THE TRANS-CARRIBEAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Your'e not going to find it in a record book. Evidence of this lost league is anecdotal. Even at the time, the Trans-Carribean Baseball League was very outlaw; a word applied to any organization raiding players from the established cartels. And in this case, the Negro Leagues and all of the local Latin organizations. Most players adopted assumed names to avoid censure because Official Baseball used all of its collective denial to eliminate the Trans-Carribean. But to its fans, it was one of the most colorful baseball ever.

Before the winter season of 1934-35, a group of wealthy agrarian industrialists, most of whom were friends, met at Alex Morales' Tampico ranch to form a league which would endure, by design, only one season. It was really a bet among proud Latinos: Who could assemble the best baseball team? There was an agreement to hold team salaries to 75,000 American Dollars; yet the wild spending on the accoutrements of the teams was encouraged, as if style was to count as much as runs. Teams traveled by steamship (The Ciudad Panama had a small practice field on the quarter deck) and they all had a band which could be heard boosting out its particular musical idiom as the boat chugged into the harbor. The arrival of the steamships as various Carribean ports was accompanied by dancing and holidaying among a populace only too needful and willing to celebrate. Latin bandleaders of the 1940's and 50's, who later became well known in the States, were in these Team Orchestras as musicians and conductors. The orchestras rhumbaed or marengued from pavillions in the rickety, throbbing ballparks each inning before their team came to bat. To someone unfamiliar with Latin baseball, it must be pointed out that this ritual adds to the game a sense of festival further enhanced by fans who beat on drums, blare tattoos on their trumpets or intone strange, homemade instruments as their favorites mount or snuff rallies. It was accepted belief that the hypnotic pulse of the Port au Prince loyalists added two or three runs per game to an otherwise sub-par team.

And then there were the uniforms: No chance to outdo the other fellow was missed. The Havana team, consisting mainly of banana workers from Ernesto Bahia'a experimental organic banana plantation, supplemented with Negro Leagueers, wore yellow satin uniforms so that the team, whose real name was Los Trabajadores de Plantanos, was more often called the Havana Bananas. Nothing seemed to ruin the fun, not even the practice - which came to a halt more because it didn't work than because of eveil intent - of the Port au Prince Skull team tearing off the removable PP logo on their caps to reveal a skull beneath it as their fans chanted somnambulist spells.

By clicking here you will see eight of the ten caps worn in the Trans-Carribean (evidence of the Kingston and Dominican teams is missing). The caps sport the bright colors and adventurous logos so typical of Latin Baseball. But this league, which sixty years later seems no more than a figment of the imagination, was the only truly international professional league. Blacks and whites competed together with the only woman to play a full season of professional baseball. The sense of joy at playing the game in this far off place and time is the pure Spirit of Baseball


© 1995 woody.com