The Dominican Republic is no stranger to baseball both as a professional sport and serious pastime. Outside of the United States and Canada, baseball players from the Dominican Republic tops the list with over five hundred players in Major League Baseball. The country has known baseball for more than a century. The history of baseball in the Dominican Republic is linked with the introduction of the sport to Cuban natives by American sailors in 1866. Two years after this event came the Ten Years’ War in Cuba in 1868. This was a time when many Cubans fled their homeland and migrated to other nearby countries, one of them being the Dominican Republic. It was these Cuban migrants that introduced baseball in their new adoptive country. The Dominican baseball players were naturals and quickly learned the rules of beisbol. Immediately, they started organizing amateur teams and tournaments.
By the early 1900s, baseball was already a known pastime for the locals. But it was only by 1907 that baseball started gaining widespread popularity. At this time, there were two existing amateur teams – Ozama and Nuevo Club. Tigres del Licey was the first opposing team created to compete against the two.
In the years that followed, four major teams emerged and eventually formed the foundation of Dominican professional baseball. These founding teams were Estrellas Orientales, Leones del Escogido, Tigres del Licey, and Sandino, which was later renamed Las Águilas. All four teams still exist today.
By the 1920s, Dominican baseball players were already competing against teams from the Caribbean countries and North America. The sport was particularly most popular in the southeast region of the country, where generations of men working in the sugarcane industry learned to play and organize games during their down time, which also happened to be baseball season. The months of October to February were idle months for the sugar mills. Sugarcane factory owners were also the ones who encouraged their employees to participate, aside from providing financial support to continue the practice. It was also this part of the country that produced a lot of the best Dominican baseball players, most of them advancing to play in the professional leagues.
Today, the Dominican Republic has become a prime training ground for American and Canadian Major League Baseball (MLB) players, and all major league teams have set up their own training camps all over the country. Managers and talent scouts are constantly on the lookout for the next professional baseball stars, to the point that it has become a lucrative business. Statistics reveal that one out of six baseball players in the American league is Latin American. The Dominican Republic comes second to the United States in producing MLB players. From the total number of major league players during opening day rosters, more than 10 percent hail from the Dominican Republic, while one-fourth of the total minor league players come from this country, too. Many Dominican boys share the same dream – playing professional baseball and escaping from poverty. When you travel around the country, you will notice that baseball parks, stadiums, and training grounds are aplenty. And if you visit the Dominican Republic during baseball season, you won’t miss the fervor and spirit of locals who consider baseball as their national sport. Their inherent passion for baseball is something to behold. It is even said that the Dominicans are more passionate over baseball than Americans are. Most games are held in Estado Quisqueya, which is in Santo Domingo, and also in other major stadiums in La Romana, San Pedro de Macorís, and Santiago. Thousands of fans always show their support at the games. The tournaments are a big deal not just for the fans but also for up and coming American baseball players who want to make it big in the major leagues. They are usually sent to the Dominican Winter League to train harder and further hone their skills.
Ozzie Virgil, Sr.
Osvaldo José Virgil, Sr., or Ozzie Virgil as he was more popularly known, made history by being the first Dominican baseball player to make it in Major League Baseball. Another of his remarkable achievement was being the first non-white player for the Detroit Tigers, in 1958. Ozzie was born in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic, on May 17, 1932. He debuted as utility player for the New York Giants in 1956. Since then, he has inspired many generations of young Dominican boys to follow their own Major League dreams. He was able to play all positions except center field and pitcher, although he mostly plays third baseman. He batted and threw with his right hand. During his time with the MLB, he played, in chronological order, with the New York Giants from 1956 to 1957, the Detroit Tigers in 1958 and from 1960 to 1961, and Kansas City Athletics in 1961. He was then signed up with Baltimore Orioles in 1962 and was playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1965. His last team during his professional baseball career was the San Francisco Giants where he played in 1966 and again in 1969. He also played with Rochester Red Wings, a minor league in the International League. Ozzie retired in 1969. In all of his nine seasons, he accumulated a total of 14 homeruns, 73 RBIs, and a batting average of .231 in the 324 games that he played. From 1969-1988, he worked as coach for many MLB teams. He spent 19 seasons for the San Francisco Giants from 1969 up to 1972 and then from 1974 to 1975. From 1976 up to 1981 he was a coach of the Montreal Expos. In the following year until 1985 he coached the San Diego Padres before he moved on to coach the Seattle Mariners from 1986 up to 1988. While coaching the other teams, Virgil Senior was also on the staff of baseball manager Dick William, working as a third base coach.
