Cuba considers baseball its national sport. Since approximately 1865 or 1866 this sport has been practiced and has become part of the lives of most Cubans.
On December 27th,1874, the first baseball game in Cuba took place in a field known as Palmar de Junco, in the province of Matanzas. In the match, the Habana team defeated that of Matanzas with the unbalanced score of 51 to 9 runs.
Merely four years after that event, Cuba became the second country in the world to organize a professional baseball championship. It was played in a park located in today's intersection of Avenues Línea and G, current location of the hospital "América Arias". In the opening game, played on December 29th,1878, the Habana team defeated the Almendares team with a score of 21 to 20.
The main organizer of the tournament was Emilio Sabourín, a patriot who participated in the first war of independence. Sabourín was, in turn, the manager of the Habana team.
In 1881, the first stadium was inaugurated. The Almendares Park was located in the corner of the avenues Salvador Allende and Ayestarán. It was not until the last years of the 19th century and the beginnings of 20th, that baseball began to be played in other countries of the continent. In Havana, the first amateur championship took place in 1905. In 1914, the national amateur baseball league was founded and they celebrated championships for more than 45 years. Together with the national league, other leagues in the provinces were created locally. An example of that is the league of Pedro Betancourt, in Matanzas; the Amateur League of Oriente; the sugar-mill workers' league of Camaguey; and the winter league of Jovellanos among others.
In 1919, where the coach terminal of Havana is located today, it was build a more modern version of the Almendares Park. On March 15th, 1930, the stadium of La Tropical, today's Pedro Marrero, was inaugurated. That park hosted the second Central American and Caribbean Games, held in Havana in 1930.
In the period from 1939 to 1944, there were moments of splendor for national baseball because the first amateur world series were celebrated in the capital of the island. From 1944, they were held in other Latin-american countries where they were also quite popular.
On October 26th, 1946, the great stadium of El Cerro, today's "Estadio Latinoamericano", opened officially its gates with an initial capacity for 30 000 people. After the necessary reformation, a project executed in 1973, the initial capacity was almost doubled (55 000 people).
That legendary park witnessed the debut of the Havana Cubans of the International League of Florida. It hosted also the championships of the Cuban baseball league, which included major league baseball players and others from other levels. Many other outstanding figures of the time also debuted in the Gran Estadio del Cerro.
Among the important figures of Cuban baseball that entered sport history forever, the following are worth-mentioning: Conrado Marrero, José de la Caridad Méndez, Martín Dihigo, Adolfo Luque, Alejandro Oms, Cristóbal Torriente, Pedro "Natilla" Jiménez, Roberto Ortiz, Avelino Cañizares, Agapito Mayor, Fermín Guerra, Willy Miranda, Juan Ealo, and Orestes Miñoso, just to mention some.
The triumph of the revolution in 1959, brought a radical change in the conceptions of the practice of sport, and baseball was not the exception. By means of the Resolution 83-A passed on November 19th, 1962, professional sport was fully eradicated.
This was the start of a new and definite era in which the Cuban amateur teams have shown their quality in numberless championships, such as Central American and Caribbean, Pan-american, Olympic, and World championships. In the case of the Olympic games, baseball has been included in the program since the summer games of Barcelona'92.
To read more about today's baseball, go to BASEBALL.