Proposed Syllabus for the Class:
Topics in Latin American Baseball History
Professor: Michael W. Kramer

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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 online. Grading Scale: Four elements factor into the grade you receive in class.

Attendance and Participation in Course Discussions: 30%
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 time.

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 case).

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.

Course Schedule:


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 learning.

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.

Required Reading:

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.

Required Reading:

Cobain, Dan "Women in Baseball: Latinas in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League." Available at:

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 baseball?

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 of origin.

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.

Required Reading:

Article: Marcano, Arturo J “The Globalization of Baseball: Major League Baseball and the Mistreatment of Latin American Baseball Talent.” Indiana Journal of Global Legal
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 your essay).

Required Reading:

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?

Required Reading:

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?

Required Reading:

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?

Required Reading:

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 way?

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 two-three pages.

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!