Proposed Syllabus for the Class:
in Latin American Baseball History
Professor: Michael W. Kramer
Only until recent decades, highlighted
by the career of Roberto Clemente, have Latin American baseball
players began to transform major league baseball from a homogeneous
to heterogeneous game where ethnic diversity of players and coaches
exist on all teams. From a league that for over half a century was a
strictly white person’s game, after Jackie Robinson broke the color
barrier, team began efforts to find the next superstar player by
expanding southward into Latin America. Once scouts began to realize
the plethora of talent south of the border, the league transformed as
talented baseball players journeyed northward transforming the
landscape of the game and nation forever after. Today, major and
minor league rosters across the nation provide us with an example of
multiculturalism at its finest.
This class examines the historical
events, players, and cultures within Latin America and the United
States. The goal of this course is to learn about the impact Latino
players transformed and shaped the shape of the game. In addition, we
will examine how historical developments paradoxically at the same
time changed the racial attitudes of people around the world within
the sport itself and society in general. Because the subject matter
of this course is a field seldom explored by historians, we will also
focus our attention on modern day issues and continuing developments
that surround our favorite pastime.
In the twenty-first century, Latin
American baseball players and their impact on the game has become a
popular topic not only in baseball but also in other sports and
American culture. The recent increase in numbers of professional
Latino baseball players in the United States has affected
professional baseball, the cultures from which these players hail,
and American culture in general. Therefore, the primary era that we
will be covering in this class covers events occurring from the
second half of the twentieth century until the present. Throughout
the semester, I will briefly lecture on the material we are covering.
Other components of this class include reading the required
materials, active participation in classroom discussion and debates,
response papers, that demonstrate your understanding of weekly
reading materials, one research paper and an oral presentation of the
topic you write about due at the end of the semester.
Because this is an upper-level history class (juniors and seniors
only), it is assumed that students already have a basic understanding
of United States history.
Required Books: All books are available in new or used format
at the University bookstore and all are widely available for purchase
Grading Scale: Four elements
factor into the grade you receive in class.
Wendel, Tim. The New Face of Baseball: The One-Hundred-Year Rise
and Triumph of Latinos in America's Favorite Sport. New
York: Harper Collins. 2004.
Hernandez, Lou. The Rise of the Latin American Baseball Leagues,
1947-1961: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama,
Puerto Rico and Venezuela. North Carolina: McFarland &
Company Inc. 2011.
Required Reading: Jozsa, Frank P. Baseball Beyond Borders: From
Distant Lands to the Major Leagues.
United Kingdom: Scarecrow Press. 2013.
Ruck, Rob. Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black
and Latin Game. Boston: Beacon Press. 2012.
Maraniss, David. Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's
Last Hero. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2005.
Attendance and Participation in Course
Weekly Response Papers: 30%
Final Research Paper: 30%
Oral Presentation: 10%
Attendance: Attendance is this
class mandatory and your responsibility as a student in this class
requires active participate in all lectures and debates. Please
inform me by email or phone in advance of class if you will be
absent. Students, it is your responsibility to make up the material
covered during any class that you miss. You should always assume that
you did miss important material when you were not in attendance.
Nonattendance can lower your class participation grade. However, if
the situation should arise where your absence or absences are
understandable, I will offer you an assignment to complete, at your
request only, to make up for any lost credit.
Late Assignments: Turning in
assignments and response papers late, without my prior permission, is
not permissible. Please make every effort to complete your work on
Research Paper: Describe how one
Latin American baseball player's career (retired or still active)
reflects the economic, social, and cultural relationship between the
United States and country of original of the player you select. The
paper you produce will show your understanding of all material
covered throughout the course of the semester.
Your paper must contain at least five secondary sources and be at
least 15 double-spaced (exclusive of notes, bibliography, and any
appendices. Please format your paper with 12-point font, one-inch
margin on all sides, and in Times New Roman font.
Your paper must be written at a college level, using correct grammar,
spelling, and punctuation. It must also be fully documented with
footnotes and a bibliography, using the Chicago
Manual of Style (CMOS) format. Guidelines are available at:
No extensions will be allowed on the paper except in the case of
major illness or emergency (please contact me immediately in such a
It is the policies of this course that
cheating or plagiarism will result in the failure, of not just the
assignment in which the misdeed occurs, but of the entire course.
