Venezuelan Bust, Baseball Boom: Andraes Reiner and Scouting on the New Frontier

By Milton H. Jamail | Go to book overview

2
It’s Their Game Too:
The Origins of
Baseball in Venezuela

On October 29, 1941, five Venezuelan planes dropped their payload on the Cuban gunboat nearing the port of La Guaira. It was not a battle in a conflict between the two countries but a celebration of Venezuela’s unexpected victory over Cuba in the championship game of the 1941 World Amateur Baseball tournament. Roses fell from the air, and sixty small boats approached the ship offered by the Cuban government to carry the Venezuelan team home from Havana. The players were overwhelmed by the warm reception on the sea, but nothing could prepare them for the size of the crowd and enthusiasm of the fans waiting to greet them when they disembarked. Government offices, businesses, and schools closed, and more than 100,000 people — one-third of the population of Caracas — lined the twenty-mile-long highway between La Guaira and the capital city.

Arriving in Caracas, los héroes del 41 were welcomed by President Gen. Isaías Medina Angrita at the national palace and then met by another throng of adoring fans at the Estadio Nacional where Andrés Eloy Blanco, a beloved writer, poet, and politician saluted the team in the name of the people of Venezuela. Blanco was the perfect person to connect baseball with the spirit of national unity evoked by the victory. In 1918 he had played baseball for Los Samanes, one the country’s most popular teams, and in 1928 was jailed for his involvement in the student movement against the dictatorship of President Juan Vicente Gómez. Blanco began his speech with references to ancient Greece, the early Olympic games, and then fast-forwarded to the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century. He continued by de-

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