Baseball is a game that has had a long history in several countries in Latin America and has made great impact on the lives of baseball players, their families as well as their countries of origin.
Cuba was the first country in Latin America where baseball was introduced. Two groups were credited for bringing American baseball to Cuba during the 1860s – Cuban students who returned from their colleges in the United States, and American sailors who loaded sugar in the Cuban port. Cuban locals quickly and effortlessly picked up the sport and soon, it spread across the nation. The sport was further popularized by two brothers, Ernesto and Nemisio Guillo, who both attended Spring Hill College in Alabama. They came home from college in 1864, and formed the Habana Baseball Club in 1868. At one major match, they beat the opposing team composed of the crew of an American schooner.
In 1869, Spanish authorities outlawed playing baseball in Cuba because most Cubans preferred watching baseball games rather than bullfights, which they were expected to attend. This didn’t prevent Cubans from loving the game. In fact, baseball became a symbol of freedom, independence and egalitarianism for the Cuban people. The ban prompted Esteban “Steve” Bellán, to set his sights on playing professional football in the United States. He joined the Troy Haymakers in 1869. He became the first Cuban and the first Latin-born player to play professional baseball in the US. When he moved back to Cuba after leaving the New York Mutuals in 1873, he set up the first ever organized baseball game in the country. This historic match took place on December 27, 1874, at the Palmar del Junco in Pueblo Nuevo, located at the Matanzas Province. The teams that faced off were Club Habana and Club Matanzas. The former won 51-9. Bellán was subsequently dubbed the “father of Cuban baseball” for organizing Cuba’s first official baseball match, having a successful career both as a professional baseball player and manager, and having significant influence on Cuban baseball.
In 1878, the Cuban League was formed consisting of three teams: Almendares, Matanzas, and Habana. It was one of the earliest established and longest running professional baseball leagues outside the United States. The league operated mostly during the winter months; hence it was also called the Cuban Winter League. The first Cuban League game took place on December 29, 1878, with Habana winning against Almendares at 21-20. Habana, which was then under team captain Steve Bellán, had a long winning streak.
The Cuban League started to play against top teams from the U.S. in 1898, and in 1899, a huge opportunity came when the All Cubans (a team of Cuban League professional baseball players) was chosen as the first Latin American professional baseball team to tour the U.S., bringing home new skills that impressed talent scouts of the American major and minor leagues. By1900, the Cuban League started admitting black players. This prompted many of the best players from the Negro Leagues in the U.S. to play on racially integrated Cuban teams. By 1908, Cuban teams started scoring many successes against Major League teams, backed by skilled players such as outfielder Cristóbal Torriente, and pitcher José Méndez. By 1920, Cuban professional baseball started earning a solid reputation, and the skill levels of their players were considered excellent. This eventually led to an agreement between the Cuban League and the Major League to partner their players for skill development.
After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, several fundamental changes in Cuban institution took place, one of which had a direct effect on baseball. In keeping with nationalist ideals, Castro’s government abolished all professional sports in the country. Focus was placed on reviving amateur sports. In 1961, the Cuban League was replaced with new amateur baseball leagues like the Cuban National Series (Serie Nacional de Béisbol). But the players were not adequately compensated and when the country’s economy plummeted after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many of the skilled players opted to defect to the United States. Until today, the Cuban government is still somewhat antagonistic towards those players who defected back in the ‘90s.
Today, amateur baseball reigns in the Cuban national baseball system, with the Cuban Series as its premier amateur league. The league officially has sixteen teams in its lineup: one for every Cuban province, and two for the capital city, Havana. Each team is composed of players from the province it represents. These teams play in a 90-game series held from November to February. It culminates in an eight-team tournament, from which the best team would be the league champion. The current strongest team in the league is Industriales. With the heightened interest in baseball, the sport continues to be the favorite pastime of the average Cuban male.
José de la Caridad Méndez was a baseball legend in his native Cuba, known by the nickname, El Diamante Negro (The Black Diamond). He was one in the first batch of players to be inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. In 2006, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Méndez was born on March 19, 1887, in the town of Cardenas located at Matanzas province, Cuba. He debuted as pitcher for the Almendares team in the Cuban League in 1907. Bebé Royer from Almendares discovered Méndez, a right-handed pitcher who’s got a snapping curve when throwing a hard fastball in one quick motion. During the summer of the same year, he debuted in the U.S. with the Cuban Stars team. It was in 1908 that Méndez became a legend. Playing for the Cuban League, they went up against the visiting Cincinnati Reds. Méndez totally dominated by pitching 25 consecutive scoreless innings, amassing 43 consecutive scoreless innings in both minor and major league games over several days. Over the years when major league teams played against the Cuban League teams, Méndez continued to pitch against them and dominate.
Méndez became highly regarded by fellow baseball players. Philadelphia Athletics catcher Ira Thomas thought that he’s a remarkable man and pitcher who was almost in the same league as Walter Johnson, a legendary pitcher for the Washington Senators. Thomas further added that Méndez possessed amazing speed, great control, and excellent use of judgment.
In 1924, Méndez dominated in the first Negro League World Series, where his team defeated the Hilldale Club from the Eastern Colored League. He won his last Cuban League game on January 21, 1927. Less than two years later, Méndez died in Havana on October 31, 1928.
During his professional baseball career, Méndez played with Almendares, Brooklyn Royal Giants, Almendares Park, Cuban Stars, All Nations, Los Angeles White Sox, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, and Kansas City Monarchs. His last MLB appearance was with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1926. His Cuban League statistics include a pitching record of 76-28. His Negro National League Statistics include a pitching record of 27-12, and a 3.52 ERA.
Dolf Luque, also known by the nickname “El Duque”, was a three-time World Series champion – in 1914, 1919 and in 1933. He was likewise a three-time National League shutout leader, two-time National League ERA champion in 1923 and 1925 and a 1923 National League wins champion. He was inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1957 and the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967.
In the Major League he played with the Boston Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Robins, and the New York Giants. His MLB career statistics include 1,130 strikeouts, a pitching record of 194-179, and a 3.24 ERA. His last MLB appearance was with the New York Giants in 1935. His Cuban League statistics include a pitching record of 106-71.
Luque was born Adolfo Domingo De Guzmán Luque on August 4, 1890, in Havana, Cuba. In 1911, he started playing with the Habana Baseball Club in an exhibition series against the Philadelphia Phillies. He debuted in the Cuban Winter League in 1912 with the Cuban Stars. His MLB career began when he debuted as pitcher for the Boston Braves in 1914. Being a blue-eyed and fair-skinned Cuban was an advantage that got him into the Major League at a time when non-whites were excluded from baseball. In 1920, he became a starting pitcher. Known for his curveball, he used his right arm for hitting and throwing the ball.
Luque was also known for his quick temper and had been known to shut up hecklers. After his years as an MLB player, Luque also served as coach for the New York Giants for seven seasons from 1936 to 1937 and then again from 1941 to 1945. He was part of the Giants’ National League victory in 1936 and 1937. Many times during his career with the MLB, he returned as player and manager for teams in the Cuban Winter League. There was even a time when he was banned from playing in the Cuban League by his MLB team, the Cincinnati Reds. But he skillfully evaded the ban by playing under several aliases. Luque died on July 3, 1957, in his hometown of Havana.
Martín Magdaleno Dihigo Llanos, known in Latin American countries as “El Maestro” (The Master or The Immortal), was a four-time Cuban League MVP in 1927, 1935, 1936 and 1941.He was also a two-time Negro All-Star player in 1935 and 1945. He was inducted into the Cuban and Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951 and 1964, respectively. In 1977, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also a member of the halls of fame of the Dominican Republic, Venezuelan, and Hispanic Heritage Baseball.
