History of Baseball in Venezuela

Professional Baseball

During the early 20's, Magallanes was one of the most popular teams in Caracas, they had hired the first foreign paid player, the Cuban Lazaro Quezada, and they were paying some money from the admission tickets to some players.

Years before in Maracaibo, teams also charged an admission ticket to the Sunday games. Among the early teams were Gavilanes, Maracaibo, Cabimas, and Centauros. Some of these teams started to pay to the players to keep them on their roster.

In those days, teams did not fight for a championship, they played against each other, and spectators paid a cheap admission to the games. Some rivalries started fed by followers from each team.

While in 1927, Babe Ruth and Lou Gerigh commanded the Yankees to the World Series pennant with one of the greatest team ever, the Venezuelan Baseball Federation was founded.

The first professional tournament was played in Caracas, starting on July 20, with the participation of four teams: Santa Marta, Royal Criollos, San Martin, and Maracay. The champion was Maracay, however, controversies surrounded the team, and according to rumors, other teams feared to beat the President Gomez's team, who was the dictator.

On January 15, 1930, was founded the Venezuelan Association of Baseball, to promote and regulate professional tournaments in the country, and Magallanes and Royal Criollos developed a strong rivalry in Caracas. This team was proud of only hiring Venezuelan players, while others started to look for "importados" from Cuba and the USA.

Players like Balbino Inojosa, Manuel "Pollo" Malpica, Cocaina Garcia, and Cuban star Martin Dihigo (who was a star in the Negro Leagues and currently a Hall of Famer) earned between 50 and 200 Bolivares, which was an exorbitant salary for those days. Nevertheless, the fans always supported with mass assistance all the game, transforming a leisure activity in a profitable business.

Royal Criollos BBCRoyal Criollos became later Cerveceria Caracas and in 1951 the Caracas Lions, keeping thru all those years a hard rivalry with Magallanes, which still is alive in every game of these teams. Many analysts have said that this competition is even stronger than the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox rivalry.

In Maracaibo, the Zulian Baseball Association was organized to run professional championships and the National League in the USA, which allowed American star players to play with Maracaibo teams, recognized them. They built the "Lake Stadium" in 1933, and Gavilanes, Pastora, Centauros, Cabimas, and Espadon were among the popular teams. Gavilanes and Pastora kept a rivalry for more than 20 years as hard as Caracas-Magallanes, but vanished in the late 60's when the Zulian League disappeared for administrative problems.

 

[Origins] [Development and Spread]