With origins dating back to the late 19th century, baseball was the first team sport to emerge in Puerto Rico’s modern times. Currently the island is home to a winter league featuring six regional teams from Bayamón, Caguas, Carolina, Mayagüez, Ponce, and Santurce. Each year the winning team competes in the Caribbean Series in February, playing against winning teams from Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Venezuela.
For the first time in history, opening day for Major League baseball was held in San Juan in 2001 with a game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers. The game was appropriately held in San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium, named after the Chicago Cubs pitcher and the first Puerto Rican to play in the Major Leagues.
Today more than 100 Major League players are from Puerto Rico, but the island’s most famous player is undoubtedly Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, who played 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Clemente died in an airplane crash off the coast of San Juan on New Year’s Eve in 1972 on his way to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
© Suzanne Van Atten from Moon Puerto Rico, 2nd Edition