The Osvaldo Virgil National Airport in Monte Cristi was named after him. His son was former MLB player, Ozzie Virgil, Jr.
Born as Juan Antonio Marichal Sánchez, Juan Marichal, is one of the best Dominican baseball players of all time. He was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983, and made history as being the first player from the Dominican Republic to be included in the list. He was also a nine-time all-star player with eight consecutive wins from 1962-1969, and an MLB All-Star MVP in 1965. He was a right-handed pitcher.
Marichal was born in Laguna Verde, Dominican Republic on October 20, 1937. His journey to baseball stardom started when Ramfis Trujillo, who was the biggest sponsor of Aviación Dominicana, (Dominican Air Force Baseball Team) and the son of the late Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo discovered him. Marichal at that time pitched a 2-1 victory in a game held in his hometown of Monte Cristi. Ramfis signed him on to his team right after the game. He was also ordered to enlist in the Air Force by Trujillo.
The New York Giants signed him up by as an amateur free agent before the 1957 season. Marichal debuted as pitcher for the San Francisco Giants in 1960. He was best known for his high leg kick, intimidation tactics, and pinpoint control. His left leg kick went almost vertical, and the advantage of that talent was that he was able to conceal the type of pitch he used, leaving the batter almost always unprepared. His performance of this skill was consistent even towards the end of his career. He was also known to aim pitches directly towards the helmets of batters from the opposing team and for pitching a no-hitter on June 15, 1963.
Although in the 1960s he won more games than any other pitcher, other great MLB players always overshadowed him. Marichal was instrumental in obtaining Major League victories during 1963 and 1968, winning 26 games. As an exceptionally-skilled player, he finished top 10 in the following: complete games for ten times, innings pitched for eight times, ERA (earned run average) from 1963-1969, and strikeouts for six times.
The Boston Red Sox purchased him from the San Francisco Giants in 1973 and released him in 1974. As a free agent, he signed up with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1975. During the 1970s, he suffered a severe reaction to penicillin that resulted in chronic arthritis and back pains. Despite that, he still gave a solid performance. He retired in 1975. In all of his sixteen seasons, he accumulated a total of 243 wins, 2,303 strikeouts, 3,507 innings pitched, 709 walks, an ERA of 2.89, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.25:1.
During his time with the Giants, the team averaged 90 wins per season, while Marichal himself averaged 20 per season. These impressive stats instantly ranked him as one of the top 20 pitchers of all time, leading other great pitchers like Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Nolan Ryan, etc. And along with Sandy Koufax, they were the only post-war era MLB players to have achieved more than two seasons with a total of 25 and more wins. Marichal was fondly remembered for being a charismatic character. Whenever he was out in the field doing what he did best, he did it with so much energy, flamboyancy, and always with a smile.
There was this unfortunate incident in a 1965 game played between the Giants and the Dodgers, when Marichal got into a heated argument with Johnny Roseboro, the catcher from the rival Dodgers team. Roseboro’s return throws flew way too close near Marichal’s head and even brushed his ear. They exchanged words, and when Roseboro removed his mask and helmet, Marichal began using his own bat to hit him repeatedly on the head. When the fight was cleared, Roseboro was bleeding and needed fourteen stitches to close his wounds. As a result of the offense, Marichal was taken out of the game, suspended for nine days, banned from attending the finals between the Dodgers and the Giants, and required to pay a fine of $1,750. Roseboro did file a court case against Marichal, though the issue was settled amicably out of court for a rumored amount of $7,000. Eventually, the two reconciled and became close friends. After years of being passed over for election in the MLB Hall of Fame, Marichal was finally elected in 1983, after Roseboro made a personal appeal. In his induction speech, Marichal thanked Roseboro.
