first the sport was poorly received by the hard-working farmers, tobacco workers and sugarcane cutters of the island, who considered it an effete, unmanly game.

The first two baseball clubs were founded in 1897: the Almendares Baseball Club owned by Francisco Alamo Armas, and the Borinquen Baseball Club owned by Santos Filippi.[1]

According to El País newspaper, the first organized baseball game was played on January 11, 1898 at the old velodrome in Santurce, San Juan. The Borinquen beat the Almendares by a score of 3 to 0. The first game to go a complete nine innings was played on January 30, 1898, when the Borinquen beat the Almendares again, by a score of 9 to 3.[1]

Later that same year, Puerto Rico became an American territory when the United States defeated Spain in the

  • Official Site
  • MLB.com - Caribbean Leagues
  • Connor, Joe, Welcome to Puerto Rico. ESPN (MLB), January 17, 2006. Retrieved 2009-12-16.

External links

  1. ^ a b c "Béisbol en Puerto Rico". Webcitation.org. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  2. ^ "Leon Day". Baseball.about.com. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  3. ^ "Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente - LBPRC". Ligapr.com. 2012-11-25. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Van Hyning et al., p. 9
  5. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 7
  6. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 8
  7. ^ a b c Van Hyning, p. 10.
  8. ^ Van Hyning, p. 222
  9. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 83
  10. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 78
  11. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 220
  12. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 74
  13. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 81
  14. ^ Van Hyning 1995, pp. 73–74, 241.
  15. ^ Bjarkman, Peter C. (August 30, 2007). "Winter Pro Baseball’s Proudest Heritage Passes into Oblivion". BaseballdeCuba.com. Retrieved June 6, 2010. 
  16. ^ Tye 2009, pp. 126–127; Van Hyning 1995, pp. 73–74, 241.
  17. ^ Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá (2007-10-14); Beisbol Romatico; citing El Lanzador: Una Carrera Marcada por la Guerra. Puerto Rico: El Nuevo Día; pp. 138
  18. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 80
  19. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 100
  20. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 118
  21. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 89
  22. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 179
  23. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 92–93
  24. ^ New York Yankees Lost to Ponce.  
  25. ^ Puerto Rico All-Stars Defeat New York Yankees.  
  26. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 231
  27. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 11
  28. ^ Baseball without borders: the international pastime. By George Gmelch. Page 164. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  29. ^ Biographic sheet on Montaner, Francisco "Paquito". Baseball. Museo Francisco Pancho Coimbre. August 10, 2010.
  30. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 120
  31. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 12
  32. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 84
  33. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 53
  34. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 145
  35. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 55
  36. ^ a b c d Van Hyning et al., p. 58
  37. ^ a b c Van Hyning et al., p. 46
  38. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 123
  39. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 60
  40. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 61
  41. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 99
  42. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 62
  43. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 127
  44. ^ a b c Van Hyning et al., p. 63
  45. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 37
  46. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 174
  47. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 42
  48. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 126
  49. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 149
  50. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 102
  51. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 232
  52. ^ a b c Van Hyning et al., p. 43
  53. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 65
  54. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 66
  55. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 104
  56. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 221
  57. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 125
  58. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 48
  59. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 128
  60. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 69
  61. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 71
  62. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 105
  63. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 130
  64. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 159
  65. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 171
  66. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 184
  67. ^ a b c d e Van Hyning et al., p. 108
  68. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 131
  69. ^ a b c d Van Hyning et al., p. 137
  70. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 162
  71. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p.39
  72. ^ a b c Van Hyning et al., p.136
  73. ^ a b c Van Hyning et al., p. 111
  74. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 106
  75. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 223
  76. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 116
  77. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 185
  78. ^ a b c Van Hyning et al., p. 113
  79. ^ a b c Van Hyning et al., p. 115
  80. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 41
  81. ^ a b Van Hyning et al., p. 49
  82. ^ Van Hyning et al., p. 114
  83. ^ a b c d "Dream Teams en la Serie del Caribe" (in Spanish).  
  84. ^ Rafy Rivera (2008-07-15). "Deportes". Frente a frente hoy Liga Invernal y Grandes Ligas (in Spanish).  
  85. ^ MLB.com"Marlins stunned by Pudge signing", , dated January 22, 2003, retrieved February 2, 2007; Time.com"Q & A With Pete Rose", , dated January 19, 2004, retrieved February 2, 2007
  86. ^ "Regresa Iván Rodríguez a la pelota local". Primera Hora (in Spanish). December 11, 2008. Retrieved December 16, 2008. 
  87. ^ "Cuadrados los refuerzos para la semifinal". Primera Hora (in Spanish). 
  88. ^ Carlos González (December 2, 2009). "Todo un "fiebrú" Iván Rodríguez".  
  89. ^ "Iván sólo dice ‘hasta luego’".  
  90. ^ "Béisbol invernal por Puerto Rico TV". Primera Hora. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  91. ^ Alex Figueroa Cancel (2009-11-12). "Borinquen escucha el ¡playball!".  
  92. ^ "¡Los Indios de Mayagüez son campeones!".  
  93. ^ "Eligen a nuevo presidente de Liga de Béisbol Profesional de Puerto Rico". Primera Hora. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  94. ^ ; 11-28-2013"Prisoners from Bayamon Correctional trounce players from the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League" (Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League); Liga Beisbol Professional Roberto Clemente Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  95. ^ Agencia EFE (2010-06-30). "Cangrejeros de Santurce regresarán a liga invernal boricua - Béisbol". ElNuevoHerald.com. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 