Individuals accused of plagiarism can result in charges of academic
misconduct and student referral to university authorities for
disciplinary action up to and including expulsion.
In our first meeting of the semester,
we will introduce ourselves with one another, review the course
requirements, and I will give a short lecture providing an overview
of the topics we will be discussing over the course of the semester.
Lecture on how Latin American baseball
developed over the span of two centuries.
Required Reading: Wendel
Wendel's book provides us with a general overview of how baseball
developed in Latin America. We will be considering this book as
somewhat of a course textbook for our class and we will be using it
throughout the semester as a reference to the material we will be
Discussion: What obstacles did Latin American players face in the
late eighteen and early nineteenth centuries? Why do you suppose the
negro leagues were more accepting of Latin American baseball players
than white baseball leagues?
This week we will be analyzing how
during the colonial era, while American cultural was being exported
nationwide, only in Latin America the sport gained popularity.
Kelly, William W. “Is Baseball a
Global Sport? America's 'National Pastime' as Global Field and
International Sport.” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.
Article available at
As Kelly argues:
Baseball owes its prestige as our
National Game to the fact that as no other form of sport it is the
exponent of American Courage, Confidence, Combativeness; American
Dash, Discipline, Determination; American Energy, Eagerness,
Enthusiasm; American Pluck, Persistency, Performance; American
Spirit, Sagacity, Success; American Vim, Vigor, Virility. Base
Ball is the American Game par excellence because its playing demands
Brain and Brawn, and American manhood supplies these ingredients in
quantity sufficient to spread over the entire continent.
Discussion: How historically accurate
is the above statement? What are the reasons that baseball flourished
in some countries more so than other countries?
Required Reading: Hernandez
Response Paper 1: The week before, I
will assign each of you one of the seven Latin American countries
highlighted in Hernandez's book. Write at least a three-page paper
summarizing how baseball developed in your assigned country.
Discussion: Class time will be devoted
to examining the similarities and differences between the countries
as to how, when, and why baseball gained popularity in each country.
This week, we will examine how baseball
as a sport developed in Latin American countries throughout the
nineteenth and twentieth century.
Required Reading: Jozsa
Jozsa's book provides us with a
comprehensive look at the impact players and staffs born in countries
outside the United States have had on baseball. Although soccer was
the primary sport in Latin America, the natural resources that
playing baseball requires produces a need for land, stadiums, lights,
and governmental funding to play the game. Soccer, on the other hand,
requires only a flat playing field making it more widely available
for low-income Latinos to play. Once modernism hit the countries,
baseball flourished. Yet, as we shall discover, only the superstar
athletes make the major leagues.
Response Paper 2: Explain how baseball
developed in one Latin American country and explain the factors that
led to the sport becoming popular at when it did as opposed to a
different time in history. Include material covered from the class
discussion the week before in your paper.
Cobain, Dan "Women in Baseball:
Latinas in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League."
Response Paper 3: Latin American women
baseball players in the United States have largely gone unnoticed by
baseball historians. Sighting evidence and female players from
Cobain's article, explain how changing and traditional and gender
roles at the time were demonstrated at the time by players such as
Isabel Alvarez, Ysora del Castillo, and Mirtha Marrero. What role did
WWII play in changing the course of history for women who played
Discussion: We will discuss why little
or no female baseball leagues exist throughout Latin America. We will
compare the social, economic, and political conditions that explain
why a woman's only baseball league has not developed while during the
same time span male participation has dramatically increased. Have
the gender roles remained stagnant due to population growth and lack
of economic development in the region?
Required Reading: Ruck
Response Paper 4: As the author
argues, what social and economic factors exist that explain the
decline of African American interest in pursuing careers in baseball
while Latin American participation has never been higher?
Discussion: Over one-quarter of all
current major league baseball players and approximately half of those
playing in the minors are Latin Americans. However, African American
participating in the sport has dropped dramatically as athletes
instead pursue processional careers in basketball or football.
Required Reading: Maraniss
From 1955 until 1972, Roberto Clemente,
arguably the most influential Latin American baseball player, of the
Pittsburgh Pirates indefinitely transformed the game of baseball.
