It is a widely held belief that Cuban baseball was born when sailors from an American naval ship anchored in Matanzas Bay, demonstrated the game of baseball for a crowd of Cuban dock hands employed loading sugar cane onto North American vessels. Cubans reportedly joke that their American instructors seemed highly motivated by their desire to sell baseball equipment to their students. One competing account of the genesis of Cuban baseball suggests it was actually Nemesio Guillot, an upperclass youth educated in the United States who first introduced equipment and demonstrations of this popular Yankee sport to Cuba upon his return in 1864 to his native Havana.
A timeline of Cuban sports history follows:
June. Sailors from an American ship docked in Matanzas Bay invite Cubans to play a game called baseball.
Esteban Bellan becomes the first Cuban ballplayer to play for a professional U.S. team. Major League team. He plays for the Troy Haymakers and then the New York Mutuals.
December 27. Cuba’s first baseball game takes place at Palmar de Junco, in Matanzas. The team from Havana defeats the team from Matanzas by a score of 51 to 9. Emilio Sabourinscores 8 runs for Havana.
Emilio Sabourin, who played for Havana, organizes Cuba’s first professional baseball league. [Sabourin is an active supporter of the Cuban independence movement and dies in a Spanish prison in 1897.]
December 29. In the first game of island’s first baseball championship series, the Havana team defeats the Almendares team by a score of 21 to 20.
The Havana Yacht Club is founded. The club sponsors and organizes races, regattas and swimming competitions.
At the Olympic Games in Paris, Ramon Fonst wins the gold medal in sword fencing. This is Cuba’s first medal at the Olympics.
Boxing is admitted as an Olympic sport.
The All Cubans, a racially mixed baseball team, plays in the U.S. Negro League.
At the Olympic Games in San Luis, Cuba wins 10 medals, including 5 gold medals in fencing.
The Cincinnati Reds baseball team plays in a 4-game tournament in Cuba, and becomes the first major league team to travel to the island. Cuban José Méndez pitches 3 consecutive shutouts against the Reds.
January 6. Eligio Sardiñas, aka Kid Chocolate, is born in El Cerro, Havana.
Ex boxer John Budinich opens the Academia de Boxeo in Havana.
August. In Havana, John Budinich holds a boxing exhibition against American Jack Ryan. Budinich is knocked out in two rounds.
Cuba’s National Baseball Amateur League is founded. The Vedado Tennis Club wins the first league championship.
Havana hosts the heavyweight title fight between Jack Johnson and Jess Willard.
The Havana Boxing Committee is formed. This is Cuba’s first professional boxing association.
Now in Cincinnati, the Cuban Stars (West) become the first Negro League baseball team to play their games in a major league park (rented for a whole year).
The National Commission of Boxing & Wrestling (Comisión Nacional de Boxeo y Lucha Libre), a regulatory body, is established.
October 11. Oscar Levis pitches the first no-hitter of the 20th Century for the Cuban League.
January 6. Gerardo Gonzalez is born in Havana. He later becomes known as popular boxer Kid Gavilan, with a professional record of 107-30-6 (28 KOs). In 1990 he is inducted into theInternational Boxing Hall Of Fame.
December 8. Kid Chocolate makes his professional boxing debut in Havana. He defeats Johnny Cruz by a decision in six.
August 5. Kid Chocolate (pictured) defeats bantamweight Eddie Enos.
August 29. Kid Chocolate defeats the famous Al Singer.
January 1. Jimmy “Cool Papa” Bell becomes the first baseball player in the 20th century to hit 3 home runs in the Cuban league.
March 15. The stadium La Tropical (today’s Pedro Marrero) is inaugurated in Havana.
August 7. Jr. Welterweight champion Jackie Kid Berg defeats Kid Chocolate in 10 rounds.
The Pan American Sports Organization is established.
March 14. Boxer Benny “Kid” Paret is born in Santa Clara.
March 14. Boxer Luis “El Feo” Rodriguez is born in Camagüey.
December 21. The first night baseball game in Cuba is played at Tropical Stadium.
Ten players are selected to the new Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame.
December 2. Ultiminio “Sugar” Ramos is born in Matanzas. His professional boxing record: 55-8-3 (40 KOs).
April 19. Boxer Jose Legra is born in Baracoa. His professional record is 133-12-4 (48 KOs).
June 5. In Havana, Kid Gavilan wins his first professional boxing match against Antonio Diaz.
October 26. The first baseball game at the new Grand Stadium del Cerro is played.
