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.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

¿Quien Es Leslie Anderson?

Photo Credit
Japanese Baseball Cards
Every year I try to keep an eye on the Latino players that play abroad in the Asian baseball leagues. This year a former Tampa Bay Rays farmhand and former Cuban National Team player Leslie Anderson (Stephes) caught my eye.

During the opening game between the Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants, Leslie Anderson hit back-to-back homeruns with Jose Lopez against Tigers reliever Naoto Tsuru. Annoucer Ed Cohen stated that Anderson was a member of the Cuban National Team that represented Cuba in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic. In the 2006 World Baseball Classic tournament, Anderson went 0-5 with 1 strikeout. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic he performed better going 2-9 with 1 double and 3 strikeouts.

After defecting from Cuba to Mexico in 2009, Anderson would end up signing a four-year, $1.725 million contract with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010.

Though it seems that Anderson was productive in the minors for Tampa, especially at AAA Durham, he never seemed to be able to catch the break of a call-up. This is where I'm a little confused. Tampa Bay is an amazing organization when it comes to evaluating talent. So looking at Anderson's minor league numbers, it seems that he performed decently enough to at least get a September call-up. Especially at the first base position that has seemed to be a revolving door for the Rays in recent years. Here are Anderson's offensive statistics courtesy of BaseballCube.com:


Anderson shows improvement on a yearly basis especially in AAA when his batting average rises from .277 in 2011 to .309 in 2012. Though it drops from .309 to .292 in 2013, his plate discipline improves in the form of walks. In 2013 he waked 50 times while in 2011 and 2012 combined, he walked 57 times. He remained consistent in the form of strikeouts and was steady in terms of his offensive production especially in the form of doubles and homeruns. Looking at his defensive statistics, you can see that he played first and all three outfield positions and in three seasons playing the majority at time at first he had 10 errors from 2011-2013. That doesn't seem to be too much of a negative issue.


In searching online, I found an article by Cork Gaines entitled Tailgating With The Rays: Why Didn’t The Rays Call Up Leslie Anderson Or Henry Wrigley? from the Rays Index website dated August 31, 2012 that stated the following concerning Anderson:
Leslie Anderson is 3rd in hitting in the IL, and Henry Wrigley would be in the top 15 if he had enough at bats. Clearly the Rays need offense and both can DH or play 1B. So why weren’t they called up along with Reid Brignac and the others?
The simple answer is that they are not on the 40-man roster. But MLB transaction rules are like the tax code, so let me try to explain. For those not familiar: teams have a 25-man roster (the guys we see every night) and a 40-man roster (the 25-man roster plus 15 others that are usually minor leaguers). To be in the big leagues, you have to be on the 40-man roster. There can be up to 15 guys in the minors on the 40-man roster and these guys are kinda like backups. So if somebody on the Rays gets hurt, one of those would be called up to take his place. And in September, anybody on the 40-man can be called up.
Anybody in the minors can be added to the 40-man roster. BUT, if there is already 40 guys, somebody must be taken off. And to do that, that player must be placed on waivers. This is where it gets complicated for guys like Anderson and Wrigley who are not on the 40-man roster. Calling up guys like Brignac is easy. He is already on the 40-man roster, so in September, just promote him. But for Anderson or Wrigley, the Rays would have to risk losing a player to waivers. So it is more like making a trade. And the Rays hate losing pieces if they don’t have to. So at this point, it looks like the Rays have decided that there is nobody already on the 40-man roster that is worth losing for what might end up being 50 at bats from either Anderson or Wrigley. Is that the right decision? I don’t know. But that does appear to be the decision they have made…A NUMBERS GAME AND THEY LOST
I understand that placing a player on waivers, losing them and having the call-up not perform can be a tremendous blow to an organization with limited financial resources like the Rays. But that really sucks for a prospect to feel as if they are performing adequately and won't ever get the chance at the big leagues. But so is the life of a minor league baseball player. Regardless, the Rays granted Anderson his release after the 2013 season so that he could pursue career options abroad.