Dihigo was born on May 25, 1906, in Jesús María sugar mill, located at the town of Cidra in the Cuban province of Matanzas. His baseball career began when he played as Habana’s substitute infielder in 1922. He moved on to play as first baseman for the Cuban Stars East in the U.S. Negro Leagues. In 1926 and 1935, he led the Negro Leagues in home runs. As a pitcher, Dihigo once defeated Satchel Paige, his fellow baseball legend, when the latter was playing in Cuba.
Dihigo was known as a highly versatile and skilled player, and a good-natured man with a keen sense of humor. He played all nine positions and used his right arm for hitting and throwing the ball. He performed best as pitcher and second baseman. He died in Cienfuegos, Cuba, on May 20, 1971, just five days before his 65th birthday. Dihigo had been the Minister of Sports in Cuba from 1959 until the time of his death.
Dihigo played with the Cuban Stars East, Hilldale Giants, Homestead Grays, and New York Cubans in the Negro Leagues. His Negro League statistics include 431 hits, 292 runs scored in, 227 RBIs, 64 home runs, 17 triples, 61 doubles, and a batting average of .307 and .511 slugging percentage. As a pitcher, he had a record of 26-19 win-loss, 176 strikeouts, 80 walks, and a 2.92 ERA, In the Cuban League he played with Habana, Almendares, Santa Clara, Marianao, and Cienfuegos. His Cuban League statistics include a .298 batting average, a pitching record of 107-56, and 121 complete games. His best season was with in 1938 when he was with the Mexican League, where he won the batting title with an average of .387, a pitching record of 18-2, and a 0.90 ERA. While in the Mexican League he played for Aguila de Veracruz, Azules de Veracruz, Unión Laguna, Nuevo Laredo, and San Luis Potosí. His Mexican League statistics include a .317 batting average, and a pitching record of 119-57. His last professional baseball appearance was with Aguila de Veracruz in the Mexican League in 1950.
Conrado Eugenio Marrero Ramos was born in Sagua la Grande, Cuba on April 25, 1911. Before his Major League career, Marrero was already a baseball star in his native Cuba. Until today, Marrero is creating a legend. He’s the oldest living baseball player who was formerly with the MLB. He is 101 years old (2012). He was finally given a pension when he turned 100 years old. It was facilitated by the baseball players union. He described the highlight of his career was when he met Babe Ruth, this coming from the man who struck out the great Mickey Mantle and Joe Di Maggio. The once-active Marrero coached several Cuban baseball players in different teams, including the national team of Cuba. He is now blind, slightly hard of hearing and unable to walk due to a broken hip he sustained from a fall.
Connie Marrero was an Amateur World Series champion in 1937, 1940 and in 1942; a Caribbean Series champion in 1949 and 1957; Amateur World Series MVP in 1940, Cuban League MVP in the 1947 and 1948 seasons and was an AL All-Star player in 1951.
The right-handed thrower and batter debuted as pitcher for the Washington Senators on April 21, 1950. In his time, he was one of the oldest players in the Major League, and one of the oldest also to debut at the age of 38.
During Marrero’s entire Major League career, he only played with the Washington Senators and stayed for 5 seasons. His MLB career statistics include a record of 39-40 win-loss, 297 strikeouts, and a 3.96 ERA. His last MLB appearance with the Senators was on September 7, 1954. His trademark pitches include slow knucklers, sliders and curves.
Miñoso was born Saturnino Orestes Armas Miñoso Arrieta in Havana, Cuba, on November 29, 1925. He gained some notable milestones during his professional baseball career. In the Negro Leagues, he was an outstanding third baseman, and later played with the Mexican League. His MLB career started when he was signed as an amateur free agent with the Cleveland Indians in 1948. He then debuted as left fielder for the Indians on April 19, 1949. Miñoso was the last MLB player to have played in an MLB game during the 1940s. Another milestone came for Miñoso on May 1, 1951, when he became the first black player to don a Chicago White Sox uniform during a game against the New York Yankees. Though already well into his 80s, Minnie still comes out from time to time, gracing ceremonial events. He attended the unveiling of the statue of Ernie Banks in 2008 and threw the ceremonial pitch in 201 for the White Sox opening game to Ozzie Guillén, the team’s manager.
Minnie Miñoso was a nine-time All-Star player, receiving the award in 1951 to 1954, again in 1957 and twice in 1959 and 1960. He also was a Golden Glove award recipient in 1957, 1959 and 1960. On August 11, 2002, he was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame.
Miñoso was a right-handed hitter and thrower. Aside from the nickname “Minnie”, he was also given other nicknames like “The Cuban Comet” and “Mr. White Sox” in the Major League, and “El Charro Negro” or The Black Cowboy while playing with the Mexican League. In 1976, at the age of 50, Miñoso came back to play with the White Sox after some years of playing with the Mexican League. He scored a base hit, which made him the second-oldest player to do so in the history of Major League Baseball. He made another White Sox comeback in 1980 at the age of 54, when he became the second-oldest player to bat and the third-oldest player to play in the MLB. Miñoso was the only player in the history of MLB to have played professionally in seven decades, starting from the 1940s to the 1980s, with stints in 1993 and 2003. After his last playing stint in 2003, he continued to appear in some Major League-related events and ceremonies. Chicago White Sox had his #9 jersey retired.
Throughout his career in MLB, Miñoso played with the Cleveland Indians (twice), Chicago White Sox (thrice), St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Senators. His MLB career statistics include a .298 batting average, 1,963 hits, 1,023 RBIs, 814 walks, 336 doubles, 205 stolen bases, 192 hit by pitch, 186 home runs, and 83 triples. His last MLB appearance as a professional ball player was with the Chicago White Sox on October 5, 1980.
Camilo Alberto Pascual is a seven-time All-Star player (1959, twice in 1960 and 1961, 1962, 1964). He was inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983, and on May 29, 2010, he was inducted into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame.
Pascual was born in Havana, Cuba, on January 20, 1934. In 1951, at the age of 17, he left Havana and spent a year as a minor league free agent. Although he didn’t have impressive stats at that time, he was signed on as an amateur free agent by the Washington Senators in 1952.
For the next two seasons, Pascual pitched for the Havana Cubans and Tampa Smokers in the Florida International League, and then went back to his hometown to play with the Elefantes de Cienfuegos in the Caribbean World Series. He continued to play for Cienfuegos and Tigres del Marianao until the Cuban League was dissolved in 1961. On April 15, 1954, he debuted as pitcher for the Washington Senators, which was renamed in 1961 as Minnesota Twins. He continued to improve his skills in the following years by increasing his win total and lowering his ERA. In 1959, he led the AL with 33 completed games and six shutouts. His peak years were from 1959 to 1964 where he won at least 12 games per season, lowered his ERA to 2.64, participated in seven All-Star games as well as led the AL thrice in complete games, strikeouts, and shutouts.
Unfortunately, physical injuries in 1965 affected his subsequent performances. He had a minor comeback in 1967 and 1968, but after that, his performance was never the same until he eventually retired in 1971. After his career as a player, he moved on as pitching coach for the Minnesota Twins. He also worked as a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and Oakland Athletics.
