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Esteban Bellan was the first Latin American player to play in a Major League in the United States.
Baseball is the official sport of Cuba.

The Early years (1864 - 1874)

Baseball was introduced to Cubamarker in the 1860s by Cubans who studied in the United Statesmarker and American sailors who ported in the country. The sport quickly spread across the island nation. Nemisio Guillo is credited with bringing a bat and baseball to Cuba in 1864 after being schooled in Mobile, Alabamamarker. Two more Cubans were sent to Mobile, one being his brother Ernesto; the Guillo brothers and their contemporaries formed a Baseball team in 1868 - the Habana Baseball Club. The club won one major match - against the crew of an American schooner anchored at the Matanzasmarker harbour.

Soon after this, the first Cuban War of Independence against its Spanishmarker rulers spurred Spanish authorities in 1869 to ban playing the sport in Cuba. The reasons were because Cubans began to prefer baseball to viewing bullfights, which Cubans were expected to dutifully attend as homage to their Spanish rulers in an informal cultural mandate. As such, baseball became symbolic of freedom and egalitarianism to the Cuban people. The ban also prompted Esteban Bellán to join the semipro Troy Haymakers. He became the first Latin American player to play in a Major League in the United Statesmarker. Bellan started playing baseball for the Fordham Rose Hill Baseball Club, while attending Fordham Universitymarker (1863 - 1868). After that he played for the Unions of Morrisania, a New York Citymarker team. Bellan played for the Haymakers until 1862; in 1861 it joined the National Association.

The first official match in Cuba took place in Pueblo Nuevo, Matanzas, at the Palmar del Junco, December 27, 1874. It was between Club Matanzas and Club Habana, the latter winning 51 to 9, in nine innings.

Cuban baseball is organized (1878 - 1898)

In late 1878 the Cuban League was organized, consisting of three teams—Almendares, Habana, and Mantanzas—and playing four games per team. The first game was played on December 29, 1878, with Habana defeating Almendares 21 to 20. Habana, under team captain Bellán, was undefeated in winning the first championship. The teams were amateurs (and all whites), but gradually professionalism took hold as teams bid away players from rivals.

Cuban baseball becomes international (1898 - 1933)

The Spanish-American War brought increased opportunities to play against top teams from the United States. Also, the Cuban League admitted black players beginning in 1900. Soon many of the best players from the Northern American Negro Leagues were playing on integrated teams in Cuba. Beginning in 1908, Cuban teams scored a number of successes in competition against major league baseball teams, behind outstanding players such as pitcher José Méndez and outfielder Cristóbal Torriente (who were both enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Famemarker in 2006). By the 1920s, the level of play in the Cuban League was superb, as Negro League stars like Oscar Charleston and John Henry Lloyd spent their winters playing in Cuba.

In 1899, the All Cubans, consisting of Cuban League professional players, were the first Latin American team to tour the United States. The team returned in 1902–05, exposing white Cuban players to U.S. major league and minor league scouts, and introducing black Cuban players to competition against the Negro leagues. Later Negro league teams included the Cuban Stars and the New York Cubans, which were stocked mostly with Cuban or other Latin American players.


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