Baseball has been popular in Venezuela since the late 1800s with leagues being formed then and again in the 1920s. However, in the mid-1940s, professional leagues were organized that would eventually welcome Negro Leagues players. A signature event occurred in the winter of 1945 when a group of “American All-Stars” were invited to play an exhibition tour in the country. The team consisted of top Negro Leagues players, including Gene Benson, Sam Jethroe, Buck Leonard, Jackie Robinson and Quincy Trouppe. Robinson had just signed a contract to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers’ minor league affiliate in Montreal, which ushered in the age of integrated baseball.
The team went 12-2 in its contests against the top team from Caracas and a Caribbean All-Star team. The tour’s success opened the door for African American and Cuban players in Venezuela, and many were invited to compete during the 1946 season and thereafter. Through the period of integration in Major League Baseball, Venezuela provided an opportunity for African Americans to play and manage baseball in the winter leagues through the early 1950s. Future Hall of Famer Martín Dihigo, Luke Easter, Howard Easterling, Wilmer Fields, Sam Hairston, Don Newcombe, Art “Superman” Pennington, Marvin Williams and Parnell Woods were among the Negro Leagues stars who played in Venezuela.