November 1. In his first fight on American soil (NYC), Kid Gavilan defeats Johnny Ryan by knockout in 5.
July 12. Havana Cubans pitcher Conrado Marrero throws a no-hitter against the team from Tampa.
At the Olympic Games in London, Cuba wins a silver medal.
Cuban ballplayer Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso begins to play in the U.S. major leagues.
Cuba wins the first Caribbean Baseball Series.
July 11. Ray Robinson defeats Kid Gavilan in the World Welterweight title in Philadelphia.
The first Pan American Games are held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Over 2,500 athletes from 22 countries participate.
February 4. Kid Gavilan successfully defends his World Welterweight title in Miami against Bobby Dykes.
March 29. Teófilo Stevenson Lawrence is born in Puerto Padre.
October 5. In Havana, Kid Gavilan successfully defends his World Welterweight title against Billy Graham.
February 11. In Chicago, Cuban boxer Kid Gavilan knocks out challenger Chuck Davey in 10 to retain the World Welterweight title.
September 18. In Syracuse, NY, Kid Gavilan defeats Carmen Basilio to retain the World Welterweight title.
November 13. Kid Gavilan successfully defends his World Welterweight title in Chicago. He defeats challenger Johnny Bratton in 15 rounds.
April 2. Carl “Bobo” Olson defeats Kid Gavilan in Chicago for the World Middleweight title.
October 20. In Philadelphia, Johnny Saxton defeats Kid Gavilan for the World Welterweight title.
The Pan American Sports Congress (which controls the Pan Am Games) changes its name to Pan American Sports Organization (PASO).
The first American Gold Glove Award for outfielders goes to Cuban Minnie Miñoso.
August 2. Boxer Jose “Mantequilla” Napoles wins his first professional fight (over Julio Rojas) by knockout in 1.
September 20. In Havana, Luis “El Feo” Rodriquez defeats Kid Fichique for the Cuban Welterweight title.
October 11. Napoles knocks out Eurispide Garica in 4.
November 29. Napoles knocks out Felix Pomares in 2.
July 24. Fidel Castro pitches 1 inning for “Los Barbudos” (The Bearded Ones) in an exhibition game prior to a professional game between the Sugar Kings and the Rochester Red wings. Attending the game are 26,532 spectators.
February 27. In Havana, boxer Ultiminio “Sugar” Ramos defeats Orlando Castillo for the Cuban Featherweight Title.
May 27. In Las Vegas, Benny Paret defeats Don Jordan for the World Welterweight title in a 15-round unanimous decision.
December 10. In New York, Benny “Kid” Paret defeats Federico Thompson in 15 to retain the World Welterweight title.
Cuban Orestes “Minnie” Minoso leads the U.S. majors in hits (184).
Alcides Sagarra founds the Cuban School of Boxing.
April 1. In Miami Beach, Benny “Kid” Paret loses the World Welterweight title to Emile Griffith. Paret is knocked out in 13.
September 30. Benny “Kid” Paret regains the World Welgerweight title by defeating Emile Griffith in New York. Paret wins by decision in 15.
December 9. In Las Vegas, Benny “Kid” Paret knocks out Gene Fullmer in 10 for the World Middleweight title.
The team from Cienfuegos wins the last Cuban Professional League championship in baseball.
January 14. The National Baseball Series begins. There are 4 teams: Marianao, Cienfuegos, Almendares and Habana.
February 23. National Decree 83a is passed. It forbids professional sports.
March 24. In New York, Emile Griffith knocks out Benny “Kid” Paret in 12 for the World Welterweight title. Paret dies a week later.
April 3. Boxer Benny “Kid” Paret dies in New York. His final professional record is 35-12-3 (10 KOs).
Cuba’s National Baseball Team wins the gold at the Pam American Games.
March 21. In Los Angeles, boxer Ultiminio “Sugar” Ramos defeats Davey Moore for the World Featherweight title by knockout in 12.
March 21. In Los Angeles, Luis “El Feo” Rodriquez defeats Emile Griffith (in 15) for the World Welterweight Title.
June 8. In New York, Luis “El Feo” Rodriquez looses to Emile Griffith in 15 for the World Welterweight title.
July 13. In Mexico City, “Sugar” Ramos defends his title against Rafiu King. Ramos retains the World Featherweight title with a decision in 15.
Enrique Figuerola wins a silver medal in the 100 meters at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. This isCuba’s first track medal.
