Santa Clara Leopardos: Greatest Team Ever

Cuba ended segregation in 1900. The small Caribbean island was more progressive than most of it’s neighbours. Cubad still lagged in integrating blacks into society except on the baseball diamond. Cuba forged early bonds with the American Negro Leagues. This bond saw black Cuban touring teams face off against teams in the United States. This also opened the door for black American players to play in Cuba. Spurred by the talents of negro leaguers such as Oscar Charleston, the Santa Clara Leopardos can stake claim as the Greatest Team Ever in Cuba.

Abel Linares might be the most influential character in Cuba’s baseball genesis. He effectively owned the Cuban Pro League. In the 1920’s he wielded more power than anyone on the fate of the game. The league was described as the eternal rivalry between Habana and Almandares. Linares owned both clubs. Linares also owned Almandares park where the majority of games were played. The real struggle was to find a competitive and sustainable third squad. Many teams came and went but struggled to survive outside of Havana.

Linares and his right man Tinti Molina had also formed the Cuban Stars. The Stars were a team that travelled the states taking on the Negro Leagues. This relationship opened the door to recruit many of the top stars of the Negro Leagues to Cuba. The Santa Clara Leopardos formed in 1922. They were a combination of Negro League Stars and black Cubans. They quickly ascended and became the dominant squad in the Cuban league, but could never capture financial stability.

Greatest Team Ever via Cubadugout on Youtube

Get Inside the Dugout and learn about the history of a team so dominant most think the rest of the league just gave up. The Santa Clara Leopardos broke racial barriers and the spirits of their baseball opponents. Yet have a winding and inconsistent path as a franchise. Special thanks to the writings of César Brioso and Peter C Bjarkman, the artistry of Graig Kreindler and the research of SABR and Seamheads.

Alejandro Oms Cuban baseball and Leopardos legend

Phil Selig

Canada’s Top Expert on Cuban Baseball. I first ventured to the island in 2012 with camera in hand and captured some of the future baseball stars of the world. I have returned many times immersing myself in the game and culture. Get inside the Dugout for a unique look at Cuban Baseball.