Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Winter Ball

Baseball in the DR was everything I’d hoped.

I don’t intend to belabor an historical perspective on this, but baseball in Latin America is often assumed to be part of the so-called American cultural imperialism. However Latin Baseball predates the global success of companies like McDonalds and Coke by at least a 100 years. In 1864, Nemesio Guilló brought the first American baseball bat to Cuba marking the beginning of American baseball south of the border. Guilló, the son of a wealthy Cuban family, was sent to Mobile, Alabama to study at Springhill College where he picked up baseball. However, even before Guilló’s historic luggage arrived, variations of pitch-a-ball, hit-a-ball, run-somewhere games were played throughout the Caribbean. After Guilló, a game Americans might recognize as baseball took off in Cuba. At the time, Cubans were fighting for their independence from Spain and baseball was associated with the Cuban rebels. The traditional pastime, bull fighting, required spectators pay homage to the Spanish crown, and baseball without such rituals was banned by colonial authorities during the War of Cuban Independence (1868-1878). Many of those forced to emigrate during the war went to the Dominican Republic where they along with Dominicans educated in the US continued playing and popularizing baseball. Like in Cuba, the sons of the Latin American elites educated in the US introduced baseball to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Venezuela in the later half of the 19th century. Vibrant professional leagues existed in these countries since the begining of the 20th century creating a playing field were Latinos, white Americans, and black Americans competed together before the integration in North American professional baseball. Most notably, Cool Papa Bell and Satchel Paige played for the Santo Domingo team in 1937. Baseball is an American game of course, but its history in Latin America is rich, and its roots as a pan-American enterprise should never be discounted.

At its inception, the Dominican league consist of 4 teams: the Tigers del Licey (Santo Domingo), the Estrelles Oriental’s (San Pedro), Las Anguilas (Sandino), and Leon del Escogido (also Santo Domingo) with each team established between 1907 and 1921. The San Francisco Giantes and La Romana Azucareros entered the league in the middle of the 20th century. Licey (or Licky as the Smoked Salmon calls them) and the Aguilas are the dominant teams, and in a sense are the NY Yankees of the DR. David Ortiz plays for perennial underdogs, Escogido, thus I believe Escogido to be the equivalent of the Boston, Red Sox.


Anonymous said...

Since when is American imperialism "so-called"?

Bluefish Canoe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bluefish Canoe said...

In the interest of responding to the comment above and providing some explanation for the above mentioned smart ass comment I will say I use the term imperialism with skepticism here because real imperialism involves the dominate nation militarily forcing itself on the weaker nation. Those who energetically market American culture undoubtedly do so with little regard for indigenous ways of life; however those whom America culturally dominant are far more willing and active participants in receiving American culture than any old fashioned colony. American cultural imperialism is largely driven by market forces, i.e. Americans are just selling stuff that people choose to buy.

The Bush administration’s policies in Iraq like Reagan in Latin America and the Caribbean and LBJ/Nixon in Vietnam are much closer to real imperialism than cultural imperialism and should be thought of as a separate albeit related issue. Simply referring to both America as an economic force and America as a military force as imperialism drastically dilutes the problems with preemptive wars and overestimates the evil of Coke and Budweiser. You could say that the American military paves the way for American companies (e.g. in Japan and Nicaragua), but there are plenty of places where people buy American stuff without a war (e.g. Australia, Indonesia, India) or buy it despite a war (e.g. Vietnam).