References

See also

Former teams

Team City Stadium Capacity
Atenienses de Manatí Manatí Estadio Municipal Pedro Román Meléndez 8,500
Criollos de Caguas Caguas Parque Yldefonso Solá Morales 10,000
Gigantes de Carolina Carolina Roberto Clemente Stadium 12,500
Indios de Mayagüez Mayagüez Isidoro García Baseball Stadium 10,500
Leones de Ponce Ponce Francisco Montaner Stadium 16,000
Cangrejeros de Santurce[95] Santurce, San Juan Hiram Bithorn Stadium 18,000

Current teams

The Puerto Rico National Baseball Team has participated in the World Cup of Baseball winning one gold (1951), four silver and four bronze medals. The team has also won the Caribbean Series fourteen times.

International reputation

On November 27, 2012, in a friendly softball game between nine professional ballplayers from the Puerto Rico Baseball League and nine prisoners from the Bayamon Correctional Institution, the prisoners won convincingly by a score of 10-3.[94]

The Criollos de Caguas are currently the dominant team in the Puerto Rico Baseball League. They were the league champs in 2010-2011 and 2012-2013, and the Indios de Mayaguez won in in 2011-2012.

2010–2013

In this same season, the board of directors elected Sadi Antonmattei to succeed Garcia as the president of the league.[93]

Indios de Mayagüez won the 2009-10 season, their 16th championship (the mostst in LPBPR history) when they beat the Criollos de Caguas, four games to one. Three games in this series went to extra innings.[92]

The 2009–10 season was inaugurated on November 20, 2009, with games between Ponce and Carolina, and Arecibo versus Mayagüez-Aguadilla.[91] This marked the first year that the league had only five active participants since 1993-94 due to the Cangrejeros' recess. During this season, the inter-league games with the Dominican Winter Baseball League continued being included in the official record books of both organizations.

On October 19, 2009, the league announced a contract with WIPR-TV to broadcast its games.[90]

2009–2010 season

He returned to action in a "sudden death" game for the final postseason space, but the team lost and was eliminated.

