History of baseball in the Dominican Republic
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The history of baseball in the Dominican Republic dates to the mid-19th century with the playing of cricket by English colonists in the south of the country. In the 1870s when Cubans fleeing the island due to the Ten Years' War (1868-1878), migrated to the nation bringing with them the game of béisbol. The country's first professional league was founded in 1890. In the fifty years since the first Dominican debuted in Major League Baseball in 1956 over 400 players from the nation have played in the league.
Early history (1800s - 1929)
The professional history of Dominican baseball began in 1890 with two professional teams - Ozama and Nuevo Club. However by the turn of the century, baseball in Dominican Republic was only a minor pastime - in part due to the country's great political turmoil. By 1907, the situation in the nation had settled and on November 7, 1907, the Tigres del Licey were founded in Santo Domingo. Over the next fourteen years Licey became such a dominant team that, on February 21, 1921, three competing teams (San Carlos, Los Muchachos and Delco Lite) combined form a new team comprised of their best players. This team would be known as Escogido or the "chosen one" and have been the rivals of the Tigres since. During the intervening years, two other clubs were formed Estrellas Orientales (1910) and Sandino (1921).
Trujillo era (1930 - 1950)
The dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo served as the republic's president from 1930 to 1938 (and again from 1942–1952). During his first term he oversaw the modernization of the Dominican Republic and undertook many public works projects, including building baseball stadiums. In 1937, he merged the two rival teams from Santo Domingo (which had already been renamed "Ciudad Trujillo"), Licey and Escogido into one for the upcoming season.
The new team was called the Dragones de Ciudad Trujillo, and featured the top Negro League and Latin American players of the day. Satchel Paige was given between $6,000 and $15,000 to pitch for the club and was paid extra to fellow Pittsburgh Crawfords jumped to the club. In total, nine United States nationals - Herman Andrews, Sam Bankhead, Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Bob Griffith, Leroy Matlock, Paige, Cy Perkins, and Harry Williams - joined Trujillo's club. The team also featured top Cuban players including Tony Castaño, Cuco Correa, Rodolfo Fernandez, Silvio Garcia, Rafael Quintana, Lázaro Salazar (who was the team's manager), Miguel Solis, and Huesito Vargas. The team's sole Dominican was Enrique Lantigua and it also featured Puerto Rican slugger Perucho Cepeda.
Not to be outdone, the Estrellas Orientales featured catcher-manager Julio Rojo, Pedro Arango, Carlos Blanco, Ramon Bragana, Yoyo Diaz, Cocaina Garcia, Alejandro Oms, Javier Perez, and Rogelio Teheran while the Aguilas Cibaeñas had Santos Amaro, Chet Brewer, Martin Dihigo, Luis Tiant Sr., and Tetelo Vargas.
The season began on March 28 and soon after Chet Brewer (Cibaeñas) no-hit Paige and the Dragones in a 4 - 2 game. The season continued through July 11 with Ciudad Trujillo winning the championship with a 18 and 13 record. Aguilas Cibaeñas followed at 13 - 15 while Estrellas Orientales were last at 11 - 14. Josh Gibson had the league's top batting average at .453 (with 21 RBI), while his manager, Lázaro Salazar, tied him for most triples at 5 and himself led all batters with 31 runs scored. Silvio Garcia had 38 hits in 128 at-bats including 14 doubles. Cibaeñas' Martin Dihigo and Santos Amaro each hit four home runs - Dihigo also had a 6 - 4 record second to Satchel Paige's 8 - 2.
After the season the league collapsed as the foreign players returned to their homelands and Trujillo was ousted. The league would remain dormant for the next fourteen years due to the sums of money Trujillo and the two other clubs paid to their players.
Modern era (1951 - present)
The modern league Dominican League was founded in 1951 as a summer league and did not move its schedule to the winter until the 1955/1956 season. In that season, the league played its first night game and joined the National Association.
The league attracts, many top players from the Major Leagues from the Dominican Republic and elsewhere.
Dominicans in the Major Leagues
Osvaldo Virgil Sr. was the first Dominican baseball player to make the Major Leagues, when he debuted in late September 1956 for the New York Giants. Felipe Alou, joined Virgil two years later in 1960. Since then, among them Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal, MVP outfielders George Bell, Sammy Sosa, and Albert Pujols, and Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martínez.
Since 1985, Major League Baseball has operated a Rookie Academy league in the country called the Dominican Summer League. In recent years, MLB organizations have come under fire for its methods of signing teenager players (MLB clubs may sign any player that is older than 16) and its exploitation of them.
The Dominican Republic in international baseball
The Dominican Republic has long been a player on the international baseball scene. The national team medaled in five of the first thirteen Baseball World Cups including gold in 1948. The team also won bronze in their only two Intercontinental Cup appearances and played in the demonstration sport tournament for baseball in 1984 and in the first medal tournament in 1992. The team also reached the semifinals in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. After a poor tournament in 2009, the team completed an undefeated run through the 2013 World Baseball Classic, winning all eight of its games and defeating Puerto Rico in the final. It was the first time a team other than Japan had won the tournament.
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