Havana’s Grand Cerro Stadium opened October 26, 1946, seven decades ago, with a baseball game between the Alacranes from Almendares and Cienfuegos’ Elephants, who won 9-1 with 31,000 fans in the bleachers.
The Grand Cerro, now the Latinoamericano, or simply the Latino, stands majestically as the continuator of Cuba’s baseball history in its predecessors, the centenary Palmar de Junco in Matanzas, and other capital city venues like Almendares Park and the Tropical, currently known as the Pedro Marrero.
The mythical ballpark, with a capacity of 55,000 spectators after its last expansion in 1971, has hosted all types of events, from gymnastics meets, boxing matches, soccer games, and rodeos, to legendary baseball games as part of the 14th Central American-Caribbean Games (1982) and the 11th Pan Americans (1991).
No doubt, it is Cuba’s baseball temple, site of for-profit baseball until February 7, 1961, when the last professional game took place in our country. Since then, it has hosted 56 national series, and is the home club for fans of the Industriales, the most successful team in revolutionary baseball.
Notable dates and events
February 20-25, 1949: Almendares wins the first Caribbean Series, with six wins and no losses.
March 4, 1949: World Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis faced off against Cuban title holder in this division, Omelio Agramonte, winning by decision.
September 6, 1952: Opening of the 13th World Championship, with 13 teams, a record at the time. Cuba took the lead with nine victories and two losses. The Latino hosted four World Championships: 1971, 1973, 1984 and 2003, with Cuba taking the honors.
November 26, 1952: A group of university students led by José A. Echeverría, president of the Federation of University Students (FEU), stormed the field during a baseball game to unfurl a banner declaring, “Down with the dictatorship!” The police attack that ensued was broadcast live across the country.
March 4, 1955: A Japanese team, the Giants of Yomiuri visited to play three games in the Latino. Cuba won two of them, 4-1 and 11-0. Raúl Sánchez and Julio «Jiquí» Moreno pitched nine full innings in the two victories.
October 6, 1959: The Cuban Sugar Kings were proclaimed champions of the “little” World Series, with the winners of the International League and the American Association competing. Cuba defeated the Minneapolis Millers, 3-2, with Prime Minister Fidel Castro and Comandante Camilo Cienfuegos on hand.
August 6, 1960: The congress of Latin American Youth held its closing session in the stadium, during which Fidel announced the nationalization of U.S. companies in Cuba. In the middle of his speech, Fidel lost his voice and Raúl was obliged to continue reading the text, until he said, “Bad news for yankee imperialism,” Fidel had his voice back. The Comandante en Jefe returned to the microphone to finish reading the list of 26 U.S. companies nationalized.
January 14, 1962: Inauguration of the first Nation baseball Series with Fidel hitting the first pitch. The Azucareros defeated Orientales, 6-0.
July 28, 1978: More than 18,500 youth from 2,000 organizations de 145 countries participating in the World Festival of Youth and Students.
October 15, 1979: The 6th Intercontinental Cup was held for the first time in Cuba, with the country finishing undefeated in ten appearances. Another three Cups were held in our country: 1987, 1995 and 2002.
March 28, 1999: Cuba vs the Orioles of Baltimore, first game against a major league team since 1959. It took the Orioles 11 innings to win 3-2, with Fidel in attendance.
March 22, 2016: Cuba-Tampa Bay, second match-up against a team from the U.S. major leagues in 17 years. Tampa won 4-1, with Presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama in the stands.