Playing for the Criollos de Caguas, he posted a batting average of .370, three RBIs and one home run in six games during the regular season. Upon leaving the team on vacation, Rodríguez announced his intention to return if the Criollos advanced to the playoffs.[89]

On January 8, 2008, the Leones de Ponce had reclaimed Rodríguez in the last turn of a special post-season draft, where players from eliminated teams were selected to reinforce those that qualified.[87] However, in the first week of December 2009, Rodríguez re-joined the Criollos de Caguas in the PRBL.[88]

Iván Rodríguez (also known as "Pudge") is recognized as one of the greatest catchers to ever play the game.[85] In preparation for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Pudge returned to the Puerto Rico Baseball League during the offseason, following ten years of absence.[86]

Ivan Rodríguez with the
New York Yankees in 2008.

The return of Pudge Rodríguez

On July 15, 2008, personnel from the league and Major League Baseball participated in a meeting where details about the league's merchandising were discussed.[84]

In May 2008, it was announced that the league would come back for the 2008-09 season, and that the Manatí Athenians would be moved once again to Santurce, and become the Santurce Crabbers. As part of the restructuring, Major League Baseball offered to work to increase publicity.

In August 2007, it was announced that the 2007–2008 season was cancelled due to shrinking attendance and profits over the last 10 years, and the league would instead work on a marketing plan and reorganization.

Suspension and re-structuring

Roberto Alomar, who had been traded to the team from Ponce for Javier López during the off-season, was named the series’ Most Valuable Player after batting 560 with two home runs.
Later in 2011, Alomar was inducted into Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame.[73]

The team won against Pedro Martínez and José Rijo in the third and sixth games respectively.[83]

Puerto Rico's offensive dominated the tournament, eventually winning the Caribbean Series championship with an undefeated record of 6–0.[83]

The group was dubbed the "Dream Team" and featured Major League Baseball players in most positions, including Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Bernie Williams, Juan González, Edgar Martínez, Carlos Delgado, Rubén Sierra, Rey Sánchez and Carmelo Martínez.[83]

2011 Hall of Fame Ceremony for Roberto Alomar

That year, the Senadores de San Juan managed by Luis "Torito" Meléndez won the title, subsequently assembling one of the strongest teams in the history of the Caribbean Series.[83]

The 1994-95 season however, is most famous for the once-in-a-lifetime Dream Team, that has been compared to the Murderer's Row of the New York Yankees during the Babe Ruth era.

The Criollos rejoined the league for the 1994-95 season and González returned to the team. The Cangrejeros won that year's championship, repeating Puerto Rico's title in the Caribbean Series.[81]

The 1993–94 championship was won by San Juan, led by Carmelo Martínez in his second MVP season.[69]

The Senadores de San Juan defeated the Cuban national baseball team on December 1, 1993, with a walk-off home run by Javier López.[76]

Until 1993, all of the ballparks featured natural grass, with Ponce being the first to install artificial turn during that year.

The Cangrejeros went on to win their fourth Caribbean Series’ title. Cordero won the league's batting championship.[79]

González had won consecutive batting titles in Major League Baseball and was selected the MVP after recording an average of .333 with seven home runs and 14 RBIs.[78] Other MLB players, including Iván Rodríguez, Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Omar Olivares returned to the league during that season.[67]

The 1992-93 season featured the return of Dickie Thon to the league, who led Santurce to a championship over San Juan in the finals as well as the debut of José "Cheo" Cruz as a manager.[67] The finals series featured both Thon and Juan González, which attracted 90,369 fans throughout six games, including a record of 23,701 in the last game.[67]

Rubén Gotay
José Cruz's number 25 was retired by the Houston Astros in 1992.
[82]Roberto Hernandez won a tie-breaker with Venezuela to secure the series, and Cordero was recognized as the league MVP.

The Indios won that season's championship and the Caribbean Series held in Mexico, with Chad Kreuter winning the series’ MVP award.[81]

In the 1991–1992 season, the Criollos de Caguas franchise was moved to Bayamón, but experienced low attendance in that municipality.[80] Due to this their star players, Juan González and Iván Rodríguez, were drafted by Santurce and Mayagüez respectively.

