By Angela Padrón
Just as there is diversity among Hispanic cultures, the month of October is also diverse with different holidays, celebrations and events. But for many sports fans, October really means the start of Major League Baseball’s post-season playoffs. And of course, the World Series.
Players of Hispanic descent have made a great impact on the game of baseball, not just in the United States but also around the world. For many years, Major League Baseball was segregated so any Latino players who played early on were light skinned. Dark skinned players, who mostly came from Cuba early on, joined teams in the Negro Leagues. When Fidel Castro came into power in Cuba in the 1960’s, the number of Cuban players playing in the U.S. decreased while players from other countries began to increase. The presence of athletes from countries like Puerto Rico and especially the Dominican Republic increased drastically.
Throughout baseball history, Hispanic players have left their mark. For example, Roberto Clemente was the first Latino player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. One of the first team managers from Hispanic descent was Lou Piniella of the New York Yankees in 1986-87. Sammy Sosa became famous during the race with Mark McGuire to hit the most homeruns in a single season. In 1997, Hispanic players made up 24% of all players in the major leagues. Today that number is still going strong, with 24% of all players in the Major Leagues still coming from Latino countries. Dominican Republic has the most, with 89 players followed by Venezuela with 63. Players from other Latino countries, including Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Colombia, also fill in the Major League rosters.
If you need more evidence that Hispanics have highly influenced the game of baseball, look no further than the World Baseball Classic, which began in 2006. It’s a tournament style of play with 16 teams from around the world competing, of which six are from Latino countries. Dominican Republic is the reigning champion!
Whether you’re a sports fan or not, knowing how Hispanic athletes have influenced different sports is important to understanding Hispanic heritage and history. Baseball is a huge part of the culture of many Latino countries, and it only seems to be growing larger and larger every year.