Pascual is the younger brother of Carlos Pascual, a former MLB pitcher, whose nickname was “Potato” hence, the nickname of “Little Potato” was given to Camilo. The right-handed pitcher and hitter threw a fastball and an overhand curveball, which became his signature pitches. For about 18 years, Pascual’s powerful curveball was feared by players. Pascual was also one of only seven players to have played with the original and new Washington Senators teams.
Throughout his career in MLB, Pascual played with the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins, Washington Senators (franchise), Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Cleveland Indians. His MLB career statistics include 2,167 strikeouts, a pitching record of 174-170, and a 3.63 ERA. His last MLB appearance was with the Cleveland Indians on May 5, 1971.
Tony Taylor, a 1960 and 1962 All-Star player was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004. His full name is Antonio Nemesio Sanchez Taylor, born in Central Alara in Cuba on December 19, 1935.
Taylor debuted as second baseman for the Chicago Cubs on April 15, 1958. For the 1958 and 1959 seasons, he was starting second baseman for the Cubs. He hit a batting average of .282 in 1963, and reached his career-highs in hits (182) and runs (102). Taylor performed the defensive move that helped Jim Bunning achieve a perfect game. In 1972, he was instrumental in helping the Detroit Tigers win a division title. He reached his career-high batting average of .301 in 1973, along with career-highs in doubles (26), home runs (9), and triples (9).
Taylor was known for being a dependable and solid player. He was a right-handed thrower and hitter. He once held the Philadelphia Phillies’s record for number of games played at second base, which were 1,003 games. The record has since been broken by Chase Utley. He currently ranks second in the Phillies’s all-time list for his six home steals. He is still one of the Phillies’s all-time popular players. During Taylor’s final seasons as a player, he became a pinch hitter and performed utility roles.
After Taylor retired from playing professionally, he served as coach for the Florida Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies. He is now retired from coaching in the MLB and is currently residing in Miami, Florida. Taylor was inducted into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame that could be seen at the Citizens Bank Park’s Ashburn Alley section and the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002 and 2004 respectively.
In his nineteen-season career in MLB, Taylor played with the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies (twice), and Detroit Tigers. His last MLB appearance was with the Philadelphia Phillies on September 29, 1976. Taylor’s MLB career statistics include 598 RBIs, 75 home runs, and a batting average of .261.
Mike Cuellar was a two-time World Series champion (1964, 1970), four-time All-Star player (1967, 1970, 1971, 1974), and recipient of the AL Cy Young Award in 1969.
Miguel Ángel Cuellar Santana was born in Santa Clara, Cuba on May 8, 1937. He served in the Cuban army during Batista’s regime and gained attention in 1955 when he pitched a no-hitter in an army team game. Two years later, he signed up as an amateur free agent with the Cincinnati Reds. Cuellar debuted as pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds on April 18, 1959. The next five years of his career was spent playing in the Mexican League and the farm systems of Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers. St. Louis Cardinals took him in as a relief pitcher in 1964, the same season when they made it into the World Series.
With the Houston Astros in 1966, Cuellar reached his career-high 15 strikeouts, his first career home run, and finished second in ERA in the National League. He was selected for his first All-Star game in 1967. The highlight of Cuellar’s career was his time with the Baltimore Orioles, where he was known as “Crazy Horse.” To this day, Cuellar remains in the Orioles’ top five all-time career leaders with 2,028 innings pitched (2,028), 143 wins, 30 shutouts and 1,011 strikeouts.
With the Orioles in 1969, Cuellar once struck out 35 batters in a row during a game. By the end of the season, he struck out 182 batters. He was tied with pitcher Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers for the Cy Young Award. This made Cuellar the first Cuban and Latin-born pitcher to win the award. The following season, he made it again to the World Series, where he won four games to one. He led the league in wins and complete games, was selected for the All-Star game, and became one of twenty AL pitchers to pitch a four strikeout inning. During the 1970 AL Championship Series, Cuellar made a record by hitting a grand slam home run. It was the first and only one by a pitcher in a League Championship.
In 1971, Cuellar was selected for his third All-Star game. He likewise helped the Orioles win their third consecutive AL Eastern Division title. During his time with the Orioles, he formed a formidable pitching trio with teammates Dave McNally and Jim Palmer, which was considered the best starting rotation in the history of the Orioles. The trio had a combined win-loss record of 188-72. From 1969 to 1970, they won 20 games per season for the Orioles. They became a quartet when Pat Dobson joined as starting pitcher in 1971, the only season all four of them won 20 games for the Orioles. They then became known as the Orioles’ “Big Four,” the only other quartet apart from the Chicago White Sox in 1920 to win 20 games in a season.
Cuellar had another great pitching season in 1974 and led the AL in winning percentage and finished the season with 106 strikeouts, 20 complete games, 5 shutouts, 3.11 ERA and a 22-10 win-loss record. He helped the Orioles win the AL East Division title and AL Championship Series. He also made it into the All-Star game and helped the Orioles get into the World Series.
After leaving the Major League in 1977, Cuellar played for the Mexican and Puerto Rican Leagues. After retiring from playing professionally, he resided in Orlando, Florida and became active in Hispanic Heritage Month events.
Cuellar, a left-handed hitter and thrower, was best known as a skilled pitcher with his excellent change-up and screwball. Cuellar died of stomach cancer at the age of 72 on April 2, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. Of the Orioles’ “Big Four” players, Jim Palmer is the only one surviving.
In his 15-season career in MLB, Cuellar played with the Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, and St. Louis Cardinals. His last MLB appearance was with the California Angels on May 3, 1977. His MLB career statistics include a record of 185-130 win-loss, a 3.14 ERA, and 1,632 strikeouts.
Diego Pablo Seguí González, a native of Holguín, where he was born on August 17, 1937. He led the AL in ERA in 1970, and was an AL pennant winner in 1975. He was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
The right-handed batter and thrower debuted as pitcher for the Kansas City Athletics on April 12, 1962. He is the sole player who has had the privilege of pitching for Seattle’s two major league baseball teams, the Mariners and Pilots, during both team’s very first game in the league. Seguí’s most productive year was in 1969 when he pitched for the Seattle Pilots’ inaugural game and reached his career-highs in wins (12) and saves (12) against 6 loses. His own Pilots teammates also voted him as the team’s MVP. When he was with the Oakland Athletics in 1970, he won 10 games both as starter and reliever, while also leading the AL pitchers in ERA (2.56). He was given the nickname “Ancient Mariner” when he became starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners in 1977. He moved on to play for the Mexican League after leaving the MLB. In 2006, Seguí was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame.
The forkball was Seguí’s best-known pitch. David Seguí, a former MLB first baseman, is his son.
In 16-season career in MLB, Seguí played with the Kansas City Athletics, Washington Senators, Seattle Pilots, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, and Seattle Mariners. His last MLB appearance was with the Seattle Mariners on September 24, 1977. Seguí’s MLB career statistics include a record of 92-111win-loss, 1, 298 strikeouts, 71 saves, and a 3.81 ERA.
Tony Oliva, whose full name is Antonio Oliva Lopez Hernades Javique, was born on July 20, 1938 in Pinar del Rio. He was affectionately nicknamed “Tony-O” while he was playing professionally. Oliva was an AL Rookie of the Year in 1964, an eight-time consecutive All-Star player from 1964 until 1971 and a Golden Glove award recipient in 1966. Oliva was always known for having a pleasant disposition and a positive influence in a team, qualities which made him popular with his contemporaries, fans, and the media.
Oliva started baseball as a kid and his father, who was an expert tobacco roller and cigar maker and a semi-professional baseball player himself, was the one who honed his skills. He made use of his arms when playing. He was a left-handed hitter and threw the ball with his right hand.