February 28. In Tokyo, “Sugar” Ramos successfully defends his title against Mitsunori Seki. Ramos wins by knockout in 6.
May 9. “Sugar” Ramos successfully defends his World Featherweight title against Floyd Robertson in Accra, Ghana.
June 12. In Las Vegas, Emile Griffith defeats Cuban Luis “El Feo” Rodriquez in 15 for the World Welterweight title.
July 2. Jose Canseco is born in Havana.
September 24. Rafael Palmeiro Corrales is born in Havana.
September 26. In Mexico City, Vicente Saldivar defeats Cuban Ultiminio “Sugar” Ramos for the World Featherweight Title.
Professional Cuban boxer Jose “Mantequilla” Napoles wins all 5 of his professional bouts this year (in Japan, Mexico and Venezuela) by knockouts.
February 12. In Mexico, Napoles defeats Johnny Santos by knockout. (This year Napoles wins all 6 of his fights by knockouts.)
October 20. In Mexico City, “Sugar” Ramos knocks out Carlos Ortiz in 5 for the World Lightweight title.
Cuba wins gold in baseball and boxing at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Puerto Rico. (Cuba’s baseball team repeats their win in 1970, 1974 and 1978.)
July 1. In a rematch fought in San Juan, “Sugar” Ramos again defeats Carlos Ortiz with a knockout in 4 for the World Lightweight title.
September 22. Félix Savón Fabré is born in San Vicente. (He grows up to become a 3X Olympic Gold medal winner in boxing.)
At the Olympic Games in Mexico, Cuba wins 4 silver medals in track and field and boxing.Rolando Garbey brings home Cuba’s first Olympic boxing medal.
Pedro “Preston” Gómez becomes the first Cuban to become manager of an American Major League team: The San Diego Padres.
This year’s Cy Young Award goes to Mike Cuellar. He is the first Cuban to receive this award.
The Cuban National Baseball Team wins the Amateur World Series. For the next five years in a row Cuba wins this tournament (1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973).
April 18. In Inglewood, California, boxer Jose “Mantequilla” Napoles wins the World Welterweight title over Curtis Cokes by knockout in 13.
June 29. In Mexico City, Napoles defends his World Welterweight title against Curtis Cokes, knocks him out in 11 to retain the title.
October 12. In Inglewood, Napoles defends his World Welterweight title against Emile Griffith and wins by decision in 15.
November 22. In Rome, Luis “El Feo” Rodriquez defeats Nino Benvenuti for the World Welterweight title. Rodriquez knocks out Benvenuti in 11.
February 14. Jose “Mantequilla” Napoles successfully defends his World Welterweight title against Ernie Lopez in Inglewood. Napoles wins by knockout in 15.
December 3. In Syracuse NY, Jose “Mantequilla” Napoles looses the World Welterweight title to Billy Backus (by knockout) in 8.
March 31. Ramon Garbey is born in Cuba.
June 6. Jose Napoes defeats Billy Backus by knockout in 8 to regain the World Welterweight title.
July 7. Boxer Joel Casamayor is born in Guantánamo.
November 11. Rey Ordóñez is born in Havana.
December 14. Napoles retains the World Welterweight title when he defeats Hedgemon Lewis in Inglewood, CA, by decision in 15.
March 28. In Wemlbey England, Jose Napoles defends his World Welterweight title against Ralph Charles. Napoles wins by knockout in 2.
June 10. In Monterrey Mexico, Napoles defends his World Welterweight title against Adolph Pruitt. Napoles wins by knockout in 2.
At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Teófilo Stevenson defeats Duane Bobick for the gold medal. Cuba wins 3 gold medals in men’s boxing and begins a dominance of the sport that has lasted over three decades.
February 28. Napoles knocks out Ernie Lopez in Inglewood in a World Welterweight title fight.
June 23. In France, Jose Napoles defeats Roger Menetrey in a World Welterweight title fight.
September 22. In Toronto, Napoles defeats Clyde Gray to retain the World Welterweight title.
Armando Rodriguez becomes the first Cuban umpire in the U.S. Major Leagues.
February 9. In Paris, Jose Napoles defeats Carlos Monzon for the World Middleweight title by knockout in 7.
August 3. Napoles successfully defends his World Middleweight title against Hedgemon Lewis in Mexico City. Napoles wins by knockout in 9.
December 14. In Mexico City, Cuban boxer Jose Napoles defends his title against Horacio Saldano. Napoles wins by knockout in 3.
