Results tagged ‘ Orlando Cepeda ’

Ciudad Trujillo – The best baseball team you’ve never heard of.

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The 1937 Dragones de Trujillo

Winter baseball leagues from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic have started with major league veterans and up and coming stars. The winter leagues have always been the place to play against the best competition in the off season. It was also a haven for Negro leagues players.

The winter leagues were a place where players were not known for the color of their skin or where they were from. For decades, Negro League players and their brothers from Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela were all equal – playing along side such greats as Roberto Clemente for Santurce in Puerto Rico.

There was one team however that had unparalleled star power.

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Satchel Paige

In 1937, the Ciudad de Trujillo squad was one of the best in baseball history. Negro League greats Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell joined forces with Cuban greats Silvio Garcia and manager Lazaro Salazar to form and unbelievable roster.

Los Dragones called Trujillo, Dominican Republic home.

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Rafael Trujillo

Dominican Republic dictator at the time – Rafael Trujillo, who thought that a great baseball team would strengthen his popularity,  changed the name of the city to Trujillo from Santo Domingo and wanted the best baseball team that he could assemble. Dr. Jose Enrique Aybar, who held a position in Trujillo’s government was also in charge of Los Dragones and paid Paige $30,000 to recruit as many Negro leagues players as he could to play for Trujillo. Paige was supposed to take $6,000 for himself and use the balance to bring other players, Some stories have Paige being held at gunpoint until he agreed. Paige brought five Pittsburgh Crawford teammates which included Sam Bankhead and Bell plus Gibson to the Dominican. The club also starred the father of Hall of Famer and Puerto Rican great Orlando Cepeda – Petrucho Cepeda.

The problem was that the Crawfords and Grays – who Gibson was just traded to were in spring training. Unlike today, Liga Dominicana was not a winter league in 1937. Negro League owners banned the players since they left their teams but it did not stop them from heading to the Caribbean. Just like a lot of Negro leagues history – there is another story about why the players went to the Dominican  to play. This one involved Crawfords owner Gus Greenlee defaulting on players salaries. Which story is true – who knows. But the one thing that is certain – this 1937 ensemble would give any team in history a run for it’s money.

It was an interesting experience for the Americans as armed guards followed them everywhere and lined the field during games. In many cases it was like being kidnapped and only allowed to play baseball on the weekends.

The Dragones won the title with Paige winning two-games. Paige led the league with an 8-2 record. Josh Gibson hit .453 for the season and Cool Papa Bell did what Cool Papa Bell did – play a variety of positions as well as anyone ever had.

Despite winning the championship, Dictator Trujillo was not impressed or happy with the return on his $30,000 investment as the Dragones didn’t dominate like he had anticipated. The following season the team and league was disbanded. There would not be organized baseball in the Dominican Republic for the next 12-years.

Dave Barr (@daveabarr)

What’s in a name? Great Negro Leagues team nicknames.

The Negro Leagues had color in every way – from uniforms, to personalities to the color of their skin.

As teams particularly around Minor League Baseball, effort to discover the newest in unique team nicknames like this week’s announcement of baseball returning to El Paso, Texas in the form of the Chihuahuas – I thought we would look back at some of  the best team nicknames in Negro Leagues history.

 

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Atlanta Black Crackers

The Black Crackers began play as the Atlanta Cubs but changed their name as many fans were already calling them the Black Crackers after an all-white baseball team in Atlanta named the Crackers in 1919. The teams were connected in many ways including both playing in the same Ponce de Leon Park and in 1920 when the Black Crackers joined the Negro Southern League – they equipment and uniforms were donated by their white counterparts.

For most of the clubs history it played as a minor league or independent team. But in 1938, Atlanta joined the newly formed Negro American League. Because of various problems on and off of the field – the team was relocated to Indianapolis and became the ABC’s.

 

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Kansas City Monarchs

Widely thought of as the most successful organization in Negro Leagues baseball – the Monarchs were formed in 1920 by white businessman J.L Wilkinson (the first of an established team in Negro Leagues history). Kansas City was an organization on the cutting edge using portable lights to play night games way before the Major Leagues did.

The Monarchs sent more players to the big leagues than any other Negro Leagues club including Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, Ernie Banks, Elston Howard and Hank Thompson.

Kansas City won 10 pennants, two Negro leagues World Series (1924 and 1942) and were the longest running Negro Leagues organization disbanding in 1965.

 

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Homestead Grays

The Grays were the most dominate Negro Leagues team in the 1940’s.

The Grays were formed in 1912 and originally based in Homestead, Pennsylvania. Because of the enormous popularity of their, they moved to Pittsburgh in 1929 making the Steel City arguably the capital of Negro Leagues baseball as both the Grays and Crawfords called it home. TheGrays played in the legendary home of the Pirates, Forbes Field and shared Greenlee Stadium with the Crawfords, Homestead would eventually also play in the nations capital. By 1943 playing the majority of their games in Washington DC.

The Grays would go on to win 11 league titles and three Negro Leagues World Series (1943, 1944 and 1948) as well as sending 12-players to baseball’s Hall of Fame including arguably the greatest Negro Leagues player of all-time Josh Gibson.

 

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Birmingham Black Barons

For 26-years the Barons entertained the negro Southern league at historic Rickwood Field usually out drawing their white counterparts the Birmingham Barons.

The Barons won three pennants (1943, 1944 and 1948) losing all three times to the Homestead Grays. The Barons and Grays formed the best rivalry in Negro Leagues baseball history. In that last World Series matchup- Birmingham was led by a 17-year old outfielder named Willie Mays.

 

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Hilldale Daisies

Hilldale is interesting because they officially never had a nickname. The Daisies and Clan Darbie were loosely given. Clan Darbie because they were originally the Hilldale Athletic Club in Darby, Pennsylvania. Hilldale was formed in 1910 but it’s most successful seasons came in 1924 and 1925 as they played in the Negro Leagues World Series in both years – against the Kansas City Monarchs both years – splitting the two revenging a previous loss in 1925.

Six different Hall of Famers played for Hilldale during the organization’s life including Judy Johnson, Oscar Charleston and the greatest Latin American player in Negro leagues history Martin Dihigo.

 

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New York Cubans

There were actually two Cuban Stars teams, owned by different people and neither employed Cuban players exclusively as the nickname would suggest. One Stars squad played in the New York area while the other played in the Midwest. Both teams would eventually fold opening the door for one team called the New York Cubans. The Cubans had players from all over Latin America including Puerto Rican born Perucho Cepeda, father of baseball great Orlando Cepeda. Only the Indianapolis Clowns fielded more international players than the Cubans did during that era.

The Cubans won one league and World Series title. It came in 1947 with greats like Luis Tiant Sr., Martin Dihigo and Minnie Minoso defeating the Cleveland Buckeyes.

 

Dave Barr (@daveabarr)

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