Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pedro Guerrero's Health Scare

It was reported a few days ago that former slugger Pedro Guerrero of the Dominican Republic had been hospitalized with cranial bleeding at el Centro de Diagnóstico y Medicina Avanzada (Cedimat) in the city of Santo Domingo, DR. Guerrero, who played 15 major league seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals during the 1980's through the mid 1990's was one of the pre-eminent sluggers to come out of the Dominican Republic.

At a time when many Dominican players came from the "no-hit good glove" school of middle infielders, sluggers like Guerrero and George Bell paved the way for later Dominican Sluggers such as Vladimir Guerrero, Raul Mondesi, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre, Sammy Sosa and Albert Pujols.

In his 15 year career, Guerrero was a model of consistency both at the plate and in the field. Guerrero hit for .300 or more seven times finishing with a career .300 average. Guerrero was a five time All-Star, a Silver Slugger in 1982 and four top five MVP voting results, finishing in the top three in 1982, 1985 and 1989. In his earlier years, Guerrero played at practically every position that Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda plugged him into except shortstop and pitcher. In his time with the Cardinals, Guerrero was primarily a first baseman while playing a number of games in the outfield.

His crowning moment came on October 28 1981 during Game Six of the 1981 World Series against the New York Yankees. Guerrero unloaded against the Yankees by going 3-for-5 with a solo home run, a triple and a bases loaded single for a total of five RBIs. Guerrero batted .333 (7-for-21) with two homers and seven RBIs earning co-World Series Most Valuable Player honors with teammates Ron Cey and Steve Yeager.

Guerrero was always a family favorite growing up. El "Orgullo Dominicano" was always exemplified with his effort on the field not only in MLB but also in the Dominican League.

The Dominican newspaper El Listin Diario states that Guerrero "has recovered more than 80 percent mobility in his left arm". Hopefully Guerrero can make a full recovery from his injuries.

For Further Reading:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Jose Altuve Joins Rarefied Air

Jose Altuve put together one of the most impressive seasons with his 2014 American League batting and hits titles. Altuve finished with a .341 batting average with 225 hits. Now consider this, Altuve's 225 hits places him in 3rd place All-Time for Hits by a Latino Ballplayer.

Now keeping in mind of such sluggers that have recently played the game as Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltran, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Nelson Cruz, Alex Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero and Latino legends such as Roberto Clemente, Vic Power (Victor Pellot), Tony Oliva and Pedro Guerrero, Altuve had more hits in his 2014 season than all those players ever did in an individual season. Now consider that the record most hits in one season is 262 hits, which is held by Ichiro Suzuki, here are the two Latinos to have more hits that Jose Altuve

Rod Carew
At the age of 31, Panamanian Rod Carew put up a career high 239 hits during the 1977 season in which he won the American League Most Valuable Player Award while a member of the Minnesota Twins. 1977 was also a career year for Carew in terms of batting average. Carew hit .388 that season with 38 doubles, 16 triples and 14 home runs while driving in 100 runs and scoring 128 runs.

Matteo Alou
One of the famed trio of Alou Brothers from the Dominican Republic, Matteo Alou racked up a career high 231 hits for the 1969 Pittsburgh Pirates. Alou batted .331 with a league leading 41 doubles, 6 triples and 1 home run while driving in 48 runs and scoring 105 runs.

Jose Altuve
What's impressive about Altuve's 2014 season is that he was able to do so at the young age of 24. Altuve batted a career high .341 with a career high 225 hits. He raked 47 doubles, 3 triples and 7 home runs with 59 Runs batted in and 85 runs scored. Add to that, the league leading 56 stolen bases that Altuve swiped.

Will Altuve get much AL MVP consideration outside of Houston? The front runners are currently Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones and Victor Martinez. I think it will be hard for Altuve to win the AL MVP though if I had a vote, he'd be my pick. What do you think, does he have a chance to win AL MVP?