January 23. Yamplier Azcuy Diaz is born in Pinar Del Rio and later becomes a boxer known asYanqui Diaz.
Cuba wins 15 medals at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, including 10 medals in boxing (3 gold), 1 gold medal in men’s judo, 2 gold medals in track and field. Teófilo Stevenson(pictured) wins his second Olympic gold medal in the boxing heavyweight division, and Alberto Juantorena wins the 400 and the 800-meter races.
After the administrative restructuring in which the island is divided into 14 provinces, a number of small baseball parks (12,000 to 25,000 spectators) begin to appear throughout the island.
Minnie Miñoso becomes the new head coach for the Chicago White Sox.
Martin Dihigo is the first Cuban elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Dihio is already represented in the Cuban, Mexican and Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame.
The National Cuban Baseball Team wins the Amateur World Series. They repeat in 1979 and 1980.
May. Baseball player Barbaro Garbey leaves Cuba as part of the Mariel exodus that eventually brings 120,000 refugees. Shortly after arriving, Garbey signs up with the Detroit Tigers.
Cuba wins a total 20 medals at the Olympic Games in Moscow, including 12 gold medals (10 in boxing, 1 in javelin throw, 1 in weight lifting).
March 20. Granma, Cuba’s official newspaper, reports that 17 players and coaches have been permanently banned from baseball for accepting bribes to fix games. Among the players involved in the ongoing scandal is Barbaro Garbey.
February. Teófilo Stevenson defeats 1984 Olympic champion Tyrell Biggs.
Cuba hosts the IBA World Championships and wins the baseball gold medal. Cuba repeats in 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1994 & 1998.
Cuba boycotts the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, in support of the Soviet bloc boycott.
August 8. Eligio Sardiñas, aka Kid Chocolate, dies in Havana.
Cuba boycotts the Olympic games in Seoul in support of the Soviet bloc boycott.
At the World Amateur Boxing Challenge in Casablanca, Morocco, Cuba wins 4 of 11 gold medals. Winning gold for Cuba: Manuel Martinez, Arnaldo Mesa, Angel Espinoza and Felix Savón.
At the World Amateur Boxing Challenge in Moscow, Cubans win 4 of 12 gold medals. Winning gold for Cuba: Enrique Carrion, Julio Gonzales, Felix Savón, and Roberto Balado.
At the World Amateur Boxing Challenge in Berlin, Cubans win 5 of 12 gold medals. Winning gold for Cuba: Enrique Carrion, Julio Gonzales, Candelario Duvergel, Felix Savon, Roberto Balado.
Cuba hosts the Pan American Games in Havana, wins 11 of 12 boxing weight classes.
July 4. Just before the Pam Am Games are to open, pitcher Rene Arocha becomes the first player from the Cuban National Baseball Team to defect. (He later signs with the St. Louis Cardinals.)
In Havana, the Kid Chocolate Boxing Hall is built for the upcoming Pan Am Games.
At the World Amateur Boxing Tournament in Sydney, Australia, Cuba wins 4 gold medals. Winning gold for Cuba: Juan Hernandez, Juan Lemus, Felix Savon and Roberto Balado.
Cuba wins 13 gold medals at the Olympic Games in Barcelona: 7 in boxing; 1 in baseball; 1 in men’s high jump, 1 in women’s discus throwing, 1 in women’s judo, and 2 in wrestling. Total medals won: 23.
At the World Amateur Boxing Challenge in Tampa, Florida, Cuba wins 3 gold medals. Winning gold for Cuba: Arnaldo Mesa, Juan Hernandez and Felix Savón.
In Buffalo, New York, baseball player Rey Ordóñez defects (he’s the 2nd Cuban ballplayer to do so). He later signs with the New York Mets.
Cuban boxers win 8 of 12 gold titles at the Amateur Boxing Championships in Tampere, Finland. Winning medals for Cuba are: Waldemar Font, Damian Austin, Hector Vinent, Juan Hernandez, Ariel Hernandez, Ramon Garbey, Felix Savón, and Roberto Balado.
Cuban boxers win 8 of 12 gold medals at the Amateur Boxing Challenge in Dublin, Ireland. Winning medals for Cuba: Doisvelis Pimentel, Hector Vinent, Juan Hernandez, Alfredo Duvergel, Ariel Hernandez, Ramon Garbey, and Felix Savón.