In 1999, Marichal was ranked as #71 on the list of “100 Greatest Baseball Players” published by The Sporting News, and was included in the MLB All-Century Team. The San Francisco Giants paid tribute to him by wearing jerseys with the word “Gigantes”, and commissioning a statue of Marichal in his pitching form. In 2003, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum.
Felipe Alou Rojas was a three-time all-star player, and a National League (NL) Manager of the Year in 1994. He made history by being the first Dominican baseball player to be a regular in the Major League games. Felipe was born in May 12, 1935 in Bajos de Haina. He debuted as an outfielder for the San Francisco Giants in 1958, when he was 23 years old. In a successful career that spanned seventeen years, he played with the San Francisco Giants since his debut until 1963 before he got signed up with Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves from 1964 to 1969. After that stint he transferred to Oakland Athletics but only stayed from 1970 to 1971 before playing in 1971 to 1973 for the New York Yankees. He spent a brief time in 1973 with the Montreal Expos and Milwaukee Brewers in 1974.
Felipe Alou retired in 1974. In all of his 17 seasons, he accumulated 1, 216 hits, 377 RBIs (runs batted in), and a batting average of .280. Felipe went back to Major League in 1992, this time as a manager for the Montreal Expos. He was hailed as the most successful manager in the team’s history and stayed with them for nine years. He then moved on to manage his first team, the San Francisco Giants, from 2003-2006.
Felipe’s younger brothers Matty and Jesús were also former MLB players. They are Dominican baseball legends in their own right, best known as the first all-brother outfielders when they played together in eight games in 1963. The Alous came from a poor family in Bajos de Haina, Dominican Republic. Felipe had dreams of becoming a doctor and striking it rich to escape their situation. He played track and field then switched to baseball, and realized he had a talent for it when his team won the Pan-American Games. He chose to seriously pursue a college degree, but was eventually forced to drop out and join the Giants to help with the family’s financial problems. He and his brothers are known by the name “Alou” because Felipe’s scout accidentally mixed up his mother’s maiden name with his father’s last name, and it stuck. Felipe’s son, Moisés, is a recently retired MLB player who also followed in his father’s and uncles’ footsteps and played as an outfielder. Although Moises was born in the United States and is a US citizen, he is still hailed as a one of the famous baseball players from the Dominican Republic.
Mateo “Matty” Alou Rojas, was a two-time all-star player, recipient of the National League Batting Title in 1966, and 1972 World Series Champion. He was born on December 22, 1938. Matty debuted as an outfielder for the San Francisco Giants in 1960. He was also a first baseman. He threw and batted with his left hand. During his time in the MLB, he played from 1960 to 1965 with the San Francisco Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1966 to 1970. From 1971 to 1972 he was playing for the St. Louis Cardinals and for a time in 1972 with Oakland Athletics. Matty Alou was with the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973 then San Diego Padres in 1974. He left the American Major League in 1974 and played with the Taiheiyo Club Lions from the Nippon Professional Baseball for three seasons, from 1974 to 1976. His most successful years were those he spent with the Pirates where he won his National League Batting title. Matty officially retired in 1974. In all of his fifteen seasons, he accumulated 1,777 hits, 427 RBIs, and a batting average of .307. In 2007, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum.
Matty’s brothers were former and equally famous MLB players Felipe and Jesús Alou. In 2011, Matty died in Miami, Florida due to diabetes complications.
Jesús María Rojas Alou
Another baseball player from the Dominican Republic who made name in MLB is Jesús Alou. He is the youngest of the three Alou brothers who made it into Major League Baseball. Like his two older brothers, Jesús was also an outfielder. He was born on March 24, 1942 in their hometown of Bajos de Haina. His professional baseball career spanned 17 years. He had stints with the San Francisco Giants from 1963 up to 1968. But unlike his brothers, he was considered a better candidate and received a signing bonus. After his stints with the SF Giants he signed up with the Houston Astros and played with the team from 1969 to 1973, and then again in 1978 up to 1979. Jesús Alou spent 1973 to 1974 playing for the Oakland Athletics before transferring to the New York Mets in 1975.