Santurce won the title the following year, which featured the debut of Wil Cordero, who was named Rookie of the Year.[79]

Martínez became the first player in 41 seasons to win the batting crown with an average above.400, registering .424.[79]

Carlos Baerga and Edgar Martínez were the co-MVP players of the 1989-90 season.

San Juan won the championship in the 1989–90 season.[73] The season featured the debut of Juan González, who under the initiative of that season's Manager of the Year, Ramón Avilés, played every game with Caguas, finishing second in home runs with 9 and RBIs with 34.[77] He was traded for Roberto Alomar during the off-season.[78] González also reinforced San Juan, recording two home runs in the Caribbean Series.[78]

Bernie Williams at bat.
Edgar Martínez at bat

Rivalry with LBPRD and "Dream Team"

The 1988 All-Star Game commemorated the league's 50th anniversary, and the game was dedicated to Angel Colon.[75] That year, the Metro region defeated the Island region, 1-0. Mayagüez went on to win the 1988-89 title, once again led by Quiñones' clutch hitting.[69] Javier López debuted in 1988, winning the league's Rookie of the Year recognition.[76]

The Indios de Mayagüez won the 1985-86 season, led by Luis Quiñones’ three home runs in the finals over San Juan.[69] Caguas won the 1986-87 championship and their third Caribbean Series‘ title, being led by a lineup that included Cotto and Oliveras.[72] Mayagüez won the first of back to back titles in 1987-88.

This marked Roberto Alomar's debut in the LBPPR, debuting for the Criollos after being drafted by Arecibo while in high school. Caguas won the 1986-87 championship, the team went on to win the Caribbean Series, featuring a native lineup that included Alomar, Carmelo Martínez, Edgar Díaz, Germán Rivera, Henry Cotto, Orlando Mercado and Heidi Vargas.[73] This was José Cruz's final year in the league, having amassed 119 home runs, 40 for the Leones and 70 with Caguas, finishing second in the all-time list.[74]

One of Puerto Rico's most successful managers, Mako Oliveras, made his managing debut in December 1984, subsequently becoming responsible for giving playing time to unknown prospects such as Benito Santiago, Edgar Martínez and Carlos Baerga, all of which would go on to become stars.[66] Mayagüez won the 1985-86 championship.

The Metros de San Juan also won the Caribbean Series being led by Francisco Javier Oliveras, who won a game in the series and had previously recorded eight regular season wins and one in the semifinals.[72] Henry Cotto of Caguas was selected the league's MVP. Rubén Sierra debuted for Santurce and won the league's Rookie of the Year award.[72]

Carlos Delgado

For the 1984–85 season, the Vaqueros were moved back to San Juan and re-adopted their original name, the Senadores de San Juan.[71] However, one year later they were rechristened as the Metros de San Juan, a name that they conserved until 1994.[71] The team won the LBPPR title that season.

In 1982-83, Bayamón's Carmelo Martínez was selected MVP.[69] Mayagüez won the 1983-84 season, with Santurce's Jerry Willard being selected MVP.[70] Besides this, the players were rewarded with a cruise trip and met the Governor of Puerto Rico.[37] Eduardo Figueroa led the league in ERA, winning the recognition of Comeback Player of the Year.[67]

From 1974 to 1983, the team hosted their games in Estadio Juan Ramón Loubriel, which has 12,500 seats. Located at Route 2 and Route 5, in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, the stadium has easy access with a metro station (known as Deportivo Station) on the stadium premises.

In 1981-82, the Lobos de Arecibo recessed and their native star players, Edwin Núñez, Candy Maldonado and Ramón Avilés were drafted by the remaining teams.[52] The team returned the following season, winning the franchise's first championship.[52] The team won the 1983 Caribbean Series, receiving a large welcoming ceremony at Luis Muñoz Marín Airport that included a parade from San Juan to Arecibo.

