The Havana Sugar Kings (Spanish: Reyes del Azúcar) were a Cuban-based minor league baseball team that played from 1946 to 1960. From 1954 until 1960, they belonged in the Class AAA International League, affiliated with Major League Baseball's Cincinnati Reds. Their home stadium was Gran Estadio del Cerro (sometimes called Gran Stadium) in Havana.

Havana Sugar Kings
Minor league affiliations
Previous classes
  • Class AAA (1954–1960)
  • Class B (1949–1953)
  • Class C (1946–1948)
LeagueInternational League (1954–1960)
Previous leagues
Florida International League (1946–1953)
Major league affiliations
Previous teams
Minor league titles
League titles IL: 1 (1959)
FIL: 2 (1947, 1948)
Team data
Previous names
Havana Sugar Kings (1954–1960)
  • Havana Cubans/Cubanos (1946–1953)
Previous parks
Gran Stadium



The Sugar Kings began life in 1946 as the Havana Cubans, founded by Washington Senators scout Joe Cambria. That year, they (rather than a Cuban League side) represented Cuba at the inaugural Interamerican Series, the predecessor to the modern Caribbean Series.[1]

Led by manager Oscar Rodriguez, the Cubans experienced tremendous success both on and off the field. Havana finished first in Class C (later Class B) Florida International League in each of their first five seasons of play, winning over 100 games twice and compiling a record of 474-249 in five years under Rodriguez. The overall record would be even better had Havana not been stripped of 17 wins in 1946 for having too many experienced players for their class.[2] Nonetheless, the Cubans still had the league's top record even without the victories.

Havana then won consecutive FIL championships in 1947 and 1948. The 1947 Cubans were recognized as one of the 100 greatest minor league teams of all time.[3] The team was also successful at the box office, leading the league in attendance each year from 1946-50. In their first three seasons, Havana led all Class C teams in attendance, including a mark of 264,813 in 1947 that is still the highest total ever recorded by a Class C franchise.

During the 1953 season, Roberto "Bobby" Maduro bought the team and immediately had aspirations of bringing Major League Baseball to Havana. After the 1953 season, the Springfield Cubs folded, leaving an opening in the Triple-A International League. Maduro moved his franchise to the IL and renamed it the Sugar Kings. After playing the 1954 season as an independent club, the franchise signed an agreement with the Cincinnati Reds for the 1955 season and the Sugar Kings became Cincinnati's top farm club for the remainder of their existence. In addition to Reds prospects, several talented Cuban players and other Latinos who eventually made it to the Major Leagues donned the Sugar Kings uniform, including Luis Arroyo, Pompeyo Davalillo, Tony González, Cookie Rojas, Elio Chacón, Danny Morejón, Preston Gómez, Leo Cárdenas, and Mike Cuellar.

In their inaugural season at the Triple-A level, the Sugar Kings drew 295,453 fans despite a fifth-place finish, second behind only pennant-winning Toronto. The next season, Havana won 87 games, their most in IL play, and drew a franchise-record 313,232 fans, again second to Toronto. However, the Sugar Kings were eliminated by the Maple Leafs in the Governors' Cup playoffs.

The next three seasons were less successful, as Havana finished with identical 72-82 records in 1956-57, finishing in sixth place both years. In 1957, attendance cratered to 84,320, less than half that of any other IL club. However, despite a franchise-worse 65-88 record and last-place finish in 1958, attendance rebounded to 178,000.

1959 championship


In 1959, led by future major league manager Preston Gómez, the Sugar Kings rebounded to finish 80-73, finishing third in the IL standings. Amid revolution in Cuba that saw Fidel Castro rise to power, the Sugar Kings did not escape the turmoil. The most notable incident occurred on the night of July 25 in a home game against the Rochester Red Wings. As the game drug on into extra innings, the clock passed midnight to the 26th, marking the anniversary of the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. Celebratory gunfire outside the ballpark grazed Rochester shortstop Leo Cardenas and third base coach Frank Verdi, who both sustained minor injuries. Rochester pulled their team off the field and left Cuba, cancelling the final game of the series.[4]

However, the Sugar Kings were allowed to finish out their schedule and returned to the postseason. In the playoffs, Havana swept the Columbus Jets 4-0 and defeated the Richmond Virginians 4-2 to win the Governors' Cup. They then took on the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association in the Junior World Series. After two games with small crowds and frigid conditions at Metropolitan Stadium, the decision was made to move the balance of the series to Havana.