For his 17-year career he had a batting average of .280, 377 RBIs and made 1,216 hits. Although not as successful as his other brothers, he did have moments of brilliance when he was with Houston in 1978 where he hit .324 in part-time play. He then became a coach-player of the Houston Astros before he retired in 1979. After retirement he remained active in the baseball circle, acting as a scout of the Montreal Expos and was hired by the Florida Marlins for their Dominican operations, serving as the director of the club. From 2002, he has been with the Boston Red Sox, holding the same position he has with the Marlins.
The Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum granted Jesús Alou in 2008 with the Hall of Fame Pioneer Award.
Alfredo Claudino Griffin
Alfredo Claudino Griffin is a retired professional Dominican baseball player. He used to play shortstop. Though retired from playing he is still very active in the baseball community, working for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California as their first base coach. He is another baseball player from the Dominican Republic who had a stellar career during his playing days.
Griffin was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on the 6th of October 1957. He throws with his right hand but uses either his left or right hand when he bats. His professional career started when the Cleveland Indians signed him as an amateur free agent in 1973. After playing in the minors through the Cleveland Indians’ system he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1978 before he was able to play in the major games. Griffin did not disappoint his new team and his performance earned him the 1979 Rookie of the Year in the American League, sharing the honors with John Castino of Minnesota Twins.
e was included in the All-Star team in 1984 and was selected to replace Alan Trammell from the Detroit Tigers because of an arm injury. Griffin made quite an impression as it prompted Mike Scioscia, former catcher of the Los Angeles Dodgers to call Griffin as American League’s Ozzie Smith. Ozzie Smith is a multi-awarded MLB shortstop. He played for the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals (1978 to 1996).
After six years and 392 games with the Toronto Blue Jays, Griffin was traded to Oakland Athletics after the baseball season ended in 1984. He proved to be a good offensive player and regained the form and performance he showed in 1980. At that time he established a record in the American League for hitting the most number of triples (15 in total), a remarkable feat for a switch-hitter. He played with Athletics from the beginning of the season in 1985 until 1987. Before the 1988 season started, Griffin was traded to Oakland Athletics to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Bob Welch. However, Griffin’s hand was broken by a fastball from Cleveland Indians’ Dwight Gooden, which sidelined Griffin for the rest of 1988 and early part of the 1989 season. His career with the Dodgers lasted until the 1991 season and he went back to Toronto Blue Jays for the 1992 to 1993 seasons before retiring.
Griffin’s aggressiveness when playing greatly helped the teams he played with, achieving four World Series Championships in 1988, 1992 and 1993 and again in 2002. He also won a Gold Glove trophy in 1985. His playing career stats include 527 RBIs, a batting average of .249 and 1,688 hits. After retiring from playing professionally, Griffin turned to coaching, working as a first-base coach of the Los Angeles Angels (Anaheim) since 2000 up to the present. He also coaches the Winter League team Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Republic.
Born as Manuel Rafael Geronimo Mota, Manny Mota was an all-star player in 1973, a two-time World Series champion, and a Dodgers coach for thirty-two years now, making him the longest-tenured coach in the team’s history. Mota belongs to a long list of Dominican baseball players that made a mark in the MLB. He was born in Santo Domingo on February 18, 1938. Mota’s hitting prowess was discovered when he was nineteen, then a minor league player for the San Francisco Giants. After his rookie season in 1962, he was traded to the Houston Colt .45 in exchange for Joey Amalfitano, an infielder. Mota though, never had an official game with them as he was traded again this time to Pittsburgh Pirates in 1963 for outfielder Howie Goss. His stay with the Pirates lasted until 1968.
In 1969 during the expansion draft of the National League he was selected to join the Montreal Expos before he again got traded, this time to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He became a strong pinch hitter when he finally joined the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was best known for his compact swing that always pushed the ball out of reach for the first baseman. When he moved to the West Coast to play with the Dodgers, he became the best pinch hitter. By 1979, he was considered the all-time best pinch hitter in MLB. He spent his last two seasons with the Dodgers as a player-coach and has been coaching the team since 1980. In all of his twenty seasons, he accumulated a total of 1149 hits, 150 pinch hits, 438 RBIs, a batting average of .304, and a pinch hitting average of .297. In 2003, Mota was inducted in the Hall of Fame by the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum.
