Anyone remember this? I sure don't.
Such troubles are not wholly unexpected considering that the infant IAL was hastily put together over the winter. It is the brainchild of Bobby Maduro, who owned the Sugar Kings in pre-Castro Cuba and from 1967 to '78 was Bowie Kuhn's assistant for inter-American baseball. To get the new league under way, Maduro had to overcome strong opposition from the Caribbean winter leagues, which view the Inter-American as a competitor for Latin players' services and Latin fans' affections, and from several major league owners, who felt they had a corner on baseball talent in the Caribbean.
Unlike teams in Triple A leagues based solely in the U.S. and Canada, those in the IAL are not affiliated with big league organizations. As a result, Inter-American rosters are composed almost entirely of players who have been released or overlooked by major league teams. And that's precisely what Maduro wanted.
"This league was desperately needed," he says, "and I wrote a letter to the commissioner 10 years ago telling him so. When I started in baseball, there were 56 minor leagues. Now there are only 18. Today, if you're not good enough to make it to the majors in three years, you're eliminated from consideration."
Miami Manager and sometime player Dave Johnson, a three-time Gold Glove winner with Baltimore and a .262 lifetime hitter, sees a need for a league that welcomes older players.
"The system isn't conducive to breeding talent anymore," he says. "The real problem is that, as a rule, scouts and minor league managers are incompetent judges of ability. Usually they were .220 hitters who couldn't get jobs outside of baseball.
The new Inter-American circuit, which has franchises from - 06.04.79 - SI Vault
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