Hasta la próxima, no dejamos de jugar el Beisbol,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Jose Altuve's career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to access Rod Carew's career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to access Matteo Alou's career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to access the Single-Season Leaders & Records for Hits from Baseball

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fernando Valenzuela Becomes the First Mexican-Born Pitcher to Win 20-Games September 22, 1986

On this day in Baseball History September 22, 1986: Native of Etchohuaquila, Mexico by the name of Fernando Valenzuela Anguamea nicknamed "El Toro" became the first Mexican-born pitcher to win 20-games. Pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Houston Astros at the Astrodome, Fernando threw the 19th of his league leading 20 complete games for his 20th victory. Valenzuela was en-route to a 21-11 record and his only career 20-win season. Valenzuela would come in second in the National League Cy Young vote behind Mike Scott of the Houston Astros.

The 1986 season would be special for Mexican-born pitchers with Teddy Higuera of the Milwaukee Brewers joining Valenzuela in the Mexican-born 20-game winner club. Higuera would win his 20th game on October 1, 1986 against the Detroit Tigers. As with Valenzuela, Higuera would finish second in the American League Cy Young vote. His 20-11 1986 campaign would be his only 20-win season in his career.

Will we ever see another 20-win pitcher from Mexico? There are currently a couple of pitchers who can do so. Jaime Garcia of the St. Louis Cardinals has won 13 games twice (2010 and 2011). Injuries have seemed to have slowed him down. Jaime de la Rosa of the Colorado Rockies has won 16 games twice (2009 and 2013) and currently has 14 wins this season. Marco Estrada of the Milwaukee Brewers is also another pitcher that has the potential if he can become a fixture in the Brewers rotation. Miguel Gonzalez of the Baltimore Orioles is also another potential pitcher for the Mexican- born 20-win game. My prediction is Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Gallardo has put up 13, 14, 17, and 16-win seasons with the Brewers. I believe that if anyone of the Mexican pitchers that I mention that are currently playing in MLB can reach 20-wins, its Gallardo. What do you think. Agree? Disagree? Anyone else that I failed to mention? We'll have to wait and see if any of these pitchers step up next season.

Hasta la próxima, no dejamos de jugar el Beisbol,
Baseball Sisco

Friday, May 9, 2014

Latinos Making History May 9, 2014

As I wrote on my Baseball Sisco blogpage on May 8, 2014 in the post Five Players to Hit 100 Homers With Three Different Teams, Adrian Beltre became the fifth player to hit 100 homeruns for three different teams. In doing so he joined Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, Darrell Evans, Alex Rodriguez and Jim Thome in that exclusive club.

The Cuban Beisbol renaissance continues in MLB with Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox being selected the American League player and American League Rookie of the month of April. He is the first American League player to do so and second overall. His fellow countryman Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers is the first winning the equivalent National League honors last June.

Courtesy of Von's Card Blog
There was an interesting article on the Cuban Beisbol renaissance in the Majors entitled White Sox, Furthering Legacy, Provide Warm Home For Cubans, Amid Chill by Tyler Kepner from the NYTimes website dated April 19, 2014. The article states:
For the second time this season, it included four players from Cuba: (Alexei) Ramirez at shortstop, Dayan Viciedo in right field, Adrian Nieto catching and Jose Abreu, who signed for six years and $68 million last October, at first base. No team since the 1969 Cleveland Indians had started four Cuban-born players in a game.
That is a forty-five year gap where players from The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela stepped in to fill the gap left by the decreasing number of Cubans in the Majors due to the closing of the Cuban market. Add to this mix players like the aforementioned Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins, Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics and Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds to name a few. The future of Cuban Beisbol is definitely growing bright in the MLB. Here are Jose Abreu's statistics up to May 8, 2014.

Courtesy of CBS Sports
Speaking of a renaissance, Venezuelan closer Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez seemed to have put all his personal issues behind him this season. Through the month of April, Rodriguez went 13-for-13 in save chances tying Kaz Sasaki of the Seattle Mariners who had recorded 13 saves before May 1st in 2001.

I didn't realize that Rodriguez is only 32 years old. It seems like he's been around forever. The first time I noticed K-Rod was when he was the set-up man for the then Anaheim Angels closer Troy Percival. He was signed as a free agent in 1998 and made his debut for the Angels on September 18, 2002 at the age of 20 during the Angels run to an eventual World Series Title. It's good to see that he's been able to rebuild his career after a few tumultuous seasons with the Mets and seemingly unfocused seasons from 2011-2013. Here are Francisco Rodriguez's statistics up to May 8, 2014.