Cuban boxers win 4 of 12 gold medals at the Amateur Boxing Championships in Berlin, Germany. Winning medals for Cuba: Hector Vinent, Juan Hernandez, Ariel Hernandez, and Felix Savón.
Cuban boxers win 5 of 12 gold medals at the Amateur Boxing Challenge in Macon, Georgia. Winning medals for Cuba: Hector Vinent, Juan Hernandez, Alfredo Duvergel, Ariel Hernandez, and Felix Savón.
July 8. Boxer Luis “El Feo” Rodriguez dies in Miami, Florida. His professional record: 106-13 (49 KOs).
Cuba wins 23 medals at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, including 5 gold medals in boxingand additional gold medals in volleyball, baseball, Greco-Roman wrestling, weight lifting and judo.
October 29. Legendary Cuban pitcher Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, regarded as the best pitcher in modern Cuban history, is banned from participating in the Cuban National Baseball Team.
Cuban boxers win 4 of 12 gold medals at the Amateur Boxing Competitions in Budapest, Hungary. Winning medals for Cuba: Maikro Romero, Manuel Mantilla, Alfredo Duvergel, and Felix Savón.
October 31. Humberto Rodriguez takes over as president of INDER.
December 26. Baseball player Orlando “El Duke” Hernandez and 7 others leave Cuba in a small boat. El Duke takes temporary residence in Costa Rica.
March 7. Orlando “El Duke” Hernandez sings a 4-year deal with the New York Yankees.
October 18. Orlando “El Duke” Hernandez plays in game 2 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees win the game (9-3), and go on to take the series 4-0.
March 28. In Havana, the Baltimore Orioles beat the Cuban National Baseball Team by a score of 3-2 in overtime. This is the first time that a professional U.S. baseball team plays in Cuba, and the first of two exhibition games. The second game is to be played on May 3 in the U.S.
May 3. The Cuban National Baseball Team defeats the Baltimore Orioles by a score of 12-6 at Camden Yards in Baltimore. This is the first game ever played on U.S. soil between a Revolution-era national team and a Major League ball club.
August. At the Pan American Games in Houston, the Cuban boxing team makes a dramatic exit, with the Cuban flag in front of them, after a series of bad decisions. The audience almost riots in protest (of the decisions), and the following day one of the decisions is reversed and four judges are suspended. “…from a boxing point of view,” wrote John Duncan, author of In The Red Corner, “Houston began exactly were Budapest had left off, with the Cubans being the victims of some weird and unwondering judging. During the first few days the patience of the Cuban team was pushed and tested and pushed again by a series of decisions that ranged from the merely questionable through eyebrow-raising to the utterly inexplicable.” Cuban boxers Juan Hernandez and Mario Kindelan win gold medals.
Cuba wins 6 boxing medals (4 Gold), at the Olympic Games in Sydney. The U.S. National Baseball Team defeats the Cuban National Baseball Team for the Gold medal.
May 29. Playing for the NY Mets, Rey Ordóñez breaks his left forearm on a tag play.
At the World Amateur Boxing Competition in Belfast, Ireland, Cuba wins 7 of 12 gold medals. Winning gold for Cuba: Yan Varela Bartelemi, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Mario Mesa Kindelan, Martinez Diogenes, Loren Armentieros Aragon, Damien Echemendia Austin, and Odlanier Fonte Solis.
October 31. Two Cuban baseball players defect to the U.S. One of the players, 24-year old pitcher Maels Rodriguez, is said to be one of the best players to leave Cuba.
Cuba wins 27 medals at the Olympic Games in Athens. In boxing Cuba wins 10 medals (72 countries sent boxers), 5 gold. Mario Kindelán defeats British Amir Khan in the lightweight final (August 29).
July 5. According to an article in USA Today: Between 1959-77, 51 All-Star Game selections were Cuban-born players, and in 2001, 14 Cuban defectors played in the major leagues. The article says that the presence of Cuban players in the majors is diminishing.
According to sports officials, Cuban boxers won 49 gold medals, 25 silver and 27 bronzes in 2005. They fought 313 bouts, winning 234 and losing 79. The top Cuban boxer this year isGuillermo Rigondeux, who remains undefeated in 8 international tournaments and received the Russell Cup (granted to the best boxer in the world).
March 31. Teófilo Stevenson is named supervisor of referees for AIBA, the international association of boxing referees.
April 29 – May 5. Third Cuban Olympic Games feature fighters from the US, Kazajstan, China, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, El Salvador, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. Cuba features 66 different fighters in 6 teams.