Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Havana Cubans 1946-1953

The next stage of Minor League baseball in Cuba was made up in two parts. From 1946-1954 the Havana Cubans were a part of the Florida International League (FIL). The team was put together by famed Washington Senators scout Joe Cambria who was known as the main finder of Cuban baseball players for the major leagues. Originally a Class C league, the league moved up to Class B in 1947. The league was made up of teams that played in Miami, Miami Beach, Tampa, West Palm Beach and Key West. The team was an affiliate of the Washington Senators and was made up of the following future major leaguers: like Conrado “Connie” Marrero, Julio Moreno, Miguel “Mike” Fornieles and Sandalio “Sandy” Consuegra.

Success came quickly for the Havana Cubans in its early years. For its first five years in the league (1946-1950), Havana won titles in each compiling a combined 474-249 record. As quickly as success came, rougher times lay ahead. In the final three years of the Havana Cubans, the team fared no better than fourth place (1953) though they were managed by Cuban legends Adolfo Luque (1951) and Armando Marsans (1953). The best of the Havana Cuban teams was the 1947 team.

The 1947 Havana Cubans led the league with a 105-45 record and defeated the Miami Sun Sox in a five game series and defeated the Tampa Smokers four games to one to win the Championship banner of the FIL. Though the Cubans led the league with a .268 team batting average, their strength was with their pitching. Led by future major league Conrado “Connie” Marrero, won the pitching Triple Crown with a 25-6 record, a 1.66 ERA and 251 strikeouts with only 46 walks in 271 IP.

By 1954, team owner Bobby Maduro (who we’ll hear more about in the next post) decided to change the name of the team from the Cubans to the Sugar Kings and moved the team from the Florida International League to the AAA International League. The Florida International League eventually folded with the exit of its Havana franchise. All of the other franchises, except for Miami, joined the Class D Florida State League. Miami became Miami Marlins of the International League in 1956.

For our next post, I’ll be highlighting the Havana Sugar Kings of the International League. I’ll try to highlight how outside factors led to the demise of not only the Sugar Kings but of professional baseball on the island of Cuba.

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