Latino Studies Dominicans and Baseball
April Yoder, Rob Ruck
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 August 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0155


Baseball reflects the sacrifice, commitment, and determination that Dominicans displayed during foreign occupation (1916–1924; 1965–1966), dictatorship (1930–1961; 1966–1978), and the struggle for sovereignty. Success in international tournaments and as the birthplace of a majority of foreign-born players in Major League Baseball (MLB) fosters national pride and generates revenue. But baseball has also been marred bycorruption political interference and exploitation. After its late-19th-century arrival, baseball helped knit Dominicans together, overcoming geographic, racial, and class divisions. It became the national pastime during the first US occupation, when games against US forces asserted Dominican nationalism while anti-imperialist guerrillas battled in the mountains. Baseball encouraged a national identity based on competition and achievement. During baseball’s “Romantic Epoch,” men or boys of similar social standing organized teams and tournaments, sometimes recruiting top players regardless of race or class. Rivalries led teams to import players from Cuba and across the hemisphere, integrating the country into a transnational circuit of leagues and barnstorming. Interaction with other baseball-playing countries furthered competition for talent and led to Dominicans playing in the Negro Leagues. In the 1950s, factories, sugar mills, and the military sponsored clubs which competed in an amateur system that produced players like Juan Marichal and Manuel Mota. During the 1940s and 1950s, after US baseball integrated, competition for players pushed Latin American leagues to affiliate with MLB. Dominican organizers resumed national professional tournaments in 1951 and founded the Dominican Professional Baseball League in 1955. Financial and institutional support from Trujillo helped establish what became a baseball industry. Integration also brought opportunities for Dominicans in MLB, beginning with Ozzie Virgil in 1956 and Felipe Alou in 1958. Cuba’s prohibition of professional sport in 1961 coupled with the prominence of players like Alou and Juan Marichal drew attention to Dominican players. Over time, Dominicans developed prototype academies that now lie at the center of MLB’s player development system. More than a thousand Dominican recruits as young as sixteen train in these academies and compete in the Dominican Summer League with the goal of becoming major leaguers; most are released without leaving the island. While Dominican baseball has been a point of pride and opportunity for many Dominicans, it has also reflected the inequities of global capitalism. Despite criticism of the academy system for exploiting youth, tens of thousands seek the chance to play in the major leagues.

General Overviews

The historiography of Dominican baseball considers the cultural, social, and political significance of what Dominicans claim as their deporte rey (king sport) and focuses on its relationship with MLB, particularly since Jackie Robinson re-integrated the major leagues in 1947. Inoa and Cruz 2004 includes both of these elements by narrating the development of baseball in the country as well as the outcomes of the relationship between Dominican and US baseball. In Yunén 2008, Tony Piña Cámpora’s essay recounts the development of Dominican baseball from its foundations as an elite leisure activity in San Pedro de Macorís and Santo Domingo to the competitive amateur leagues of the 1940s and 1950s before the rise of a solid professional league in the early 1950s. In the same collection, Andrés L. Mateo details the cultural significance and reach of the national pastime. Both Inoa and Cruz 2004 and Yunén 2008 highlight the feats of Dominican ballplayers including Felipe Alou, Juan Marichal, and Sammy Sosa. Works by US-based scholars, Klein 1991 and Ruck 2011, focus on professional baseball and draw parallels between baseball and US-Dominican social, economic, and political relations. Along with Ruck 1999, which centers the question of how Dominicans came to be disproportionately represented in MLB, these works survey a wide span of Dominican baseball history, though they are more launching points than definitive overviews.

  • Inoa, Orlando, and Héctor J. Cruz, eds. El béisbol en República Dominicana: Crónica de una pasión. Colección Cultural Verizon VII. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: Amigo del Hogar, 2004.

    Inoa’s contribution, “El beisbol dominicano: 70 años de historia, 1891–1961,” traces the rise of baseball in the late 19th century through early professionalization with attention to the political and social context of the periods under study. Cruz’s part, “El beisbol profesional,” summarizes the institutionalization of the Dominican Professional Baseball League along with affiliation with US baseball and the rise of Dominican big leaguers. Both include useful photographs.

  • Klein, Alan M. Sugarball: The American Game, the Dominican Dream. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991.

    One of the first scholarly studies of sport in the Caribbean and the first of three books in which Klein explores Dominican baseball, Sugarball mixes evocative sketches of the game on and off the field with critical insight regarding its multiple meanings. This investigation of Dominican baseball’s evolving relationship with MLB anticipates the rise of the academy system and captures the forces that made the Dominican Republic the epicenter of Caribbean baseball.

  • Ruck, Rob. The Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

    A reprint of the 1991 original, Tropic is an essential introduction to baseball in the Dominican Republic from the proselytization of the game by Cuban exiles, to the parallels between baseball and Anglo-Dominican mutual aid societies in sugarmills, pride in the second generation of Dominican Major League stars in the 1980s, and the unintended consequences of affiliation with US baseball. A new afterword provides an update on these consequences.

  • Ruck, Rob. Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game. Boston: Beacon Press, 2011.

    With details about international barnstorming and baseball exchanges as well as the commercial successes and challenges from black and Latin American baseball, Raceball shows what was lost when the US major leagues began the long process of racial integration in 1947. Chapters on the 1937 Dominican season, the first generation of darker-skinned Caribbean big leaguers, and the rise of the academies center Dominican baseball.

  • Yunén, Rafael Emilio, ed. Nos vemos en el play! Beisbol y cultura en la Republica Dominicana. Santiago, Dominican Republic: Centro Cultural Eduardo León Jimenes, 2008.

    This richly illustrated history of Dominican baseball and culture was produced for the 2008 exhibit of the same name at Centro Leon in Santiago de los Caballeros. Essays by Tony Piña Cámpora and Andrés L. Mateo complement a stunning collection of photographs and focus on the evolution of Dominican baseball and its cultural significance.

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