Scouted by Minnesota Twins, Oliva spent some time training and developing his skills in the farm system. He finally debuted as right fielder for the Twins on September 9, 1962. He became the first player to win both Rookie of the Year and the American League batting title in the same year, with a batting average of .323. He also led the AL in total bases (374), hits (217), runs created (133), runs (109), extra base hits (84), and doubles (43). In the next year, he won his second AL batting title, with an average of .321, and led the AL in hits (185), runs created (108), and sacrifice flies (10). In 1966, he received a Golden Glove award, and led the AL in hits (191) for the third time in a row. In 1969, he led the AL in hits (197) and doubles (39). In 1970, it was his fifth time to lead the AL in hits (204). And in 1971, he was awarded his third AL batting title, with an average of .337. Knee injuries plagued him and he eventually became the designated hitter during his final years playing for the Twins.
During Oliva’s entire Major League career, he only played with one team: the Minnesota Twins, for 15 seasons. His MLB career statistics include a batting average of .304, 1,917 hits, 947 RBIs, 870 runs, 329 doubles, 220 home runs, 86 stolen bases, and 48 triples in 1,676 games. His last MLB appearance with the Twins was on September 29, 1976.
In 1981, Oliva was included in the book “The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time”, by authors Donald Honig and Lawrence Ritter. On July 14, 1991, the Minnesota Twins had his #6 jersey retired. In 2000, he was inducted in the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame. His team unveiled a statue of him at Target Field on April 8, 2011. Despite his exceptional skill and career statistics, Oliva has yet to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of fame. Many of his contemporaries, including fellow Cuban MLB star Tony Pérez, have endorsed his inclusion in the prestigious organization. Hall of Fame.
Leonardo Lazaro Cárdenas was born in Matanzas, Cuba on December 17, 1938. He was given the nickname “Chico” when he started playing professionally. The right –handed thrower and batter debuted as shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds on July 25, 1960. He played against the New York Mets in the 1961 World Series, and hit a batting average of .333. He was selected for the NL All-Star game in 1964 to 1966, in 1968 and again in 1971. In 1963 and 1966, he led the NL shortstops in fielding percentage. Cárdenas won the Gold Glove Award in 1965. In 1966, he collected 81 runs and 20 home runs. In 1969, he tied with leading the AL in assists by a shortstop (570).
In his sixteen-season career in MLB, Cárdenas played with the Cincinnati Reds, Minnesota Twins, California Angels, Cleveland Indians, and Texas Rangers. His last MLB appearance was with the Texas Rangers on September 26, 1975. His MLB career statistics include 689 RBIs, 118 home runs, and a batting average of .257 in 1,941 games he played.
When Cárdenas was with the Minnesota Twins, he played in back to back Championship Series in 1969 and 1970. He was selected for his fifth and final All-Star game in 1971and later led the AL in fielding percentage. Sometime during his career, he took six home runs from MLB Hall of Famer and pitcher, Juan Marichal. In 1981, Cárdenas was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. As of today, he resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, and still makes appearances in games from time to time.
Rojas was born Octavio Victor Rojas Rivas in Havana, Cuba on March 6, 1939. He signed his first MLB contract as an amateur agent for the Cincinnati Reds when he was seventeen. He became a professional baseball player against the expectations of his father, who wanted him to become a doctor instead. Rojas debuted as second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds on April 10, 1962. The right-handed batter and thrower was able to play every fielding position, including pitcher and catcher. For most of his time in the league he played in the outfield, and as second baseman and shortstop.
When Rojas was selected for his first All-Star game in 1965, he also reached his career-high batting average of .303. When he was with the Philadelphia Phillies, he formed a formidable double-play combination with fellow Phillies teammate, Bobby Wine, a shortstop. The duo was dubbed by fans and the media as “The Plays of Wine and Rojas”, in reference to the song “The Days of Wine and Roses.” When he was with the Kansas City Royals, he was selected to play in the All-Star game four consecutive times from 1971 to 1974. In his third All-Star game in 1972, he made a pinch-hit two-run homer during the eighth inning. Rojas made a record for being the first non-American-born player to hit a homerun in the AL mid-summer classic. Cookie Rojas is a five-time All-Star player (1965, 1971-1974).
Rojas was a fan favorite from the mid-60s until the mid-70s. He spent the latter years of his playing career performing utility roles in the team and as designated hitter. He currently remains in second place in the Kansas City Royals’ all-time list of games played at second base, with a record of 789 games played.
In his sixteen-season career in the MLB, Rojas played with the Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies, and St. Louis Cardinals. His last MLB appearance was with the Kansas City Royals on October 1, 1977. His MLB career statistics include 593 RBIs, 54 home runs, and a batting average of .263.
After Rojas retired from playing professionally, he served as a scout and coach for different teams. He was with the California Angels in 1988, Florida Marlins in 1996, the New York Mets in 1999 as third base coach, and Toronto Blue Jays in 2001 to 2002 as bench coach, third base coach, and unofficial manager. He is currently a Spanish-language commentator for the Miami Marlins. He is also a board member of the Baseball Assistance Team, a non-profit organization that assists former Minor League, Major League, and Negro League players undergoing medical and financial hardships. Rojas has a son who is a bullpen coach for the Detroit Tigers, and another son working as a TV play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Zoilo Casanova Versalles Rodriguez, or “Zorro” for short, was a two-time All-Star player (1963, 1965), an AL MVP in 1965, and a two-time recipient of the Golden Glove Award (1963, 1965). In 2006, he was inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.
Versalles was born on December 18, 1939, in the neighborhood of Vedado in Havana, Cuba. He started out as a free agent for the Washington Senators in 1958. Homesickness, fear of failure and language barriers made his early years in the MLB difficult. He debuted as shortstop for the Washington Senators on August 1, 1959. He spent some time honing his skills in the farm system and eventually suited up for Major League in 1961. He lowered his errors to 26 (from 30), and led the AL in assists (501). Versalles started a fruitful season in 1963 when he led the AL in triples (13; received his first Golden Glove Award, raised his batting average to .261; and was picked for his first All-Star game. The following year, he led the AL in triples (10) again.
Under the guidance of Billy Martin, the third base coach of the Minnesota Twins, Versalles became a key player who led the Minnesota Twins to their first World Series in 1965. It was in the same year that he was selected for his second All-Star game, became an AL MVP, and led the AL in plate appearances (728), at-bats (666), total bases (308), runs scored (126), strikeouts (122), extra base hits (76), doubles (45), and triples (12).
The season following the World Series, Versalles and four other Twins players hit home runs in a single inning, during a game against the Kansas City Athletics. Until now, that is still considered the most number of home runs in one inning in MLB history. During his peak years from 1961 to 1965, he led the AL shortstops with 73 homeruns.
Shortly after, Versalles was treated for hematoma in his back, but it ended up being a life-long condition. He was on the disabled list for a while. In the years that followed, his back problems affected his performance and caused his decline. In 1972, he played for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp for one season. He passed away in his home in 1995.
In the MLB, Versalles played with the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators (franchise) and the Atlanta Braves. His MLB career statistics include a .242 batting average, 1,046 hits, 564 runs, 471 RBIs, 95 home runs, and 84 stolen bases in 1,065 games. His last MLB appearance was with the Atlanta Braves on September 28, 1971.
Luis Tiant, Jr.