On December 28, 2013, the Yakyubaka.com website posted that: 
The Yomiuri Giants announced that they finalized a deal with Leslie Anderson (31).  He has been assigned the number forty-two.  He is scheduled to arrive in Japan in late-January...According to Nikkan Sports, the two sides agreed to a one-year deal worth an estimated total sixty million yen.   
Hopefully Anderson can find success in Japan that he couldn't seem to find here in the minors. I'll look back at him a few months from now.

Until Then Play Ball
Baseball Sisco

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rudy Hernández The First Dominican Pitcher in MLB

I was always under the impression that the first Domican pitcher in the majors was the legendary Dominican Dandy, Hall of Famer Juan Marichal. That impression was wrong. In reading Beisbol Dominicano: Origines, Evoluciones y Heroes Edicion 2006 by Hector J. Cruz, I found out that there was a Dominican pitcher who made his debut 16 days before Marichal did for the San Francisco Giants on July 19, 1960. On July 3, 1960 Rudy Hernández made his debut in relief during the first game of a doubleheader for the Washington Senators against the Cleveland Indians.

Hernández was born on December 10, 1931 in the city of Santiago de Los Caballeros to a Dominican father and Puerto Rican mother. According to Cruz, the family would emigrate to New York City during the 1940's where Hernández would grow to the height of 6' 3" garnering the attention of many baseball teams including the hometown New York Giants. Hernández would sign a contract with the New York Giants before the beginning of the 1950 season. According to Malcolm Allen in his article on Rudy Hernández which was published in La Prensa del Beisbol Latino (a quarterly newsletter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)), Hernández was signed as an outfielder with some power but could never get any higher than Class A ball. (AUTHOR'S NOTE: I tried to contact the author of the referenced article to find out exactly when it was published in La Prensa del Beisbol newsletter. Up to today's date he has yet to contact me. So I am going to use his article as a reference in a second hand nature from this post: RUDY HERNANDEZ of the Washington Senators – First Major League Baseball Pitcher Born in the Dominican Republic. If and when I do hear back from Mr. Allen, I'll rewrite the post).

After a suggestion (due to his powerful arm) by Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Steve Ridzik during the Puerto Rican Winter Ball season (possibly while both played together with los Cangrejeros de Santurce), Hernández would change positions and try his hand at pitching. According to Allen, Hernandez went 15-4 for the Class C Muskogee Giants in his first season as a pitcher but his career was derailed by a two year stint in the U.S. Military. He would return to the Giants minor leagues in 1956 and would stay there through the 1958 season. He would be either traded or sold to the Washington Senators of the American League (I'm unsure which type of transaction) before the start of the 1959 season.

Hernández would spend almost a year and a half in the Senators' minor league system before finally getting his big break at the age of 28 on July 3, 1960. In his first appearance in relief, Hernandez would face eleven batters over three innings pitched allowing one hit, one walk while striking out two batters. On July 9, 1960 against the Baltimore Orioles, Hernández became the first Dominican pitcher to record a win by hurling three shoutout innings in relief allowing one hit and one walk with three strikeouts. Over the course of the 1960 season, Hernández would make 21 appearances for the Senators (all in relief) and he would compile a 4-1 record with a 4.41 ERA in 34.1 innings pitched. He gave up 34 hits, 24 runs (17 earned) with 21 walks and 22 strikeouts for a WHIP of 1.587.

The next season marked the movement of the Washington Senators to Minneapolis becoming the Minnesota Twins. As a condition of allowing the Senators to leave Washington for Minnesota, a new team also called the Senators would replace the old Senators in the nation's capital. On December 14, 1960, Hernández would be put up in the 1961 expansion draft by the Twins and would be drafted by the new Washington Senators with the 56th pick. (AUTHOR'S NOTE: The second Washington Senators would play in Washington D.C. from 1961-1971 when the team was moved to Arlington, Texas becoming the Texas Rangers.)

In his last season in the majors, Hernández went 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 7 relief appearances. He had 9.0 innings pitched, gave up 8 hits, 5 runs (3 earned) with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts for a WHIP of 1.222. According to Cruz, Hernández would play for Las Aguilas Cibaeñas and Los Leones del Escogido of the Dominican League. He would later move to Puerto Rico and worked within the Department of Sports of the Puerto Rican government.