Well, that's it for now. If I missed any Latino achievements in the Major Leagues, please feel free to contact me at, at my Twitter @Baseballsisco, My Google+ +Francisco Hilario (BaseballSisco) and at my Facebook page Baseball Sisco Kid Style

Hasta la próxima, no dejamos de jugar el Beisbol,
Baseball Sisco

Monday, April 28, 2014

Latinos Making History Week Ending Sunday April 27

This past week was a historical one for Latinos in the Major Leagues. Let's not waste time and jump right in.

- Albert Pujols Reaches the 500 Homerun plateau
Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim slugger Albert Pujols looks like he's back to form in dealing with a couple in injury filled seasons in California. Pujols became the 26th and youngest player to reach the 500 homerun club. At age 34, Pujols hit both homerun 499 and 500 against Washington Nationals starter Taylor Jordan on April 22. He is the first player to hit both homers 499 and 500 in the same game. El Hombre is back!!!

- Jose Abreu sets the rookie RBI record for the month of April
Cuban slugger Jose Abreu is certainly making his mark on the Majors in his first month with the Chicago White Sox. Abreu has set the major league rookie record for RBIs with 31 through April 27. Abreu is batting .262 with a league leading 10 homeruns and 31 RBIs. He still has three games to add to his rookie record for RBIs in the month of April with one game against the Tampa Bay Rays and two against the Detroit Tigers. Let's see where he ends up. Jose Abreu courtesy of the blogpage White Sox Cards. Check them out.

- Blue Jays Set Record with 6 Dominicans in the Starting Lineup
I'm not sure when Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons filled out his lineup card on April 27 against the Boston Red Sox he realized that he was making history. By slotting Jose Reyes (SS), Melky Cabrera (CF), Jose Bautista (LF), Juan Encarnacion (1B), Juan Francisco (DH) and Moises Sierra (RF) into the starting lineup, this would mark the first time that six players from the Dominican Republic were in the starting lineup at the same time.

Hearing about this brought back memories of a post I wrote concerning the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 1, 1971. In my post The First All Black-Latino MLB Starting Lineup from September 1, 2011, Pirates manager Danny Murtagh filled out his lineup card with all players of color including pitcher Dock Ellis. Now can we ever get a lineup entirely made up of Dominicans on a Major League diamond? Only time will tell. =)

Hasta la próxima, no dejamos de jugar el Beisbol,
Baseball Sisco

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Conrado Marrero 1911-2014

The oldest living Major League, Conrado "Connie" Eugenio (Ramos) Marrero passed away on April 22, 2014, just two days shy of this 103rd Birthday. Born on April 25, 1911 in Sagua La Grande, Villa Clara, Cuba, Marrero would become one of the most successful Baseball players as an amateur in Cuba before reaching the majors at the almost ancient age (for a ballplayer to be a rookie in the pros) of 39.

Peter Bjarkman wrote an article on Marrero for the New York Times entitled Bridge to Cuba’s Baseball Past on August 13, 2011, a few months after Marrero's 100th birthday where Marrero states that his road to the pros started in the following manner:
In those days, the all-white Cuban amateur circuit was much more popular than the racially integrated professional winter league based in Havana. The amateurs played games only on weekends, and they received well-paying token employment from enterprises that sponsored their clubs.
Photo Credit Cuba Collectibles

“I earned great fame pitching for the Cienfuegos club, and they paid me good,” said Marrero, who was known in the United States as Connie. “With the national team in 1939, I was the first Cuban to beat the Americans in the amateur world series. I had no need to be with the pro clubs in Havana. I never wanted to sign a contract.

“But then on two occasions, they suspended me from the Amateur Athletic Union league. It was because I was playing in some exhibition games on the side, which was against the rules. I had won 123 and lost only 39 in seven seasons, but they threw me out. I didn’t have any choice, and then Reinaldo Cordeiro gave me a contract with the Chihuahua team in the Mexico League, and I went there in 1945 and won 28. That was how it started with the pros.”
As Bjarkman states, Marrero spent three seasons with the Havana Cubans of the Class B Florida International League, where he had 70 victories, a no-hitter and a sub-2.00 earned run average. On April 21, 1950, four days shy of his 39th birthday, Marrero would make his debut for the Washington Senators with 0.2-innings pitched against the New York Yankees in Old Yankees Stadium. Marrero would give up 1-hit to the three batters he faced. This is his career line for the five seasons he played for the Senators (Courtesy of Baseball

The Cold War era politics between the United States and the Fidel Castro led Cuba caused many a former major league to stay behind in Cuba when Castro closed the borders to the United States. This was no different for Marrero. In wouldn't be until 1999 when Marrero would be heard from again by Baseball Fans here in the United States.