Luis Clemente Tiant Vega, Jr., nicknamed “El Tiante,” is a three-time All-Star player (1968, 1974, 1976), an AL Comeback Player of the Year in 1972, and a recipient of the Babe Ruth Award in 1975. In 1997, he was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame. On July 23, 2002, he was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame.
Tiant was born on November 23, 1940, in Marianao, Cuba, which was then a part of the province of Havana. He is the only child of Isabel Vega, and Luis Tiant, Sr. The senior Tiant was a star left-handed pitcher for the New York Cubans in the Negro League during the summer and the Cienfuegos in the Cuban League during winter. The junior Tiant trained in the little and juvenile leagues until he joined the Havana team and was included in the All-Star team of the Cuban Juvenile League in 1957. Bobby Avila, a Cleveland Indians scout, recognized Tiant’s potential and recommended him to the Mexican City Tigers in the Mexican League. He was immediately signed in with the Tigers, and for the following three years, spent his time between them and the Havana Sugar Kings in the International League.
The Bay of Pigs Invasion and the rise of Fidel Castro’s regime in 1961 made it impossible for Pérez to come back to Cuba and it took 14 years before he finally got to see his parents again. The Cleveland Indians took in Tiant, and he went on training through the Indians’ baseball farm system. His first season was with Charleston in the Eastern League, where he revealed that racism was very much present and that he was treated like a dog. But when he got to Portland, he didn’t have any problems. He debuted as starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians on July 19, 1964. In the 1968 season, he led the AL in shutouts (9), strikeouts per nine innings (9.22), hits per nine innings (5.30), and ERA (1.60). He finished with a 21-9 pitching record.
Tiant was called back to the Major League in 1971 with the Boston Red Sox after spending some time recuperating from injuries. It was with this team that he regained his former glory. He became known as one of the greatest and most idolized pitchers in the history of the Red Sox team. In 1972, he led the AL with a 15-6 pitching record and a 1.91 ERA. He won 20 games in 1973 and 22 the following year. In 1975, he won 18 games for the Red Sox, and was the starting pitcher for the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. It was a momentous game for Tiant, because not only did he defeat the Reds in a 6-0 five hit shutout, his parents were also flown in from Cuba under a special visa to allow them to see their son play.
Tiant used his right arm for hitting and throwing the ball. He was best known for his exceptional pitching skills and technique, and well loved for his charisma. During his career, he was one of five Major League pitchers to have pitched more than three consecutive shutouts in the last fifty years. From 1998-2001, he worked as coach for the baseball team of the Savannah College of Art and Design. Producer Kris Meyer and the Farrelly brothers focused on Tiant in their documentary film entitled “The Lost Son of Havana,” which premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. Tiant currently works as a pitching advisor for the Red Sox. He is also an avid cigar smoker, and owns El Tiante, a brand of cigars that he specifically designed and formulated. Recently, a grassroots effort to endorse Tiant for a spot on the National Baseball Hall of Fame was started on Facebook.
Throughout his MLB career, Tiant played with the Boston Red Sox, California Angels, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, and Pittsburgh Pirates. His MLB career statistics include 2,416 strikeouts, 187 complete games, 49 shutouts, a pitching record of 229-172, and a 3.30 ERA. His last MLB appearance was with the California Angels on September 4, 1982.
Bert Campaneris is a three-time consecutive World Series champion (1972-1974), six-time All-Star player (1968, 1972-1975, 1977), and recipient of the Babe Ruth Award in 1973.
Campaneris was born Dagoberto Campaneris Blanco in Pueblo Nuevo, Cuba, on March 9, 1942. Having a skinny and small frame (5 ft. 10 in. and 160 lbs.) didn’t stop him from being an exceptional baseball player. He hit two home runs when he debuted as shortstop for the Kansas City Athletics on July 23, 1964. He was one of four MLB players to have hit two home runs in their very first game. In 1965, he led the AL in stolen bases (51) and triples (12). His best year was in 1968 is considered his best year, when he led the AL in at-bats (642), hits (177), and steals (62). In 1970, he led the AL in steals (42) and scored 97 runs. In 1972, he set another record when he led the AL shortstops with total chances (795). When he returned for the World Series after being suspended and fined for his altercation with the opposing team, he ably helped his team beat the Cincinnati Reds to win the series.
From 1965 to 1972, Campaneris consistently led the AL in stolen bases, and upon retirement, held the record for most number of stolen bases (649) in MLB history. He currently holds the Athletics’ franchise record for at-bats (7,180), assists (5,021), putouts (2,932), hits (1,882), games played (1,795), career games (1,702), and double plays (934). As a serious bunter, he led the AL in sacrifice hits with 20 in 1972, 40 in 1977, and 25 in 1978. He also led the AL in putouts thrice, and holds the record for most errors (388) since 1940.
Throughout his career in MLB, Campaneris played with the Kansas City Athletics (which eventually became the Oakland Athletics), Texas Rangers, California Angels, and New York Yankees. His MLB career statistics include a .259 batting average, 2,249 hits, 1,181 runs, 649 stolen bases, 646 RBIs, 313 doubles, 86 triples, and 79 home runs in 2,328 games. October 1, 1983 was his last appearance in the MLB as a New York Yankee player.
Tony Pérez, or the “Big Dog”, is a three-time World Series champion (1975, 1976, 1990), seven-time All-Star player (1967-1970, 1974-1976), an All-Star Game MVP in 1967, and a recipient of the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1980. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. He was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame, too.
Tony Pérez was born Atanasio Pérez Rigal in Ciego de Ávila, Cuba on May 14, 1942. In 1964, he became the Pacific Coast League’s Most Valuable Player while playing for the minor league team, San Diego Padres. His outstanding performance gave him a ticket to join the Reds in the same season. He debuted as third baseman for the Reds on July 26, 1964. His first All-Star player selection was in 1967, in which he participated in a game that became the longest All-Star game ever played in MLB history back then. He was the one who hit the first home run in the Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, when it first opened in 1970. From 1972 onwards, he played as star first baseman. In the 1970 to 1976 seasons, Pérez was a key player of the “Big Red Machine,” the nickname given to the Reds when they consistently dominated the National League, won two World Series titles, and was generally considered the best team in MLB during those six years. Sparky Anderson, the Reds’ manager at that time, said that Pérez was the heart and soul of the team, and the leader as well.
During his first season with the Boston Red Sox in 1980, Pérez won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award and got into the top ten in RBIs (105), home runs (25), and intentional walks (11). When he played for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1986 season, he reunited with former Big Red Machine teammates Joe Morgan and Pete Rose. Even at that time, Pérez was still a force to be reckoned with as a batter. For the next season, he returned to the Reds and played with them until he retired in 1986.
Pérez was given the nicknames “Big Dog”, “Big Doggie”, and “Doggie”. He used his right arm for hitting and throwing the ball. After retiring as a player, he moved on as manager for the Cincinnati Reds and then the Florida Marlins. Currently, he’s the Special Assistant to the General Manager of the Marlins. The Cincinnati Reds had his #24 jersey retired. He made his last appearance with the team on October 5, 1986.
Throughout his career in MLB, Pérez played with the Cincinnati Reds (twice), Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies. His MLB career statistics include 2,732 hits, 1,652 RBIs, 1,272 runs scored, 379 home runs, and a batting average of .279.
José Rosario Domec Cardenal is a three-time World Series champion (1996, 1998, 1999).
Cardenal, a cousin of Bert Campaneris, also a former MLB player, was born in Matanzas, Cuba on October 7, 1943. He debuted as outfielder for the San Francisco Giants on April 14, 1963. Cardenal, a right-handed thrower and batter, was primarily a line drive hitter with good batting speed, and an exceptional base runner with lightning speed. In ten seasons alone, he managed to collect more than 20 stolen bases. He also plays excellently at the field, possessing a strong throwing arm and good range.
