Financial problems force Puerto Rican Winter League to cancel season

Updated: August 16, 2007, 8:01 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The Puerto Rican winter baseball league, where the likes of Roberto Clemente, Ivan Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez once starred, canceled its upcoming season Thursday because of financial problems.

The league was supposed to start its 70th season in three months. Instead, it suspended operations and planned to spend the next year trying to reorganize.

Puerto Rico had participated in every Caribbean Series since the showcase began in 1949.

"Today is a day of mourning for Puerto Rican sport," said former St. Louis pitcher Mike Perez, president of the players' association on the island. "We knew the league was in a crisis but we didn't think this day would come."

The owners of the six teams voted unanimously to shut down a league that has seen a steady decline in attendance for the past decade, league president Jose Andreu Garcia said.

"It's no secret the league has been facing difficulties," Andreu said. "Confronted with this reality, we decided to evaluate what we have see what we can do in a reasonable amount of time."

The league was expected to hold talks with Major League Baseball to discuss a possible collaboration, including marketing efforts that might allow play to resume in the future.

Puerto Rico's league runs from October through January. This year's season was expected to feature Yadier Molina and his brother, Jose.

The league has a storied past, with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Reggie Jackson all playing in Puerto Rico.

During a recent visit to the island, Aaron reminisced about his time as a teenage infielder for the Caguas Criollos in the mid-1950s.

"I wouldn't have gotten to the big leagues as quickly if I hadn't played in Puerto Rico," he said.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press