During the first game of the 1999 exhibition series at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban National team on March 28, 1999, Marrero would steal the show with his throwing out of the first pitch. Richard Goldstein in his obituary for Marrero Connie Marrero, Popular Pitcher in Cuban Baseball, Dies at 102 describes the scene:
When the Baltimore Orioles played exhibitions against the Cuban national team in Havana in 1999, Marrero was selected to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. He was so enthusiastic that he could not stop. After he hurled several pitches, with the Orioles’ Brady Anderson standing at the plate, officials finally called a halt to his unofficial comeback.

At age 87, Marrero could be excused for imagining that he was back in his prime, when, in the words of Felipe Alou, the longtime major league player and manager, he confounded batters with “a windup that looked like a cross between a windmill gone berserk and a mallard duck trying to fly backwards.”

When Marrero put on his pitching performance against the Orioles, the sportscaster Bob Wolff, who had broadcast Senators games during Marrero’s time with them, remembered how “Connie was one of the Senators’ all-time popular players.”

“He was a wily, chunky guy, always with a cigar, even on the bench,” Wolff told The New York Times. “He could really make the ball do tricks. He was an excellent pitcher on a lousy team.”
Marrero would live out the rest of his life in Havana with his grandson. Now, as in June 1951, Life magazine dubbed Marrero “The Senators’ Slow-Ball Señor.”, the Slow-Ball Señor is throwing his trademark off-speed pitches in Baseball Heaven. En Paz Descanse Conrado.

Here is Conrado "Connie" Marrero celebrating his 102nd Birthday:

Hasta la próxima, no dejamos de jugar el Beisbol
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access the article A Cigar With the Oldest Living Former Major Leaguer by Tom Hawthorne from the website dated March 4, 2011
- Click Here to access the article Going to bat for the Slow-Ball Señor by Tom Hawthorne from The Globe and Mail website dated April 26, 2011 and updated on September 10, 2012

Friday, April 4, 2014

Latinos at the 1965 All-Star Game Part I

I was recently looking for pictures online for the Wayback Wednesday and Throwback Thursday albums on the Facebook Baseball page: Baseball Sisco Kid Style and came across the following photo and decided to shed some light on some of the players. 
From Left to Right: Felix Mantilla (Puerto Rico), Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico)
Tony Oliva (Cuba), Cookie Rojas (Cuba), Juan Marichal (Dominican Republic),
Zoilo Versalles (Cuba), Vic Davalillo (Venezuela) and Leo Cárdenas (Cuba)
This photo was taken at the 1965 All-Star Game that was played at Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As you can see from the caption there are players representing four Latino markets: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. We all know about the two Hall of Famers in the picture: Roberto Clemente and Juan Marichal. I wanted to focus on the other six players in the photo (going from left to right).

1. Felix Mantilla
The starting second baseman for the American League was Felix Mantilla of the Boston Red Sox. Mantilla was born on July 29, 1934 in Isabella, Puerto Rico. The Boston Braves signed him as a free agent in 1952 and he would make his debut with the Milwaukee Braves on June 21, 1956. Mantilla would play for six seasons with the Braves before being drafted by the New York Mets (from the Milwaukee Braves) as the 12th pick in the 1961 expansion draft. As a member of the original 1962 Mets, Mantilla had one of his best seasons. Mantilla batted .275 with a slash line of .330/.399/.729 with 128 hits in 466 at-bats. He drove in 59 runs with 17 doubles, 4 triples and 11 homeruns. After the 1962 season, Mantilla was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Al Moran, Pumpsie Green and Tracy Stallard.