When Cardenal was with the California Angels in 1965, he finished second in the AL in stolen bases (37). With the Cleveland Indians in 1968, he led the AL in steals (40); it was also his career-high record in steals. In the same season, he also made a league record for outfielders with two unassisted double plays. When he was with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1970, he hit a batting average of .293 and 74 RBIs. His 1971 season was split between the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers. It was the same season when he reached his 80 career-high RBIs. He played as right fielder for the Chicago Cubs in 1973, the same season that he led the Cubs in batting average (.303), doubles (33), and stolen bases (19). For that he was dubbed by two baseball writers as the Chicago Cubs’ “Player of the Year.” Cardenal reached his career-highs in batting average (.317) and hits (182) in 1975.
When Cardenal was with the Phillies in 1978 to 1979, he was the last player to wear the teams’ No.1 uniform. The number was retired during the 1979 season. His 1979 season was again split between the Phillies and New York Mets. Cardenal retired from his playing career after the 1980 World Series.
After Cardenal retired from playing professionally, he served as coach for the Cincinnati Reds (1993, 2002-2003), St. Louis Cardinals (1994-1995), New York Yankees (1996-1999), and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2000-2001). He was the Yankees’ first base coach when they won the World Championships in 1996, 1998, and 1999. After coaching, he moved on to become senior adviser to the general manager of the Washington Nationals in 2005. In the same year, Cardenal placed his World Series ring in auction with the aim of using the auction proceeds to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In his 18-season career in the MLB, Cardenal played with the California Angels, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, and St. Louis Cardinals. His last MLB appearance was with the Kansas City Royals on October 3, 1980. Cardenal’s MLB career statistics include 1,913 hits, 936 runs, 775 RBIs, 329 stolen bases, 138 home runs, 46 triples, and a batting average of .275 in 2,017 games played.
Fuentes was born Rigoberto Fuentes Peat in Havana, Cuba on January 4, 1944. He goes by the nickname, “Tito.” He started his MLB career by signing as an amateur player just before the 1962 season began. He was eighteen years old at that time. Three years later, Fuentes debuted as second baseman for the San Francisco Giants.
During his rookie season, Fuentes split his time between shortstop and second base. He was a solid defense player, but got set to the minor leagues in 1968. When he returned to the Giants the following season, he was a utility infielder until he regained his initial second base spot in 1971 and helped the Giants win the NL West title. However, the team fell short of winning the NL Championship title.
Fuentes set an MLB record in 1973 by becoming the regular second baseman with the highest recorded fielding percentage of .993. His record has since been broken by second baseman Ryne Sandberg in 1986 with .994. When he was with the Detroit Tigers in 1977, he reached his career-high batting average (.309). He was taken in by two more teams before retiring from the Major League. Fuentes used his right arm for throwing and used either his left or right for hitting the ball.
After retiring from his playing career, Fuentes moved on to become a Spanish language radio announcer for his starting team, the San Francisco Giants, from 1981 to 1992. He returned to the Giants as an analyst in 2004, where he remains today.
In his 13-season career with the MLB, Fuentes played with the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Detroit Tigers, and Oakland Athletics. His last MLB appearance was with the Oakland Athletics on July 9, 1978. His MLB career statistics include 1,491 hits, 438 RBIs, and a batting average of .268.
José Canseco Capas, Jr. is a two-time World Series champion (1989, 2000), six-time All-Star player (1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1999), four-time Silver Slugger Award recipient, AL Rookie of the Year (1986), AL MVP (1988), and AL Comeback Player of the Year (1994).
Canseco was born in Havana, Cuba on July 2, 1964. He has an identical twin brother, Ozzie Canseco, also a former MLB player but with a short-lived career. He and his whole family permanently relocated to Miami, Florida, when he and his twin brother were just babies. His MLB career started when he was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 1982. He hones skills playing and training in the minor leagues for a few years. In 1985, he won the Player of the Year Award for the Baseball America Minor League. Canseco was dubbed “Parkway José” because of his long home runs. His debut in the major league was on September 2, 1985, playing as an outfielder for the Oakland Athletics.
Canseco steadily gained some attention in 1986, his first full season as a rookie. He was chosen for his first All-Star game, was named AL’s Rookie of the Year, and finished the season with 117 RBIs and 33 home runs. When Mark McGwire joined the Athletics as first baseman the following season, he and Canseco instantly hit it off and formed a dangerous offensive duo dubbed the “Bash Brothers.” In 1988, he made a record by becoming the first player in MLB history to steal 40 bases and hit 42 home runs in one season. He also helped the Athletics get to the World Series. He ended the season as the AL’s MVP and finished with 124 RBIs, 120 runs scored, 42 home runs, 40 stolen bases, and a .307 batting average. He was also selected for his second All-Star game and won his first Silver Slugger Award. The following season, Canseco was selected for his third All-Star game, hit 17 home runs, and helped the Athletics win the team’s first World Series four to one after 1974. In 1990, he won his second Silver Slugger Award, was selected for his fourth All-Star game, hit 37 home runs, and again helped the Athletics get to the World Series. The following year, he hit 44 home runs and won his third Silver Slugger Award. He was selected for his fifth All-Star game in 1992.
Canseco suffered some injuries during his time with the Texas Rangers, which affected his performance. During his comeback season in 1994, he was awarded the AL Comeback Player of the Year, finishing the season with 90 RBIs, 31 home runs, 15 stolen bases, and a batting average of .282 in 111 games played. During his 1998 stint with the Toronto Blue Jays, Canseco won his fourth and last Silver Slugger Award. He finished the season with 46 home runs and stole 29 bases. He received his sixth and last All-Star game selection while with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999. In the 114 games he played with the Devil Rays he hit 34 home runs. Playing with the New York Yankees in 2000, he considered that the worst time of his life as he has limited playing time. He only appeared once, against the New York Mets during the World Series. His team won, though.
Canseco retired from the Major League in 2002 and attempted to make a comeback in 2004 but didn’t receive any offers. He moved on to play in the Independent Leagues and had stints at the San Diego Surf Dawgs and Long Beach Armada in 2006; at the Laredo Broncos of the United Baseball League in 2010, acting as designated hitter and bench coach, and was the pitcher, manager and designated hitter with the Yuma Scorpions of the North American League in 2011. The following year he joined the Quintana Roo Tigers playing in the Mexican League. He was banned though for testosterone use. He is currently signed as a designated hitter of the Worcester Tornadoes of the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball for a one-season contract.
Canseco was best known for being a power hitter. He was great at stealing bases. He used his right arm for hitting and throwing the ball. He also dabbles in mixed martial arts and boxing, and fights competitively. He has black belts in Kung Fu and Taekwondo and practices Muay Thai.
Canseco is infamously known for admitting that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his time in the Major League. He wrote a tell-all book in 2005 entitled, “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big”. In his book, he revealed his use of anabolic steroids and implicated other MLB players who used steroids as well; even claiming that majority of MLB players used this type of drugs. While there was aggressive denial about his claim, it prompted a Congressional hearing. Some players were called for interrogation on the issue of steroid use in professional sports. The hearing and the media hype probably buoyed Canseco’s book into the New York Times Bestseller list. But Canseco didn’t stop there. He wrote a sequel, “Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars, and the Battle to Save Baseball,” which came out in 2007. The book contains more talk of steroid use among MLB players, focusing on two of his contemporaries.