Orlando Gómez made his debut as a manager for Mayagüez and won the Manager of the Year award.[66] Dickie Thon won the first of two back-to-back batting titles this season.[67] This also marked Alomar, Sr.'s last active season, retiring forth on the fourth place of league's all-time hit leaders.[68]

Yadier Molina

Coming back from a fourth-place regular season finish, the Criollos won their tenth championship in the 1980–81 season, but the Caribbean Series were not held that year.[65] On January 2, 1981, Rickey Henderson established a new stolen bases record with 42.

The Indios won the 1973–74 title and the Caribbean Series held in Mexico that year.[63] Caguas won its ninth championship in the 1978-79 season and Bayamón won the last championship of the decade, with a roster that included batting champion Dave Bergman.[64]

The 1972 All-Star game was dedicated in honor of Roberto Clemente, who had died a week before, while transporting supplies to victims of the 1972 Nicaragua earthquake.[61] Both native and foreign-born players wore a black band on their arms, as a symbol of mourning. The Criollos won the 1973-74 championship, possessing the league's strongest native lineup.[62]

Rickey Henderson

Ponce won the second of back-to-back championships in 1969-70 as well as the Caribbean Series’ title being led in both by Conde's offensive.[59] The Cangrejeros won the 1970-71 championship, defeating the Criollos in the finals.[60]

Re-emergence in the Caribbean Series

Caguas won the league championship in 1967-68.[47] Nino Escalera, who finished his career third on the league's hit list, replaced Vic Power as the team's manager during this season.[57] On December 20, 1969, Santurce and Arecibo participated in the only LBPPR game played outside of Puerto Rico, held in the United States Virgin Islands to honor Elrod Hendricks.[58]

The following season featured the debut of Jerry Morales, who won the league's Rookie of the Year award.[55] Carlos Bernier retired in 1966, having won five stolen base titles for a total of 285 stolen bases.[30] On November 20, 1966, San Juan's Luis de Leon pitched the first perfect game in the league's history.[56]

In 1963-64, Clemente finished second with a batting average of .345, leading the Senadores to the title.[53] San Juan once again played in the Interamerican Series, held in Nicaragua.[53] In 1964-65, Orlando Cepeda joined the Cangrejeros, replacing Jim Beauchamp and helping the team win the league championship. During this season, Clemente was named San Juan's player-manager, leading them to the playoffs.[54]

For the 1962-63 season, Estadio Sixto Escobar was replaced by the Hiram Bithorn Stadium, with a larger capacity of 20,000 seats. The field dimensions were set to match the Olympic Stadium of the Montreal Expos: 325 feet (99 m) down the left field line, 325 feet (99 m) down the right field line and 404 feet (123 m) to center field. The outfield fences were set 8 feet (2.5 m) high.[27]

The Interamerican Series were held three more times, with each team winning on their home field. Mayagüez did so in 1963, in a series where Terin Pizarro recorded the only no-hitter in the history of the event, in a win over Valencia at the opening night.[51]
In 1961-62, the Lobos de Arecibo joined the league as an expansion team.[52] On January 14, 1962, Julio Navarro pitched the first regular season no-hitter.[11]

[50] won the season's Most Valuable Player award, registering a record of 10-2 with an ERA of 1.64.Luis Arroyo [44], led by Clemente, who had just won the MLB World Series with Pittsburgh, won the league's 1960–61 season, as well as José Santiago, who posted a record of 10-2 with an ERA of 2.44 for the team.Senadores de San JuanThe
Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana, Cuba
During this decade, some of the league's teams would provide import players with houses and taxis for transportation. [49]During the 1960s the Dominican Winter League was still not a member of the Caribbean Confederation, which allowed uncommon interleague trades between it and the LBPPR, which would have more trouble negotiating such deals with member leagues.