Mantilla would play a total of three seasons with the Red Sox with the 1964 and 1965 seasons being his most successful. In 1964 Mantilla hit .289 with a slash line of .357/.553/.910. He would put up 123 hits with a career high 20 doubles and 30 homeruns with 1 triple and 64 RBI's. Mantilla would follow that season with a 1965 campaign where he batted .275 with a slash line of .374/.416/.790 with 147 hits in 534 at-bats with 17 doubles, 2 triples, 18 homeruns and a career high of 92 RBI's while making his only All-Star appearance. Mantilla would be traded to the Houston Astros during spring training in 1966 and would be released by the Astros after the 1966 season. He would sign with the Chicago Cubs in 1967 and would be released later on that season after not playing for the Cubs.

2. Tony Oliva
The next player in the picture is one that many feel should be a Hall of Famer. Tony Oliva is a beloved player in the Minneapolis area and by the Twins faithful. Oliva was born on  July 20, 1938 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba and was signed by the Minnesota Twins as an amateur free agent in 1961. Oliva would make his debut on September 9, 1962. Oliva was one of the most prolific hitters in the American League. Oliva led the American League in batting three times (1964, 1965, 1971), hits five times (1964-1966, 1969-1970) and doubles four times (1964, 1967, 1969-1970).

Oliva won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1964 with a .323 batting average and a slash line of .359/.557/.916 with 109 runs scored, a league best 217 hits with 43 doubles, 9 triples and 32 homeruns with 94 RBI's. Oliva was an eight time All-Star from 1964-1971, a Gold Glove winner in 1966 and was in the top ten of the American League MVP race five times. Oliva would retire after 15 seasons with the Minnesota Twins after the 1976 season.

3. Cookie Rojas
The next player is the only Latino in this picture that would manage in the Major Leagues. Octavio Victor (Rivas) Rojas aka Cookie Rojas was born on March 6, 1939 in La Habana, Cuba. Rojas was signed by the Cincinnati Redlegs as an amateur free agent in 1956 and would make his debut on April 10, 1962. After playing briefly for the Redlegs in 1962, Rojas was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jim Owens. Rojas was a very dependable player for the Phillies. Rojas played each outfield position, second, shortstop, third, catcher and even pitched once in his seven seasons in Philadelphia. He would be an All-Star for the Phillies in 1965 when he batted a career best .303 with a slash line of .356/.380/.736 with 158 hits, 25 doubles, 3 triples 3 homeruns and 42 RBI's.

Rojas would be traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in arguably the most important trade in Baseball history. On October 7, 1969 Rojas was traded along with Dick Allen and Jerry Johnson to the St. Louis Cardinals for Byron Browne, Curt Flood, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver. Flood would refuse to report to his new team. On April 8, 1970, the St. Louis Cardinals would send Willie Montañez and later Jim Browning (on August 30, 1970) to the Philadelphia Phillies to complete the trade.

If you don't know, in refusing to accept the trade to the Phillies, Flood in effect ended his career by suing Major League Baseball. The result of that lawsuit would be the end of the infamous Reserve Clause and the ushering in of free agency to Major League Baseball. For more information on Curt Flood, I recommend reading the article How Curt Flood Changed Baseball and Killed His Career in the Process by Allen Barra from The Atlantic website dated July 12, 2011. Back to Rojas.

Rojas' stay with the Cardinals would be brief. On June 13, 1970 Rojas was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Kansas City Royals for Fred Rico. It was in Kansas City that Rojas would be the most successful. Rojas would make four consecutive All-Star appearances with the Royals from 1971-1974 averaging a .276 batting average, 138 hits with 23 doubles, 2 triples and 5 homers with 60 RBI's a season during that stretch. Rojas would play his last game for the Royals after the 1977 ALCS loss to the New York Yankees.

Rojas would later go into coaching and would manage the Calfornia Angels for one season, leading the team to a 75-79 record in 1988 before being removed from the head coach position with eight games left in the season. In doing so, Rojas became only the third Cuban-born manager in major-league history after Mike Gonzalez (1938, 1940) and Preston Gomez (1969-1972, 1974-1975, 1980).

For part II, I'm going to focus on the remaining three players in the picture Zoilo Versalles, Vic Davalillo, and Leo Cárdenas.

Until Then Play Ball,
Sisco Kid.