He had two sons, Andy and José, who also played in the MLB. From 1980 up to this day he is still very active in the coaching community, serving as the coach of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had guided the team in the World Series in 1988.
During baseball off-seasons, this Dominican baseball player stays in his home country with his wife, Margarita, and they both run the Manny Mota International Foundation – a humanitarian organization that provides valuable assistance and resources for the disadvantaged youth including their families both in the Dominican Republic and in the United States. The foundation has already been of service for over three decades.
César Encarnación Cedeño was a four-time all-star player and five-time recipient of the Gold Glove Award from 1972-1976. He was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on February 25, 1951. As an amateur baseball player from the Dominican Republic, he first started out as a free agent and signed up with the Houston Astros in 1967. He then debuted as a center fielder for the team in 1970, at the age of nineteen. Leo Durocher, manager of the Astros, dubbed Cedeño as “the next Willie Mays”. Though he fell short of the title, Cedeño was still a solid baseball player. During his time in the MLB, he played with the Houston Astros from 1970 until 1981. He transferred to the Cincinnati Reds and stayed for three years, from 1982 to 1985. He had a short stint with St. Louis Cardinals in 1985, which is quite memorable, for in the 28 games that he played he had 6 home runs and a batting average of .434. He transferred to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1986 before he retired in June of that year.
He played in four All-Star Games in 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1976. He was also a finalist for the 1972 MVP title in the National League. During his last year with the Cincinnati Reds, Cedeño, along with fellow active players Buddy Bell, Pete Rose, Dave Concepción and Tony Pérez was one of the team’s active five active players of the team to be members of the 2000-hit club.
His only downside was having an attitude problem and aggressive fielding style, which constantly cost him injuries. There was also an unfortunate incident when his gun accidentally went off while he was in a motel room with his girlfriend, leading to her death. Cedeño retired in 1986. In all of his 17 years as a baseball professional, he accumulated 199 home runs, 976 RBIs, 550 stolen bases, and a batting average of .285 and played 2,006 games. He later became a hitting and fielding coach in the Venezuelan and Dominican Winter Leagues. Until 2009, he was a coach for the Washington Nationals, a Gulf Coast League rookie team.
Baseball is really such as big sport in the Dominican Republic that it is no wonder that the country continues to produce famous baseball players. Another Dominican baseball player who belongs to the roster of baseball greats is César Gerónimo. Born as César Francisco Zorilla Gerónimo, César Gerónimo was a two-time World Series Champion and a four-time recipient of the Gold Glove Award from 1974-1977. Gerónimo was born in El Seibo, Dominican Republic on March 11, 1948. He first started out as a pitcher for the New York Yankees in 1967, but was unsuccessful in it. He then debuted as outfielder for the Houston Astros in 1969. He threw and batted with his left hand.
During his time with the MLB, he played with the Houston Astros for three years from 1969 to 1971. He was part of the Big Red Machine of Cincinnati Reds, the team he signed up with from 1972 to 1980 where he was most successful. It was during this period that he won his four Gold Glove awards. His team was the dominant force in the National League and had been acknowledged as one of the best. The six-year period from 1970 to 1976 saw them win five titles in the National League Western Division, four pennants from National League as well as two titles in the World Series. Overall, the Cincinnati Reds, while César Gerónimo was with the team, had an average of 98 wins a season from their 683 wins and 443 losses.
Gerónimo’s last three seasons as a professional baseball player were spent with the Kansas Royals. Gerónimo retired in 1983. In all of his 15 seasons, he accumulated 977 hits, 51 homeruns, 161 doubles, 50 triples, 82 stolen bases, 460 runs scored, 392 RBIs, and a batting average of .258. He also holds the distinction for being Bob Gibson and Nolan Ryan’s 3,000th strikeout victim. He later worked as a coach for the Dominican-based training camp of the Japanese baseball team, Hiroshima Carp. He was inducted in the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2008. César Gerónimo currently resides in Santo Domingo.