New leagues, series and stadiums

In 1961-62, due to political tension between the U.S. and Cuba, the Caribbean Series planned for in Havana's Estadio Latinoamericano (Latin American Stadium) was cancelled. The event was replaced by the Interamerican Series, which San Juan attended with a roster that included pitcher Florentino Rivera.[44]

After the Cuban Revolution, hotels and casinos in San Juan benefited from Havana’ economic decay.[47] During this timeframe, Puerto Rico expanded its presence in the Caribbean, and a native team frequently played again a representation of St. Thomas and Saint Croix in February.[48] Julio Navarro was drafted from one of these exhibitions, eventually becoming one of the league's dominant pitchers.[48]

During the 1950s, Puerto Rico's economy grew significantly, and this encouraged baseball-related gambling.[45] This tendency experienced a notable increase in the early 1960s. Other changes arried in the game's style, with the introduction of more player-managers such as Luis Olmo, who became the first to consistently employ pitching coaches and closers in the league.[46]

Economic and political factors

In 1961-62, coming from his best season in the big leagues, Cepeda was als LBPPR leader in home runs and RBIs, and won his second MVP Award guiding Santurce to its fifth championship.[44]

In 1958-59, Orlando Cepeda, coming from his first season in the Majors where he was selected Rookie of the Year in the National League, kept things on fire with Santurce winning the batting title and MVP award, helping the Crabbers win their fourth championship. The 1959-60 season marked the first instance that LBPPR games were transmitted in two languages trough radio.[42] The Criollos won the championship, while Mayagüez's Ramón Luis Conde won the Most Valuable Player Award.[43]

The following season, the Criollos defeated the Cangrejeros to win the championship. Clemente who now played for Caguas, hit .529 during the final series.[40] Juan "Terin" Pizarro won the Most Valuable Player Award, leading the league in wins, ERA, best win-to-loss margin and pitched the LBPPR's seventh no-hitter.[41] In the Caribbean Series, he defeated Carta Vieja of Panama (8:0), recording 17 strikeouts.[41] Both teams traded the final two championships of the decade.

Orlando Cepeda

In 1955-56, the Criollos won the league's championship, in a season that marked Orlando Cepeda's debut in the league.[36] Clemente won the season's batting championship with an average of .396.[33] In 1956-57, the league's championship was won by the Indios. During this season, Clemente went on to break the league's record for most games with hits, previously established by Francisco Coimbre in 1943-44.[39]

During this season, Clemente became the first Puerto Rican player to hit two home runs in the league's All-Star game.[36] The team also went on to win the Caribbean Series, which were held in Venezuela.[37] Jim Rivera hand an average of .450 and was named MVP.[38] Puerto Rican fans received the team with a parade upon landing and Luis Muñoz Marín welcomed them in La Fortaleza.[37]

Roberto Clemente

In 1952, Roberto Clemente made his debut with the Cangrejeros hitting .234. He was signed by Pedrin Zorilla, debuting in the league as a teenager.[33] The team won that year's title and Cot Deal was named MVP.[34] Clemente improved this average to .288 the following season, but Santurce finished last in the league.[35] The league's champions were the Criollos, who also won the Caribbean Series.[36] With a roster that also included Luis Olmo, Willie Mays and Rubén Gómez, the Cangrejeros won the 1954-55 championship defeating Caguas in the finals, 4-1.[36]

Emergence of Clemente and Cepeda

The MLB players kept returning, and enouraged more MLB to join them, began of the calibre of league play and because of the warm climate during winter months. Players from the Negro leagues preferred it due to a lack of racism towards the players, as opposed to the United States.[32]

Natalio Irizarry won the league's Rookie of the Year recognition in 1949-50.[30] From 1949-1955, the league featured the participation of new MLB players, including Johnny Logan, Harvey Haddix and Hank Aaron among several others.[31]

Perucho Cepeda was one of the league's dominant figures during the 1940s, winning two batting championships.

By the 1949-50 season, several new ballparks were built, each containing 6,000 or more seats. The largest new stadium was Ponce's Estadio Francisco Montaner with 9,718 seats. Montaner has the distinction of being the first stadium in Puerto Rico that installed an artificial surface field.[28] The installation of lights, which allowed for night games, further boosted stadium attendances.[7] The Stadium was named to honor Francisco "Paquito" Montaner, one of the greatest Puerto Rican pitchers of all times.[29]

Estadio Sixto Escobar was the oldest stadium, built in San Juan in 1935. It was also the largest, with 13,135 seats and a maximum capacity of over 15,000.[27]

A decade after its foundation the league was employing an 80-game schedule, with an average season attendance of 750,000.

