One of the things I hope to achieve with this “Not the MLB” series is to expose baseball fans to the wider world of baseball. Baseball is an international game, it’s played at a highly competitive level in Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and across the Caribbean. Baseball across the world is colorful and exciting. I’ve always dreamed of a true World Series, where the champion of Major League Baseball has to compete with the best of the rest of the world to prove that they are truly the World Champions of baseball.
Closest we’ll get, for now though, is building obscenely large universes in Out of the Park. But to bring some of that international color to American baseball, today we’re going to take a look at our should-be 51st state of Puerto Rico. Visiting the Roberto Clemente Baseball League, we find the island’s most successful team, the Cangrejeros de Santurce (the Santurce Crabbers).
Team: Cangrejeros de Santuce (Santurce Crabbers) Hometown: Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA League: Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente (Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League) Years: 1939 – present Stadium: Hiram Bithorn Stadium CPBL Championships: 16 (most recent: 2020) Caribbean Series Champions: 5
The Cangrejeros have a long and proud tradition in Puerto Rican baseball and can proudly claim the player for which their league is named. Roberto Clemente broke into professional baseball with the Cangrejeros in the 1952-53 season. A talent agreement with the then-New York Giants that allowed Santurce to bring reigning National League MVP Willie Mays to Puerto Rico, along with several other key mainland “reinforcements”. A few years later the team secured a debuting Orlando Cepeda, and with the continued support of several Major Leaguers, the team won 4 league championships in the 50’s.
The team saw sporadic success through the next 50 years, bringing in a revolving door of Hall of Fame caliber Major League stars. But with Y2K came financial insecurity and troubling times for the team. Former Major Leaguer Jose Valentin purchased the team, and moved them to Manati, rechristening the club Antenienses de Manati. That deal only lasted a year, but with choppy seas league-wide, and a complete restructuring of the league, with the assistance of Major League Baseball, the Crabbers returned, and finally settled back permanently in Santurce and at Hiram Birthorn Stadium in 2012.
Since the prodigal journey of the team, Santurce has returned to dominance in the league, winning 4 championships between 2015 and 2020. While Justo Morero now owns the franchise, Jose Valentin continues to be intimately involved in the success of the club, now serving as the team’s on field manager.
With that backstory, we now look at why they get invited to the Not the MLB league. Which is built strictly on cool looking uniforms and logos. The Cangrejeros have an amazing, classic design that feels a bit LA Dodgers, a bit St. Louis Cardinals. Their primary kit is a plain white base with “Cangrejeros” in a script font and two blue and white crabs scuttling about. The cap’s “S” logo is reminiscent of the Saltillo Saraperos of the Mexican League. Road uniforms follow suit, and while the team has had a series of third choice kits, the primary look is an absolute five star classic.
Prior to the Montreal Expos move to the 51st state, there was talk of relocation – and even expansion – to San Juan. If our 52nd state ever does join Major League Baseball, I hope they do right by the Crabbers, and allow them to transfer the organization in whole cloth from the Clemente circuit to the majors.