Manuel Julián Javier Liranzo, was a two-time all-star player and two-time World Series Champion. He was born in San Francisco de Macorís on August 9, 1936. Before playing in the MLB, Javier was second baseman for Águilas Cibaeñas. He debuted as second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1960 and stayed with them until 1971. Javier spent his last season with the Cincinnati Reds in 1972. Javier was best known for being a skilled hit-and-run man, baserunner, bunter, and good contact singles hitter who threw and batted with his right hand. He took on even high fastballs and hit them in the middle. His specialty also included hitting left-hand pitches, taking extra bases and pop-ups, avoiding double plays, and handling slow rollers. Along with his Cardinal teammates, first baseman Bill White, third baseman Ken Boyer, and short stop Dick Groat, they formed the first All-Star infield in the National League. In one game during the 1967 World Series, he made a three-run homerun and helped the Cardinals win the championship.
Javier was given the nickname “Hoolie” by his teammates, and also “The Phantom” by Tim McCarver for his skill in avoiding runners taking the second base. This Dominican baseball player retired in 1972. In all of his 13 seasons, he accumulated a total of 1,469 hits, 78 homeruns, 135 stolen bases, 55 triples, 216 doubles, 722 runs, 506 RBIs, and a batting average of .257. He was in the Triple-A Hall of Fame in Columbus, Ohio for his memorable performance with the Columbus Jets. In 1978, he was inducted in the Dominican Republic Hall of Fame.
Stan Javier, also a notable former MLB player, was his son from his first wife, Inés Negrin. After Javier’s MLB career, he founded the Khoury Baseball League in the Dominican Republic, which was later renamed the Roberto Clemente League to pay tribute to the great Pittsburgh Pirates player. The Summer League was the next thing he founded. It was a professional baseball league composed of four teams from La Vega, Puerto Plata, San Francisco de Macorís, and Santiago. The Summer League played from 1975 to 1978. In 1996 he founded one of the current major LIDOM teams – Gigantes del Cibao along with his son, Stan. The home stadium of the team, Estadio Julián Javier, was named after him. He was also declared an all-time second baseman of the Águilas Cibaeñas.
Born as Manuel Arístides Ramirez Onelcida, Manny Ramirez was popular for being a carefree, standout character with great batting prowess. He may have had many questionable issues during his time with the Major League, but he held quite an impressive record. Ramirez is yet another baseball player from the Dominican Republic who had accumulated several awards during his professional career. He was a twelve-time all-star player with eleven consecutive selections from 1998-2008, and a nine-time recipient of the Silver Slugger Award with eight consecutive wins from 1999-2006. He is also a two-time recipient of the American League Hank Aaron Award, two-time World Series Champion, and World Series MVP in 2004.
Ramirez was born in Santo Domingo on May 30, 1972, but grew up in Manhattan, New York. He was not able to graduate when he left high school at age 19. He was already a star baseball player while in high school. He had been selected thrice in the All-City selection and was New York City’s Public School Player of the Year during his senior high school year in 1991. In 22 games, he had 14 home runs and had a .650 batting average. In 1999 Ramirez was inducted into Public School Athletic Hall of Fame of New York City.
He debuted as an outfielder for the Cleveland Indians in 1993, and played with them until 2000. After leaving the Cleveland Indians, he joined the Boston Red Sox in 2001 with an 8-year contract that was worth $160 million. It was a huge contract but he did deliver, hitting an average of .408. In his final season of playing for the Red Sox, he had 41 home runs, 125 RBIs and a .306 batting average.
He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008, was traded next to the Chicago White Sox in 2010 and finally joined the Tampa Bay Rays in his last season. Ramirez officially retired in 2011, after being incriminated for using performance-enhancing drugs. He chose to retire instead of going through a 100-game suspension. In all of his 19 seasons, he accumulated a total of 555 homeruns, 28 of which were post-season and the most number reached by a player in Major League history. His stats include 2,574 hits, 1,831 RBIs, and a .312 batting average. Temperamental Dominican Republic baseball player Manny Ramirez was often described as having a prima donna attitude dubbed as “Manny Moments” – incidences when he lacked concentration and enthusiasm in the game. Despite that, many fans have faith that he would be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in the future.