Though his time in the majors was brief and pales in comparison to Marichal's Hall of Fame career, we should never forget who was the first Dominican pitcher in the majors though to many he is just a footnote in Latino Baseball history.

On a side note, Hernández was the owner of a bar on the corner of San Jorge and Loiza streets in San Juan, Puerto Rico by the name of Rudy’s 10th Inning Lounge. In 1971, the officers of Temple Beth Shalom decided to purchase a permanent home for the congregation. One location shown by the real estate agents was the building where Hernández's bar was located. After two years of legal proceedings, the eviction of Hernandez was complete and the temple was built. For more informations, click on the following links: TBS'S (Temple Beth Shalom) Building Beginnings and Temple Beth Shalom origins.

Sisco Kid

For Further Reading
- Click here to access Rudy Hernández's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Jose Fernandez is the 3rd Cuban born Rookie of the Year

It was announced yesterday that Cuban born José Fernandez of the Miami Marlins is the winner of the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year award. Fernandez was born in the city of Santa Clara, Cuba. In doing so, Fernandez has become the first Cuban born baseball player to win the National League Rookie of the Year and the third Cuban born player overall to win the Rookie of the Year award. Tony Oliva of the Minnesota Twins won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1964 and Jose Canseco of the Oakland Athletics won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1986.

Fernandez won the award with 26 first place votes for a total of 142 points ahead of Los Angeles Dodgers rookie standout and fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig. In  28 starts, Fernandez went 12-6, with a 2.19 ERA in 172.2 innings pitched. Fernandez struck out 187 batters while only walking 58 and giving up 111 hits for a WHIP of 0.979 and an opposing hitters batting average of .182. His 2.19 ERA was second in the National League to the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw's 1.83 and his 9.75 K's per 9 innings the second best in the league behind A.J. Burnett of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Also according to the Elias Sports Bureau:
Fernandez Was Doc-Like: José Fernandez won the National League Rookie of the Year Award after a season in which he went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA for a team that lost 100 games. And did we mention that Fernandez didn't turn 21 years old until July 31? His ERA was the lowest in a season by a pitcher younger than 22 who threw at least 150 innings since Dwight Gooden had a 1.53 ERA for the Mets in 1985, his second season in the major leagues.
It is amazing to think that at the age of 14, Fernandez had been jailed with murderers and other hardened criminals for being a potential defector. Fernandez had attempted to defect to the United States three times amid dangerous swells and hazardous conditions before finally reaching the shores of Mexico. Reaching Mexico wasn't a given to not being returned to Cuba. Unlike here in the United States where if a defector reaches shore they can stay (if they are caught on the water they are returned), Mexico can deport and defectors back to their home country whether on land or water. A series of bus trips and then a trip across the Mexico-U.S. border Fernandez finally reached the United States. To read more of Fernandez's life in Cuba, his journey to make it to the United States and his attempts to achieve his dreams of becoming a professional Baseball player, read the following article: From Cuba With Heat: Marlins rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez on his journey from Cuban defector to MLB All-Star by Jordan Conn from Grantland.com dated July 16, 2013.

The rise of such Cuban superstars as José Fernandez, Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes among others leads me to believe that we will soon find ourselves with a Cuban Baseball renaissance in the MLB. Which is a double edged sword of sorts. As we've seen recently, a number of Cuban defectors have signed contracts with Major league teams which will only add to the number of those willing to risk their lives by leaving Cuba through defection and by those leaving their teams in international play seeking asylum. Even as the Cuban government recently changed the rules concerning whether a Cuban athlete can play for foreign leagues I don't see things changing on the side of the United States and their embargo on Cuba while the Castro regime is still in power in Cuba.

Regardless of the road that Cuban-U.S. baseball relations takes, talented players like Jose Fernandez will continue to try and find their piece of the "American Dream". So far that's translated into the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year. Felicidades José.

FH

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Jose Fernandez's career statistics on Baseball Reference
- Click Here to access the ESPN/Associated Press article Cuba: Athletes can sign overseas dated September 27, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What Should Manny Ramirez Do

It was announced earlier today that Manny Ramirez was released from his minor league contract with the Texas Rangers. So this leaves Ramirez at the age of 41 without a team to play with. What should he do? Do what other ballplayers that are deemed to be over the hill here in the United States. Follow the example of Bob Horner and go play in Japan.

