Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Inter-American League (1979)

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The Inter-American League was an intriguing but ultimately failed attempt to incorporate the baseball-mad capitals of the Caribbean into a sanctioned professional league under the auspices of the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs.  The league was the brainchild of Bobby Maduro, a Cuban exile and long-time baseball man who owned the triple-A Havana Sugar Kings of the International League until the Cuban Revolution cost him his team and his homeland.

As an exile, Maduro went to work for Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.  Conceiving of his inter-Caribbean league in 1978, he called in a lifetime of favors from friends in the game and miraculously received triple-A sanctioning for his idea.  Unlike the other three sanctioned triple-A leagues – the American Association, the International League, and the Pacific Coast League – Maduro’s clubs would have no formal affiliations with Major League parent clubs.  They would operate as independents.  This meant they had no payroll or other expense support, which turned out to be just one of many problems that bewitched the Inter-American League.

The league debuted in April 1979 with six teams in four countries, plus Puerto Rico.  The Miami Amigos were the lone team on the mainland of the United States.  Venezuela hosted two clubs (Caracas and Maracaibo), the Dominican Republic had a team in Santo Domingo, and Panama hosted a team named the “Bankers” (Banqueros).

The league was quickly done in by under-capitalized owners, internecine rivalries among Caribbean baseball powers, tropical monsoons, and unreliable air travel.  The league last just three months into a planned 130-game schedule and played its final games on  June 30th, 1979.

One team that went against the grain and did quite well was the Caracas Metropolitanos, who drew large crowds in Venezuela’s capital city.  Metropolitanos owner Roberto Weill was so encouraged that he took Oakland A’s owner Charles O. Finley to dinner in May 1979 and proposed buying the woeful A’s and relocating the team to Venezuela.

Franchise List:

  • Caracas Metropolitanos (1979)
  • Maracaibo Petroleros (1979)
  • Miami Amigos (1979)
  • Panama Banqueros (1979)
  • Puerto Rico Boricuas (1979)
  • Santo Domingo Tiburones (1979)

Written by andycrossley

April 21st, 2012 at 3:16 am

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