Estadio Francisco Montaner, in Ponce

New stadiums built

Leon Day, a member of the U.S. Negro Leagues, also played for Los Triburones de Aguadilla (the Aguadilla Sharks) in Puerto Rico. When Day was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he became the only Hall of Famer to be enshrined with a cap of a team outside the mainland U.S. - his plaque depicts him as a Tiburon de Aguadilla.

In 1948-49, the LBPPR joined the Caribbean Series, beginning a rivalry with Cuba that lasted throughout the next decade, until Cuba ceased to participate in the event.[26]

In 1947, the New York Yankees participated in a five-game series against teams from the Caribbean leagues. In Puerto Rico, Ponce and an All-Star LBPPR team defeated the Yankees on consecutive nights.[24][25] José "Pantalones" Santiago debuted in this season, earning the Rookie of the Year recognition while Canena Marquez broke Josh Gibson's home run record of 13.[19]

Victor Pellot, also known as Vic Power, made his debut for the Criollos on the 1947-48 season, when the team won the league title. The team roster included Rafaelito Ortiz, the only pitcher to win ten or more games for three different LBPPR teams.[23]

The Senadores de San Juan won their first championship in 1945/46, defeating the Indios in the finals.[21] During this season, Joe Buzas became the first foreign MLB player to manage in the LBPPR.[22]

World War II affected the league directly, reducing the 1942/43 season's length to 36 games and the number of active teams to four.The league continued with four teams through 1945/46, but they played 48 games from 1943–46. From 1942 to 1944, teams were not allowed to bring in imported players.[4] In the 1944/45 season, Luis “Canena” Márquez debuted in the league and hit .361, setting the record for highest batting average by a rookie.[20]

Francisco Coímbre was a key member of Ponce’s success, winning two batting championships and a Most Valuable Player award. He went three consecutive seasons (1939–42) without striking out.[10] Other players that participated for Ponce included Juan Guilbe and Griffin Tirado.[18] In 1943/44 and 1944/45, Ponce pitcher Tomás “Planchardón” Quiñones won back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards.[19]

Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1941, Hiram Bithorn was the first Puerto Rican to ever play major league baseball. The world took notice in 1943, when Bithorn went 18–12 with an earned run average of 2.60, and completed 19 of his 30 starts. He also led the league in shutouts (seven), setting a record for Puerto Rican pitchers that stands to this day.[17]

Estadio Juan Ramón Loubriel

The league used a format of vueltas (halves), where the winners of each half facing each other for the championship. However, Ponce managed to win four consecutive championships (1941–45), and in three of those seasons (1941/42, 1943/44, 1944/45) they won both halves and were declared champions without participating in a final.[4] Consequently, once the other teams were eliminated from winning the second-half title, their fans tended to lose interest. Some players also dropped out after their teams were eliminated. To deal with this issue, in 1948/49 the league established a new playoff format that included the top four teams.[4]

On September 14, 1941, Rafael Delgado Márquez proposed that the league recognize a move from semi-professional to professional status by renaming itself to Liga de Béisbol Profesional de Puerto Rico (LBPPR).[4]

Professional status

In a December game against Mayagüez, Paige set a league record by striking out 17 batters. He ended the season with a 19–3 record, a 1.93 ERA, and 208 strikeouts in 205 innings. The 19 wins and 208 strikeouts set single-season league records, that have never been broken. Paige helped his team win the league championship playoff series, winning two games against the San Juan Senadores.[15][16] Paige went on to win the league‘s Most Valuable Player award in 1940.[4] The town of Guayama is widely known for its Santería, Palo (religion), and other spiritualist religious practices. In a legendary game in Guayama, Paige walked off the mound, because he saw a ghost standing next to him.