Since 1989, Canseco has been arrested for many legal issues. His last legal issue was in 2008, when he pled guilty in Federal Court for possession of an illegal drug. He was sentenced to twelve months of unsupervised probation. In 2007, he became eligible for voting in the National Baseball Hall of Fame but failed to make it within the threshold needed to maintain a spot in the ballot for at least another year.
As a very popular player, Canseco was invited to feature and guest star in a lot of TV shows in the United States. In 2008, A&E Network shot a documentary entitled “José Canseco: Last Shot”. The documentary was based on Canseco’s attempts in ending steroid use. For a brief time in 2011, Canseco was a contestant on the Celebrity Apprentice show but quit after a month due to his father’s declining health. Although he left the show early, he earned $25,000 for his charity, the Baseball Assistance Team.
In his 17-season career in the MLB, Canseco played with the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics (twice), Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Texas Rangers, and Toronto Blue Jays. His last MLB appearance was with the Chicago White Sox on October 6, 2001. Canseco’s MLB career statistics include 1,407 RBIs, 462 home runs, and a batting average of .266.
Rafael Palmeiro Corrales is a four-time All-Star player (1988, 1991, 1998, 1999), three-time consecutive recipient of the Gold Glove Award (1997-1999), and a two-time consecutive recipient of the Silver Slugger Award (1998, 1999).
Palmeiro was born in Havana, Cuba on September 24, 1964. He grew up in Miami, Florida, where he played baseball with Cuban-born contemporaries like José Canseco. They trained under coach Osvaldo Morales, who was Canseco’s Junior Varsity Team coach. Before Palmeiro was drafted into the Major League, he was a member of the All-American honorary sports team of Mississippi State University, where he played college baseball. He was first drafted by the New York Mets in 1982, but no contract was signed. He was drafted and signed up by the Chicago Cubs in 1985.
Palmeiro debuted as left fielder for the Chicago Cubs on September 8, 1986. During his time with the Cubs, he primarily played left field, but also split his time playing first base and other outfield positions. Palmeiro’s batting average in 1988 was .307, only six points below that of the NL Batting Champion, Tony Gwynn. During the following seasons of his MLB career, he mostly played either first baseman or designated hitter. While he was with the Texas Rangers, he emerged as a skilled hitter and led the league in hits during 1990 and in doubles the following season. The left-handed thrower and batter was known for collecting many home runs in a season. In 1993, he hit 37 home runs, but starting from 1995 to 2003, he always hit more than 38 home runs per season. During that nine-season span, he hit 373 home runs and drove in more than a hundred runs each season. Despite this impressive record, Palmeiro never led the league in home runs, making him the most skilled run hitter who never won a home run title.
During a game against the Cleveland Indians on May 11, 2003, Palmeiro marked his 500th career home run. He achieved his 3,000th base hit on July 15, 2005 during a game against the Seattle Mariners. Palmeiro joined the ranks of Eddie Murray, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays, as the fourth player in MLB history to reach 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Majority of his hits were made when he was with the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, making him one of four players in MLB history to reach more than 200 home runs for two different teams.
Palmeiro was one of the players implicated in José Canseco’s first book. He denied all allegations during the Congressional hearing. However, he tested positive for stanozolol, a potent anabolic steroid five months later. He was suspended for testing positive although he continued to deny using any performance-enhancing drugs.
In 2008, Palmeiro was inducted into the Mississippi State University Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2011, he became eligible for voting into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but votes fell short of the 75% threshold needed for a candidate to push through, very likely because of his record for steroid use.
Palmeiro had a 20-season career with the MLB, playing for the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers (twice), and Baltimore Orioles (twice). His last MLB appearance was with the Baltimore Orioles on August 30, 2005. His MLB career statistics include 3,020 hits, 1,835 RBIs, 569 home runs and a batting average of .288 in 2,831 games he had played.
Orlando Hernández Pedroso, also known by his nickname “El Duque,” was a four-time World Series champion (1998-2000, 2005), and an ALCS MVP in 1999. Hernández was a big star in Cuba’s national baseball team and was instrumental in helping the team win the gold medal in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. He’s also a gold medal holder in various international baseball games, including the Goodwill Games, Baseball World Cup, International Cup, Pan American Games and the Central American and Caribbean Games.
Orlando Hernández was born in Villa Clara, Cuba on October 11, 1965. Before he made it big in the Major League, he played in the Cuban National Series under the Industriales of Havana and helped them win the title in 1992 and 1996. He represented Havana in the Selective Series, under the teams Habaneros and Ciudad Habana. His career-winning percentage of .728 is currently the league record in the National and Selective Series. He is a half-brother of Liván Hernández, who defected to the U.S. Due to this he was eventually suspended from playing in Cuba for some time in 1996. A year later, he too, together with two other players decided to defect, but was caught by the U.S. Coast Guard and send to the Bahamas.
Sports agent Mark Cubas, Attorney-General Janet Reno, and members of the Cuban-American National Foundation intervened just in time to save Hernández and his companions, who were then offered “humanitarian parole.” It is a special status that lets them step into U.S. territory based on their abilities as exceptional athletes, and rational fears of persecution should they return to their home country. Hernández declined the generous offer, opting instead to seek asylum in Costa Rica. That choice proved to be advantageous when he joined the MLB as a non-U.S. resident since he could negotiate as a free agent; instead of being a U.S. resident undergoing the regular drafting process and only get a limited room for salary negotiation.
Hernández debuted as pitcher for the New York Yankees on June 3, 1998. Success came swift and early in his Major League career when he performed with the Yankees and they won the World Series for three years in a row from 1998 to 2000. His best year was in 1999 when he won the World Series, had a 17-9 win-loss record, and reached his career-high in innings pitched (214.1) and strikeouts (157). In the same year, he was also chosen as an AL Championship Series MVP. In 2005, Hernández won another World Series championship, this time for the Chicago White Sox. In 2006, he got his first two RBIs and his first stolen base. His excellent pitching with the New York Mets led the team to win the NL East title and gave him the privilege of starting Game 1 of the Mets in the 2006 NL Division Series. Unfortunately, a series of physical injuries from the playoffs until the 2008 season affected his performance and limited his appearances. Hernández signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers in 2009, and the Washington Nationals in 2010 in an attempt to make a comeback. However, both ventures didn’t turn out well and he left the Major League.
Hernández spent 10 seasons in the MLB playing for the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Mets. His last MLB appearance was with the New York Mets on September 30, 2007. His MLB career statistics include a record of 90-65 win-loss, 1,086 strikeouts, and a 4. 13 ERA.
Reynaldo Ordóñez Pereira is a three-time consecutive recipient of the Gold Glove Award from 1997 to 1999.
Ordóñez was born in Havana, Cuba on November 11, 1971. Before his MLB career, he was playing for the Havana Industriales Club in his hometown. He defected from Cuba and lived in Buffalo, New York in 1993. In the same year, he played first with the St. Paul Saints in the Northern League before signing with the New York Mets as a free agent by the end of the season. With the Mets, he went through the rounds in the minor league for two years before debuting as a shortstop on April 1, 1996.
On his very first Major League game against the St. Louis Cardinals, he immediately made an impression on the Cardinals’ shortstop, Ozzie Smith. His excellent defensive skills earned him three consecutive Gold Glove Awards while with the Mets. In 1999 and 2000, Ordóñez set a record for Major League shortstops by playing in 101 consecutive games without incurring a single fielding error. It was also the year when he displayed his best defensive play, posting a .994 fielding percentage with only four errors.
