The Caribbean World Series is the only activity in the world which unites professional baseball leagues from different countries playing between them to become champions of their region. After their regular tournaments are over, four countries, which make up today’s Caribbean Federation, compete in this event. The eyes of the Caribbean and the world are focused on this classic which presents good baseball quality.
By a fortunate coincidence, Venezuela is to be the host of the 2010 Caribbean Series, which will take place in the heavenly Island of Margarita. If a member of the Confederation deserves that honor, it is the Professional Baseball League of Venezuela, which was responsible for creating the Caribbean event in 1949. Today it includes the Mexican League of the Pacific. This will be the 52nd Caribbean Series, 12 of which were played in the first phase from 1949 to 1960. After an unexpected recess of nine years, Venezuela once again pioneered the celebration of the Caribbean Series. The second phase was resumed in Caracas, in February of 1970.
Few Latin American events can glorify themselves of having such a long period of time of activity taking into account the difficulties confronted to them. There were times it was feared the extinction of the tournament, but solutions always arose which have made it possible to keep it alive.
The roots of this tournament started back in October of 1945, when Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson and assigned him to the Montreal Royals, a minor league team, putting and end to detestable racial discrimination in professional baseball. Before that the winter leagues in Latin America was nurtured by African American players. Rickey who was the President of the Brooklyn Dodgers open the doors, but it also signified the eventual control of the star players which in turn limited the natural Caribbean market.
On October 18th, 1946 the first Interamerican Series was played in Caracas, Venezuela an idea of Venezuelan businessman Jesús Corao. This series was played for a month and the teams that competed were: the Sultanes de Monterrey, from México; All Cubans, Cuba; Bushwicks, United States; and Cervecería Caracas, Venezuela. Some of the most recognizable Negro stars who played were Jackie Robinson, Parnell Woods, Buck Leonard, Quincey Trouppe, Roy Campanella, Marvin Barrer, Sam Jethroe, William Anderson; Venezuelans will never forget these outstanding players who played back in the 1940’s.
The great success of the Interamerican Series exited Venezuelan entrepreneurs, Oscar Prieto and Pablo Morales, who created the idea of the Caribbean Series. Prieto and Morales presented the idea in front of the Confederation of Baseball of the Caribbean in Miami. The federation was conformed by Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. On August 21st, 1948 in Havana, Cuba the agreement was signed to create the Caribbean Series. The structure was conceived to defend the interest of the four Caribbean countries that had winter leagues. The agreement included an annual rotation of the series in the participating countries. The first in February of 1949 in Havana, the second in San Juan Puerto Rico and continuing with Caracas, Venezuela and finalizing with Panama City, Panama. 12 games, each team facing each other twice was the format selected.
The teams of Venezuela (Cervecería Caracas), Panama (Refresqueros de Spur Cola), Puerto Rico (Indios de Mayagüez) and Cuba (Alacranes of Almendares) were the first foursome to begin this Caribbean classic. The first game was played February 20th, 1949, in the El Cerro stadium, today known as the Latin-American stadium, the teams were Panama against Puerto Rico. The ceremonies first pitch was thrown by the President of the National Association of the Minor Leagues of the United States, George Trautman. The second game was between Venezuela and Cuba. The first hit of the event was credited to North American, Leon Treadway of the Spur Cola team, fellow citizen Wilmer Fields of Mayagüez allowed the hit. In the inaugural game Spur Cola defeated Mayagüez by a final score of 13 to 9. In the second game Cuba massacred Venezuela 16 to 1. The sole Venezuelan run was registered to Dalmiro Finol who hit the first homerun of these classics being the victim Cuban, Conrado Marrero of Almendares. The "hillbilly" Marrero pitched the entire game to record the victory. The Alacranes of Almendares won this first event undefeated, six victories. The Cuban pitcher, Agapito Mayor, was named the Most Valuable Player; he obtained three victories, a record which is still held in the Caribbean series. The Cervecería Caracas with pure Venezuelans was sub-champions. Cuba swept the series with a great offense 11, 13 and 16 runs scored. There was a shutout by Eddie Wright, three games won by Agapito Mayor and 11 RBI’s by Monte Irvin.
This historic first period set the stage for solid roots. The series was being carried out every year with great success until it ended abruptly in 1960, when the Cuban League could not hold the Classic due to pressures from the new system of government which assumed power in 1959 and eradicated professional sports.
What are left of those series are the memories of great individual accomplishments. After disappearing for ten years the Caribbean series came back and greatly due to the great memories that were left by the 12 classics celebrated between 1949 and 1960. The three victories obtain by Cuban pitcher, Agapito Mayor with Almendares in the first series ever played; In 1950 the unexpected victory by the Licoreros de Carta Vieja of Panama, a team which became champion after defeating in an extra game the Criollos de Caguas in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The astronomic batting average of .619 by Cuban, Lorenzo "Chiquitín" Cabrera (Havana) to win the batting title in 1951 in Caracas; the no hit no run game by American Tommy Fine (Havana) against Venezuela in 1952 in Panama; the four homeruns by the legendary Willard Brown (Santurce) in Havana in 1953; the memorable homerun hit by Willie Mays (Santurce) in the 11th inning to give Puerto Rico the victory after failing in his first 12 at bats in the 1955 series; the 17 strikeouts by Juan "Terín" Pizarro (Caguas) against Panama in 1958 in San Juan. These great historic moments were the catapult for Rodrigo "Güigo" Otero to resume the Caribbean Series in 1970.