In October, 1940, Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige arrived in Puerto Rico, four weeks after the start of the 1939/40 winter season. He joined the Brujos de Guayama (Guayama Witch Doctors), who also featured shortstop Perucho Cepeda and outfielder Tetelo Vargas. On November 5, Paige pitched a shut out against rival Santurce, which featured player-manager Josh Gibson, by a lopsided score of 23 to 0.[14]

In 1939-40, Perucho Cepeda won the league's batting championship over Josh Gibson, who managed to win it the following season.[12] The Criollos de Caguas won their first championship in 1940/41, defeating the Cangrejeros in the final series. Santurce's Luis Cabrera was the last player to win the LBSPR’ Most Valuable Player award.[13]

Between 1938 and 1941, the LBSPR was part of the National Semi-Professional Baseball Congress, with titleholder Guayama facing the champions of the Congress’ United States branch in best-of-seven series in 1939, where they defeated the Duncan Cementers, and again in 1940.[4]

In the 1939-40 season, the Cangrejeros de Santurce (Santurce Crabbers) and Tiburones de Aguadilla (Aguadilla Sharks) joined the original teams.[6] On January 8, 1939, Humacao and San Juan played an 18-inning game that lasted four hours, establishing a record.[11]

[10].Emilio Navarro’ veteran, Negro leagues One of the main figures of the league in its early stage was [4] Enrique Huyke served as manager for Mayagüez for less than a month, because the team‘s owner threatened to remove its entry if he did not take the office.[9], were active in the rosters of San Juan and Caguas. Bithorn became the youngest manager in the league's history, named to the position in 1938 at the age of 22.Luis Olmo and Hiram Bithorn, Major League Baseball.The first Puerto Rican players to play in U.S.
Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. It was named after the first Puerto Rican to ever play in the major leagues, Hiram Bithorn
[8][7], January 6, an idea suggested by Angel Colón so that the proceeds could be used to buy toys. This date was used for decades, until the emergence of television forced the league to comply with dates requested by the networks.Three Kings Day The All-Star game was scheduled to coincide with the traditional [7]Maldonado was named the league's commissioner. The league set deadlines for changes in the rosters, which were allowed only during the first half of the season, and the number of games played has historically varied from 40 to 80 games per season.

Enrique Huyke, a professor from Guayama Rotary Club collaborated in raising funds for the teams.[4] The Liga de Béisbol Semiprofesional de Puerto Rico (LBSPR) was founded in 1938, as a semi-professional league.[5] The new league consisted of six teams: the Senadores de San Juan (San Juan Senators), Leones de Ponce (Ponce Lions), Indios de Mayagüez (Mayagüez Indians), Criollos de Caguas (Caguas Creoles), Brujos de Guayama (Guayama Witch Doctors), and Grises Orientales de Humacao (Humacao Oriental Grays).[6]

Inception and early years of the league (1938–1940)

In 2008, the LBPPR participated in the first inter-league series with the LBPDR, otherwise known as the Liga de Beisbol Profesional de la Republica Dominicana (Professional Baseball League of the Dominican Republic).

Currently, the league's champion also participates in the Caribbean Series.

In 2007, the LBPPR recessed for the first time since its creation. In 2008, the organization resumed operations, but with several structural changes. These included reducing the league to only four teams, renaming the league as the "Puerto Rico Baseball League," and establishing a website.[3]

The LBPRC currently has six teams:

Puerto Rico has a winter baseball league named the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, formerly known as Liga de Béisbol Profesional de Puerto Rico (LBPPR) and Puerto Rico Baseball League, that has operated since the early 20th century. The champion of the Puerto Rico league represents Puerto Rico in the annual Caribbean World Series.

Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente

Chronology of major events

In the early 1920s teams from Puerto Rico, such as the San Juan Baseball Club and the Porto Rican Stars, would travel to New York City to play against some of the professional American teams.

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