Although Ordóñez had his weaknesses, he could lay down sacrifice bunts and narrowly avoid strikeouts. His strengths definitely lay in defensive play. The right-handed thrower and hitter injured his left arm in 2000, which prevented him from playing in the 2000 World Series and winning the Gold Glove Award.
Spending nine seasons in the MLB, Ordóñez had stints with the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His career records include 767 hits, 287 RBIs, and a batting average of .246. He made his last MLB appearance as a Chicago Cub on July 19, 2004.
José Ariel Contreras Camejo is a 2005 World Series champion and an All-Star player in 2006.
Contreras was born in Las Martinas in the Pinar del Rio province on December 6, 1971. Before he joined the Major League, he was an official player in the Cuban national team, pitching for Pinar del Río in the Cuban National Series. He was first noticed by Major League scouts in 2009, when he pitched for the Cuban national team in a game against the Baltimore Orioles, striking out ten batters and pitching eight shutout innings. In 2002, he defected from Cuba while representing his home country in the American Series in Mexico. He immediately signed a contract with the New York Yankees in December of the same year.
Contreras debuted as right-handed pitcher for the New York Yankees on March 31, 2003. Initially, he had a rough rookie year, but had his best game of the season when he had the White Sox shut out for eight innings and struck out nine batters in a game. Although he struck out ten batters in a game against the New York Mets during the 2004 season, the most fulfilling feat for Contreras was pitching in front of his daughters and wife. When he was with the Chicago White Sox, he pitched his first complete game during the 2005 season. He also helped the White Sox win their way to the 2005 World Series title, although at that time, Cuban president Fidel Castro banned his name from being spoken around the country; likewise banning White Sox games from being shown on Cuban television.
Contreras reached his career-high in strikeouts (13) while also achieving a 16th consecutive regular season win in 2006. Before the season ended, he had 17 consecutive regular season wins and his first All-Star selection. Unfortunately, Contreras wasn’t able to play because just two days prior to the All-Star game, he threw 117 pitches and pitched 6 innings in the starting game. He was replaced by Francisco Liriano, a Minnesota Twins rookie. This move made Contreras the first pitcher to start two consecutive regularly scheduled games in thirty years. During the 2007 season, he reached a career-high two shutouts. In 2009, he spent some months in the minor league, before signing up with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010. In his first season with the Phillies, he chose not to be a starting pitcher. The right-handed pitcher also marked the first save in his career.
He has so far played for the New York Yankees, the Chicago White Sox and the Colorado Rockies in his 10th season in the MLB, posting a career record of 78-67 win-loss, 881 strikeouts, and a 4.56 ERA. He is currently contracted with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Eisler Liván Hernández Carrera is a 1997 World Series champion, a two-time consecutive All-Star player (2004, 2005), World Series MVP (1997), NLCS MVP (1997), three-time consecutive league leader in innings pitched (2003-2005), two-time consecutive league leader in complete games (2003, 2004), and a recipient of the Silver Slugger Award in 2004.
Liván Hernández was born in Villa Clara, Cuba on February 20, 1975. He is the half-brother of former MLB player, Orlando Hernández. Liván Hernández came from a poor family, and like so many other Cuban boys before him, dreamed of making it big in the major league. Although he was an official Cuban athlete, he only earned $6 a month. Joe Cubas, a recruiter, helped Hernández defect and escape from Cuba in 1995. He immediately signed on to a deal with the Florida Marlins so he could live in Miami.
Hernández debuted as pitcher for the Florida Marlins on September 24, 1996. During his rookie season with the Marlins, he was named the NL Championship Series MVP. He started and won two games against the Cleveland Indians, and also helped the Marlins win the World Series title in 1997, becoming that year’s series MVP. During his time with the San Francisco Giants, he was a valuable asset, and took part in the Giants’ performance in the 2002 World Series. Hernández led the league in complete games in 2003 and 2004. He’s likewise the NL leader in innings pitched from 2003 until 2005 and was the league leader with 3,927 pitches in 2004 and 4,009 pitches in 2005. In 2004, he was selected for his first All-Star game and won the Silver Slugger award while in a pitching position, a distinction he earned for his exceptional skills with a bat. He again played in the All-Star game in 2005, making a huge impression by throwing 150 pitches in only nine innings during a game.
While with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007, Liván Hernández had the lowest strikeout-to-walk ratio in the league with 1.14. He also led the league with 34 home runs allowed. When he was with the Minnesota Twins in 2008, he led the Twins’ starting pitches in wins (10) and IP (127.2). When Hernández ended the 2008 season with the Colorado Rockies, he had an average of 12.9 hits in 9 innings. It was the highest recorded stats in the league.
Hernández signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets in 2009. He was great as a starting pitcher, even throwing a complete game once in Citi Field. He was the first player to have done so, and is the only active player to have pitched a complete game with six different teams. He returned to the Washington Nationals in 2009 and ended the season with them. In the same season, he also threw the 50,000th pitch of his career. He is currently one of eleven pitchers to have done so in the history of MLB since 1988. When he was with the Atlanta Braves during the first half of 2012, he marked his first ever career save and his 485th MLB appearance. As of June 2012, Hernández is signed with the Milwaukee Brothers.
Hernández is best known for his “slow hook” curveball, which is his signature strikeout pitch. He is also an excellent defensive pitcher, with only fifteen errors in his record so far. He is considered a very dangerous hitter, always putting his team first. He uses his right arm for hitting and throwing the ball. Hernández is also described as a workhorse because he throws as many pitches as he could; pitches as many innings as he could and makes all the starts needed to allow his team to rest. In fact, he never pitched fewer than 199 innings from 1998 to 2007.
He’s had 17 seasons so far in his MLB career. In that many years, he has played twice for the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets, Colorado Rockies, Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins, and Minnesota Twins. He is currently a pitcher for the Milwaukee Brothers, wearing the No. 61 jersey. As of June 2012, Hernández has a record of 172-177 win-loss, 1,947 strikeouts, and a 4.40 ERA.
Yoenis Céspedes Milanés was born in the town of Campechuela in the Cuban province of Granma on October 10, 1985. His mother is softball pitcher Estela Milanés, who represented Cuba in the 2000 Summer Olympics. Before Yoenis Céspedes joined the Major League, he was an official player in the Cuban national baseball team and played in the Cuban National Series. He has represented Cuba in the 2006 Haarlem Baseball Week, 2007 Pan American Games, 2009 World Baseball Classic, 2009 World Baseball Cup, 2010 World University Baseball Championship, 2010 Pan American Games, and 2010 Intercontinental Cup. In 2011, he defected from Cuba and sought asylum in the Dominican Republic, with the aim of becoming a free agent in the Major League. He formally became a resident of the Dominican Republic in January 2012. By the following month, Céspedes was able to strike up a deal with the Oakland Athletics.
Céspedes recently debuted as a center fielder on March 28, 2012 for the Oakland Athletics, and hit his first career home run the following day against the Seattle Mariners. Céspedes, a right-handed batter and thrower is currently the best Cuban-born all-around player to have joined the Major League in recent years, according to journalist Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus. He is what’s called a “five-tool” center fielder, which means that he excels in base running, fielding, throwing, hitting for average, and hitting for power. It’s a rare skill highly valued by Major League coaches and scouts.
As of June 2012, Céspedes has recorded 24 RBIs, 5 home runs, and a batting average of .244 in his very first season with the MLB. He is currently playing for the Oakland Athletics.