In 1937, some of the most famous baseball players who ever lived–all black and relegated to the then-segregated Negro Leagues–got fed up with American racism and took advantage of one of the strangest offers they’d ever know. The dictator of the Dominican Republic, easily one of the most dangerous (and racist) men of the era, was sponsoring a baseball tournament in his own honor. And he wanted the best players money could buy. This is the story of what happened when 17 stars flew down to the DR to play for a man named Rafael Trujillo. In the process, they caused a major diplomatic scandal; almost drove black baseball out of business; and cemented some of the legends we all grew up with.
Read my story in Issue 57 of The Atavist Magazine
A special thanks to some sources who were indispensable to the research of this story. Orlando Inoa, the Dominican historian and publisher of Letra Gráfica, is quite simply one of the most knowledgeable historians and documentarians around; without him, the story would have been impossible to tell. Salvador Alfau, at the National Archives in Santo Domingo, was extremely generous. Rob Ruck, of the University of Pittsburgh, has written brilliantly about baseball in the DR, and it was an honor to confer with him along the way. I can’t do justice here to Cuqui Córdova, and he makes a cameo in the story itself. Thank you: José A. Vega Imbert, Layton Revel, Luis Muñoz, Freddy Gómez, Frank Moya Pons, Robin Derby, Roberto Echevarría, Larry Lester, Larry Tye, and Neil Lanctot. The list goes on.