The decade between the first and second stage there were some frustrated intents to present the tournament but it was the vision of "Güigo" Otero Suro who opened the doors for a renovated Caribbean series, there were some who were incredulous but the respected Puerto Rican leader grouped the Confederation from the Dominican Republic and the Mexican winter league to fill in the absent teams from Cuba and Panama, forming a new foursome.
SECOND STAGE. The park at Ciudad Universitaria in Caracas, Venezuela, was the scene for the initial second stage in 1970. Dominican Republic had already joined the Federation to become the third team who played in that series.
The Dominicans were not present in the first stage because during those years they celebrated their tournaments during the summer, a system which they changed in 1955 with the construction of the Leonidas Trujillo stadium which today is called Quisqueya stadium. México started in the 1971 series in Puerto Rico; they integrated the Confederation of the Caribbean through the Mexican Pacific League. Many thought in the beginning that the inclusion of Mexico would bring economic losses for the visiting teams when it corresponded to play in Mexico. But the facts have showed that the fears were not true in fact the Mexicans on more than one occasion have saved the Caribbean series.
Hence the second stage of the Caribbean Series has not been as stable as the first but some problems have been fixed and the most recent series have been a success. In 1974, Venezuela did not go to the series which was celebrated in Mexico due to a conflict between owners and players, the host country presented two teams. In 1981, the series was supposed to be played in Caracas but due to financial problems it was not. It was Mexico who stepped up and celebrated the Caribbean Series five times in 11 years from 1978 to 1989.
¡MIAMI! In 1990 and 1991, there were experiments that failed when a group of investors took the event to Miami, it was played the first year in the Orange Bowl, a American football stadium, the dimension in the stadium were 220 and 240 in right field, which is normally between 325 and 375 in other parks. The second year was in the Bobby Maduro stadium.
¡MEXICO! Again the Aztec country prevailed in having the series in two consecutive years. In 1992 it was in the city of Hermosillo and in 1993 in the city of Mazatlán. In 1994 the regular rotation began as the series regained stability, that year it was played in Venezuela in the Alfonso “Chico” Carrasquel stadium in Puerto La Cruz, and it was a tremendous success. In 1995 the series played in San Juan, Puerto Rico had great fan attendance and star players played, they were anxious to play due to the players strike which paralyzed baseball in the United States from August of 1994 to early February 1995. After that series the confrontations between the monarchs of the winter leagues have revived the series and everyday it reaches out to more fans.
¡TELEVISION! In 1997 the Caribbean Series is televised in the United States by Puerto Rican businessman, Ralph Paniagua Jr., through Galavisión and three years after through FOX Sports en Español, which brought a complete coverage of the Caribbean classic, the broadcast has been very successful.
¡MEMORABLE MOMENTS! Since its restart in 1970 the Caribbean Series has had stellar moments, In 1970 player-manager Manuel Mota, of the Dominican Republic, Tigres de Licey won the tournament undefeated, earned the honor of centerfielder of the series, batting title, triples leader, and Most Valuable player… Dominican reliever of the Tigres de Licey, Federico "Chichí" Olivo, struck out Reggie Jackson and Elrod Hendricks to win the last game and the Caribbean series of 1971, the first won by the Dominican Republic… Rico Carty, playing for the Tigres del Licey, connected 5 homeruns in the 1977 series, breaking Willard Brown record (Cangrejeros de Santurce) Puerto Rico, established in the 1953 series…American Mitchell Page of the Navegantes del Magallanes, Venezuela, hit a homerun in the ninth inning of the sixth game of the 1979 series to give Venezuela its second title both for Magallanes… On February 6th, 1980, Quisqueya stadium in Santo Domingo, Venezuelan, and Antonio Armas hit a grand slam against Dominican bigleaguer Mario Soto, of the Tigres del Licey, so that the Leones del Caracas could defeat Licey 4 to 2, denying the crown to the Tigres which they obtain the next day… On February 5th, 1987 in Hermosillo, México, the Criollos de Caguas, Puerto Rico, set a record of home runs in a game with 8, although, they lost the game against the Aguilas Cibaeñas 14 to 13… On February 6th, 1995, Roberto Alomar, San Juan, Puerto Rico, batted five hits against the Azucareros, Dominican, and the next day he got two more to become the first player to connect 7 consecutive hits a record that since has been broken by Edgar González, Mazatlán (2006) with 8… ¡Unbelievable! In 1991, the Potros de Tijuana shutout the Cardenales de Lara even tough the Potros allowed 10 hits in that game. This type of shutout and the no hit no run game (thrown by Tommy Fine) has been the most difficult to attain in the history of the Caribbean series… Unforgettable “Dream team” the Puerto Rico presented in 1995 in San Juan included superstars from one to nine Roberto Alomar, Edgar Martínez, Carlos Baerga, Carlos Delgado, Juan “Igor” González, Rubén Sierra, Bernie Williams, Carmelo Martínez and Rey Sánchez…
TIGERS! This year in MEXICALI 2009, the Aragua Tigers won their first Caribbean Series crown and the seventh for Venezuela, when they defeated the Mazatlan Deer 5 to 3 in the penultimate date of the event. The Venezuelan team remained unbeaten in five games. The day before, the Aragüeños put an end to the reign of the Licey Tigers, winners of the 2008 Caribbean Series, by defeating them 3 to 2. The last Venezuelan team to win the Caribbean Series was the Caracas Lions in 2006. That series was in Venezuela and were played in the cities of Valencia and Maracay respectively.