"You heard a lot of whispers around the place that perhaps these guys were going to South Africa," recalled broadcaster Tony Cozier.
"But at that time, we couldn't believe that they could assemble a team of West Indies players given the whole background to the anti-apartheid movement."
Many big-name West Indies stars were outspoken in their refusal to play in apartheid South Africa.
Captain Clive Lloyd said no amount of money could get him there. Future captain Viv Richards called it "blood money."
But other players were tempted.
The offers from South Africa were more than they would likely see in their lifetimes -- estimated to be between $100,000 and $150,000 per player.
It was enough to draw in names like batsmen Lawrence Rowe and Alvin Kallicharran, fast bowler Sylvester Clarke and wicketkeeper David Murray -- one of the best in the game.
Also agreeing to take part was Collis King, hero of the 1979 World Cup.
"I made the decision because I wasn't getting treated right as far as the West Indies (team) was concerned," said King. "And I said to myself, 'Well, cricket is my job. You're not picking me, I'll go play cricket someplace where people will see proper cricket.' And that's why I went."
More than just cricket
Rising star Stephenson was only 23 in 1983, with a promising career in front of him. He had repeatedly turned down offers to play in South Africa.
But the day the team left, Stephenson had a change of heart.
"I knew the tour was more important than being just cricket," Stephenson said. "I believe that cricket can make a difference, and I'm going to be a part of that team."
On the plane, Stephenson recalled, some of the players began having second thoughts. But it was too late -- they were on their way to South Africa, to face apartheid head on.
"When we got to South Africa, I realized that separation, and it wasn't only black and white," he said. "It's the language that you speak, the area that you live in, and it's what you're allowed to do, and where you can go. So the divisions were very real when we got there."
Unsure of how they'd be received by the country's mainly white fanbase, the West Indies rebels prepared for their first Test match.
But their worries soon proved unfounded -- in droves, crowds came out to see the famous cricketers.
"We packed them in," said Murray. "We turned out 20,000 in Pretoria, the heart of apartheid."
As the tour went on, the players began to believe something more important than just cricket was taking place.
Young kids -- white kids -- were begging them for autographs. It seemed South African fans couldn't get enough of the black cricketers from the West Indies.