On their home turf, the Sugar Kings took the series the distance, rallying to walk off in Game 7 to take the series 4-3. The five games in Havana drew 100,000 people.[5]

Nationalization and departure from Cuba


In 1960, Castro nationalized all U.S.-owned enterprises in Cuba, and on July 8, Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick (under pressure from Secretary of State Christian Herter)[6] announced that the Sugar Kings would move to Jersey City, New Jersey,[7][8] and became the Jersey City Jerseys. They lasted only through the 1961 season, then folded due to poor attendance. The franchise was then sold to a Florida group from Jacksonville and became the Jacksonville Suns, who began play in the International League in 1962. That franchise moved to Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1969 and became the Tidewater Tides, and remains in that region as the Norfolk Tides.

In February 1987, the Miami City Commission voted unanimously in favor of the renaming Miami Stadium in honor of Bobby Maduro, who had migrated to USA. The ballpark became known officially as Bobby Maduro Miami Stadium one month later.

2021 Miami Marlins alternate uniform


On May 17, 2021, The Miami Marlins unveiled a new alternate uniform which pays homage to the old Sugar Kings uniform.[9]

Season-by-season record

Season PDC League Finish Wins Losses Win% Postseason Manager Attendance
Havana Cubans
1946 WAS Florida International 1st 76 41 .650 Lost semifinals vs. West Palm Beach 3-2 Oscar Rodriguez 202,875
1947 WAS Florida International 1st 105 45 .700 Won semifinals vs. Miami 3-2
Won finals vs. Tampa 4-0
Oscar Rodriguez 264,813
1948 WAS Florida International 1st 97 57 .630 Won semifinals vs. Lakeland 3-0
Won finals vs. Tampa 4-3
Oscar Rodriguez 205,967
Havana Cubanos
1949 WAS Florida International 1st 95 57 .625 Won semifinals vs. Miami Beach 3-2
Lost finals vs. Tampa 4-0
Oscar Rodriguez 226,293
1950 WAS Florida International 1st 101 49 .673 Won semifinals vs. Tampa 3-0
Lost finals vs. Miami 4-1
Oscar Rodriguez 168,419
1951 WAS Florida International 5th 68 71 .489 Dolf Luque 83,051
1952 WAS Florida International 5th 76 77 .497 Mike Guerra 81,463
1953 Florida International 4th 63 69 .477 Lost semifinals vs. Fort Lauderdale Armando Marsans 23,460
Havana Sugar Kings
1954 International 4th 78 77 .503 Reggie Otero 295,453
1955 CIN International 3rd 87 66 .569 Lost semifinal vs. Toronto Reggie Otero 313,232
1956 CIN International 6th 72 82 .468 Reggie Otero/Nap Reyes 220,357
1957 CIN International 6th 72 82 .468 Nap Reyes 84,320
1958 CIN International 8th 65 88 .425 Nap Reyes/Tony Pacheco 178,340
1959 CIN International 3rd 80 73 .523 Won semifinals vs. Columbus 4-0
Won Governors' Cup vs. Richmond 4-2
Won Junior World Series vs. Minneapolis 4-3
Preston Gomez 200,094
Havana Sugar Kings/Jersey City Jerseys
1960 CIN International 5th 76 77 .497 Tony Castano/Nap Reyes 121,755
Regular season champion League champions

Interamerican Series record

Year Venue Finish Wins Losses Win% Manager
1946   Caracas 2nd 6 6 .500   Oscar Rodriguez
Total 6 6 .500

Notable alumni


See also



  1. ^ "Venezuela Series Opens". The Sporting News. Oct 30, 1946.
  2. ^ Johnson, Lloyd; Wolff, Miles (1997). The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (2nd ed.). Baseball America. p. 350.
  3. ^ "Top 100 Teams". 2001. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  4. ^ Swide, Joe. "The Wild Ride of the Havana Sugar Kings". Retrieved 15 January 2023.
  5. ^ Harris, John; Burbridge, John J. "The Short but Exciting Life of the Havana Sugar Kings". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 15 January 2023.
  6. ^ "Last U.S. baseball team to play in Havana before embargo had bullets rain down on them". Fox News. (sports). December 26, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  7. ^ "Havana franchise will be moved". Free Lance-Star. (Fredericksburg, Virginia). Associated Press. July 8, 1960. p. 8.
  8. ^ "Jersey City to get Havana, Castro 'speaks'". Free Lance-Star. (Fredericksburg, Virginia). Associated Press. July 9, 1960. p. 6.
  9. ^ "Miami Marlins' uniforms to honor former Cuban Triple-A team the Sugar Kings".