Until his tragic death in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972,
Clemente was one of the first athletes who understood how using the
power of sports could transform not just a handful of lives but the
lives of millions. This week we examine how Clemente's off the field
humanitarian work made him a role model for not only future Latin
American baseball players but all people across the globe.
Discussion: As Clemente epitomizes, is
it the responsibility of professional athletes to act as role models?
Sight examples from the readings thus far showing how Latino athletes
used their popularity to improve living conditions in their country
Although star Latin American baseball
players receive the majority of media attention, the majority of
players who do not experience success in the major leagues and
receive lucrative contracts face struggles. Marcano suggests that the
globalization of baseball and influx of Latin American talent into
the U.S “has a dark side that has received surprisingly little
attention from those who follow the game.” His article focuses on
the unpleasant reality of the globalization of baseball with the
result being the necessity of the media having a role informing fans
of the mistreatment of Latin American athletes.
Article: Marcano, Arturo J “The
Globalization of Baseball: Major League Baseball and the Mistreatment
of Latin American Baseball Talent.” Indiana Journal of Global
Studies. 1999. Available at:
Response Paper 5: Review the
aforementioned article and write a 2-4 page essay stating whether or
not you agree Marcano's argument and what social and economic factors
between Latin American nations and the United States may cause MLB
scouts and teams to “systematically treat potential baseball talent
in Latin America less favorably than they do American baseball
prospects.” What can be done (if anything) to better the human
rights and lower the mistreatment of talented and sought after Latin
American baseball players?
Debate: In class, we will debate
whether you agree with Marcano’s arguments (as you are to state in
Klein, Alan M. "Baseball as Underdevelopment: The
Political-Economy of Sport in the Dominican Republic." Sociology of Sport Journal. 1989, Vol. 6 Issue 2, p. 95-112.
Available on EBSCOhost.
Zarin, David. Say It Ain't So, Big
Leagues. The Nation. Available at:
Response Paper 6: Do you agree with
Klein's argument that while serving to reproduce United States
control, baseball takes on the appearance of a benevolent, even
helpful, cultural institution? Or, is Zirin's argument more accurate?
Discussion: Continuing our theme of
comparing and contrasting the development of Latin American baseball
in different countries, we will discuss why the Dominican Republic of
which seventy percent of Latin American players hail from is more of
a “hot bed” for baseball talent. Why is that?
Badler, Ben. Nine Questions MLB Must
Address For An International Draft. Baseball America. May 28th 2013.
Article Available at
Response Paper 7: Imagine a MLB
developed a Latin American baseball draft and you were given the
responsibility to formulate a fair and balanced method for equal
opportunity to exist for low and high market MLB teams. The week
before, each of you will pick one of the nine questions in the
aforementioned link and expand on it giving your thoughts.
Discussion: Debate about what you think
answers may be for the questions Badler presents. Do you think a
Latin American baseball draft be put in place? How long can the
league survive with the “first come, first serve” setup?
Marcano, Arturo and Fidler, David.
“Baseball's Exploitation of Latin Talent.” NACLA Report on the
Americas. Available on EBSCOhost.
Video: Ken Burns Baseball: The Tenth
Inning: No One Walks Off the Island. 2008.
Discussion: Do the teams who make the
baseball academies have more success? Alternatively, considering the
frequency of trades that occur in MLB, does it really matter what
team signs a Latin American prospect?
Katz, Jonathan and Soldevila, Dionisio.
“For some Dominican Baseball Players, Taking Steroids Worth Risk.”
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Available at
Discussion: Currently, minor league
baseball players are subject to performing enhancing drugs (PED)
testing and if there is a positive result, disciplinary action in the
form of suspension or a lifetime ban can result. However, players in
Latin American leagues (with no affiliation to league testing) have
no formal testing for PED program in place. How involved can
MLB and the United States get in imposing a PED regulatory program in
Latin American countries and what are the obstacles that stand in the
Final Paper Presentations
On the final day of class, you will
give an oral presentation based on your research paper. You will each
have five minutes to present your paper off a prepared text of about
I will be ordering pizzas and bringing
refreshments for us to enjoy during class time!
© Michael W. Kramer: December: 2013: Contact me for questions or comments!