The Venezuelan Professional Baseball League

 

Early Days

The Heroes of 1941In 1941, Venezuela participated in the Amateur Baseball World Championship in La Havana, Cuba. The Venezuelan Baseball Federation gathered the best amateur players from all over the country and finally they won the championship against host team Cuba, placing Venezuela for the very first time among the world Baseball elite. The event was celebrated nationwide and the players started to be known as "The Heroes of 41".

The Baseball fever at this time was at its highest point all over the country. Alex Carrasquel had become the first Venezuelan to play in the Majors in 1939 with the Washington Senators, and Chucho Ramos followed him in 1944 with the Cincinnati Reds. The owners decided to create the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, to upraise the competition level, allowing only the participation of all professional teams, with working agreements with foreign clubs such as the Major Leagues, the Negro Leagues, and the Cuban League.

Magallanes, Cerveceria Caracas, Vargas, and Venezuela were the founding teams for the 1946 season, resulting Vargas the first Champion with a record of 18 wins and 12 lost.

Only teams from the central region of the country were allowed for logistic reasons, teams from the Western cities, especially from Maracaibo, played under the Zulian Baseball Association rules, and during almost 10 years comments from all over the country came back and forth, about which league had the best level.

So, in 1953 both leagues agreed to gather their best teams and players to compete for the real first national championship, this tournament was called the "Rotatory", and featured Cerveceria Caracas and Magallanes from the Central League and Gavilanes and Pastora from the Zulian League. Pastora was the champion supported by stars such as Ramon Monzant, who pitched for the New York Giants after the season. In that season on November 18, Luis Aparicio Jr. debuted in professional Baseball and his father gave his glove, in the most memorable moment in Venezuelan Baseball, starting from that game a career that ended in 1984, when Aparicio was elected to the Baseball Hall of fame in Cooperstown.

The tournament showed Pastora, from the Zulian League, as its champion. They won the right to represent Venezuela in the Caribbean Series in Puerto Rico, where they also earned the crown of champions of the Caribbean giving a clear example of the level of Baseball played in Maracaibo, which for many years was underestimated by the league executives in Caracas.

After the Rotatory the leagues broke up again, and in Maracaibo was founded the Western Professional Baseball League in 1954. The Olympic Stadium was built, and was the biggest in the country with a capacity of almost 10.000 fans.

The Western League featured teams as Pastora, Gavilanes, Cabimas, Centauros, Rapiños, and Cardenales from Lara state. The league has activity for the next 10 years and disappeared for economical problems, leaving Maracaibo fans without Baseball.Carrao Bracho was the best Venezuelan Pitcher, winning 115 career games

In Caracas, more teams were allowed to enter the league, such as" Industriales de Valencia", "Oriente BBC”, and "Pampero". In 1962, Pampero was symbolically sold for 1 Bolivar to Jose Antonio Casanova and he founded the La Guaira Sharks. In 1964, after the Western League disappeared, the League expanded allowing two more teams, the Lara Cardinals and the Aragua Tigers.Luis Rodolfo Machado (glasses) annonces the foundation of the Zulia Eagles in 1969

In 1968, the Portuguesa Landers were founded, but they did not have much support. The franchise was sold to Luis Rodolfo Machado who rapidly founded the Zulia Eagles in Maracaibo, for the 1969 season becoming from that moment a real National Baseball League.

In 1991, the second expansion let the Cabimas Oilers and the Eastern Caribbeans to join the League, but by 1994, the Oilers moved to Maracaibo, becoming the Western Pastora. Maracaibo was not a plaza for two teams after the success of the Eagles for more than 20 years, so in 1997, they moved to Acarigua, where they became the Los Llanos Pastora.

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