No knock on the Nippon Professional Baseball league (NPB) but I feel that the Japanese fans would go nuts over Manny Ramirez similar to how the Taiwanese fans were when Manny was playing for the EDA Rhinos of the CPBL earlier this year. I'm sure that some team over in the NPB needs a power bat for the stretch run.

Maybe Manny just needs to forget playing in the majors. Play for the sake of playing and Japan is more than a suitable place to play Baseball. Plus winter ball is right around the corner. I'm sure Manny is playing ball in the Dominican League like he did last season with Las Aguilas del Cibao. But who can tell what Manny Ramirez will ever do. We'll just have to wait and see.

Sisco Kid

****AUTHOR'S NOTE: Was just told by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker that the player aquisition deadline has expired in Japan for this season. There goes that idea. ;)

Just a little bit of the excitement Manny can bring with the long ball. He did this last season in the first pitch he saw in Winter Ball:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Alfonso Soriano Has 2000 Worldwide Hits

Suzyn Waldman made it known during the Yankees post game show that the Japanese media was surrounding Alfonso Soriano. When she approached Ichiro Suzuki, she was told that Soriano with his 2-3 performance today places him at 1,999 hits in the MLB. In addition, Soriano had two hits during his brief stint in Japan which has him at 2,001 hits. Why is this important?

In order to be eligible for the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame a player must start his Professional career in Japan AND must have a total of 2,000 hits (including hits in MLB). So Alfonso Soriano is now eligible to be inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.

In case you didn't know, Soriano started his career with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the NPB Central League. He played the 1996 season with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp's farm team and was promoted to the main team where he went 2-17 with 2 RBI, 2 runs scored, 4 Ks and 2 walks. In a move similar to Hideo Nomo's, Soriano hired agent Don Nomura to negotiate his free agency from Japan. He retired in Japan exploiting the "voluntary retirement" loophole as Nomo did a year earlier and signed a contract with the New York Yankees in 1998 against the protests of the NPB. This, Nomo's departure and the situation with Hideki Irabu would lead the NPB to enact the posting system that is in place between the MLB and the NPB.

Two interesting articles that go deeper into this are Robert Whiting's Irabu's impact on MLB-NPB relations profound (Oct 16, 2011) and Contract loophole opened door for Nomo's jump (Oct 10, 2010)

Congratulations to Alfonso Soriano on his international achievement. As with his return to the New York Yankees this season, he might be able to go home again this time to Japan if he is ever inducted into their Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sisco Kid


Monday, August 5, 2013

Que Vergüenza

I'm going to keep this short and not so sweet. These 12 players that I'm going to list below are an embarrassment to the Latino Baseball Community. They've just stepped on and spit all over the effort made by Latino players that took insults from racist fans because they were dark skinned and just trying to get a chance to play ball like everyone else. They've insulted the Latino ballplayer who lived in small towns playing ball isolated and alone trying their best to make it to the big leagues through blood, sweat and tears helping to bring the local fans into recognizing Latino effort and hard work. They've shred to pieces the work of every Latino forefather who broke through cultural and language barriers and lay the foundation so that today's player can be in the position they are in today. These guys down below should all be embarrassed.
Nelson Cruz Rangers outfielder
Jhonny Peralta Tigers shortstop
Everth Cabrera Padres shortstop
Francisco Cervelli Yankees catcher
Jesus Montero Mariners catcher
Cesar Puello Mets Minor League outfielder
Fernando Martinez Yankees Minor League outfielder
Fautino De Los Santos free agent reliever
Jordan Norberto free agent reliever
Antonio Bastardo Phillies reliever
Jordany Valdespin Mets infielder
Sergio Escalona Astros reliever
And after Alex Rodriguez gets his suspension handed down later today, it'll be unlucky number 13. Thanks a lot to you all for sullying the good name of hard working Latino ball players everywhere. Enjoy your 50 games off. You've earned it.

Sisco Kid