Pedro Jaime Martinez was an eight-time all-star player with five consecutive selections from 1996-2000, 2004 World Series Champion, 1999 MLB All-Star MVP, recipient of the 1999 American League Pitching Triple Crown, and three-time recipient of the Cy Young Award. He is best known as probably the best power pitcher in MLB history, a testament to the skills of many of the baseball players from the Dominican Republic.
Martinez was born on October 25, 1971 in Manoguayabo, Dominican Republic. He made his debut at the age of 20, playing as a right-handed pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1992. Due to his small stature of 5 feet11 inches (considered small for even a starting pitcher in MLB standards), he was forced to play as relief pitcher until he joined the Montreal Expos in 1994 and started to become a force to be reckoned with in the field. But it was in his time with the Boston Red Sox from 1998 to 2004 that people began taking him seriously. It was a time when he kept raking in awards and recognition. He was the eighth pitcher to have acquired two 300-strikeout seasons, and the only modern-day MLB pitcher under 6 feet tall to have reached 300 strikeouts in one season. In April, May, June, and September 1999, he was AL Pitcher of the Month. He also won his World Series Championship and three Cy Young Awards among others.
Martinez specialized in pitching circle changeups, curveballs, cutters, and fastballs. His fastballs were in the 95-97 mph range during the early days of his career. His signature technique was throwing from a low three-quarter position. The advantage of this technique was that batters had difficulty seeing the ball and anticipating the type of pitch, giving them little time to prepare for the onslaught.
Bill James, a baseball historian, described Martinez to be more effective than his pitching peers because he used variety and many modes of deception in pitches combined with exceptional control, power, speed, and skill. He incurred many physical injuries that slowed him down a bit during the latter part of his career, prompting him to rely on displaying finesse instead of power. He was responsible for leading the American League in ERAs from 1999 to 2003. As of 2007, he was ranked the 15th pitcher to have reached 3,000 strikeouts, and the first Latin American MLB player to reach the 3,000 strikeouts.
Martinez retired officially in 2011. In all of his 18 seasons, he accumulated 219 wins, 3,154 strikeouts, and an ERA of 2.93. His ERA is still the highest recorded of any starting pitcher in the MLB. He has one of the highest winning percentages as a pitcher, ranking second to Whitey Ford. Joe Posnanski from Sports Illustrated wrote that there has never been an overwhelming pitcher in MLB history than Pedro Martinez.
Pedro Martinez also played for the New York Mets from 2005 up to 2008 and spent his last season as a professional baseball player with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009.
Ramón Jaime Martinez, a former MLB player, is Pedro’s older brother.
While the baseball community already acknowledges the legendary status of baseball players from the Dominican Republic, Sammy Sosa upped the bar another notch. Samuel Peralta Sosa, or Sammy Sosa as he was popularly known, was a seven-time all-star player, six-time recipient of the Silver Slugger Award with five consecutive wins in 1998-2002, National League MVP in 1998, 2000 Home Run Derby winner, and recipient of the 1999 National League Hank Aaron Award and 1998 Roberto Clemente Award.
Sosa’s life is a real rags-to-riches story. He was born in San Pedro de Macorís on November 12, 1968. He came from a poor family of seven children. He shined shoes for a living at a very young age, and took up boxing. At age 14, he gave up boxing and got into baseball instead, to please his mother. Sosa got his ticket to professional baseball when a talent scout discovered his potential at the young age of 16. This paved the way for his name to be added to the list of famous baseball players from the Dominican Republic. He then debuted as right fielder for the Texas Rangers in 1989. He spent the 1989-1991 seasons with the Chicago White Sox. After years of playing with the Chicago Cubs spanning the years 1992 up to 2004, Sosa finally started to gain recognition as a power player in 1998. It was a season in which he gave one of his best performances and won his National League MVP award. He also had short stints with Baltimore Orioles in 2005 and with the Texas Rangers in 2007.
In his 1990 season with the Texas Rangers, Sosa had a batting average of .233, 70 RBIs, 32 stolen bases, 10 triples and 15 home runs. He had a career slump towards the end of the 1991 season and was traded to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for George Bell, an outfielder.
Sosa’s star shone the brightest during his time with the Chicago Cubs. His hitting improved and he recorded 8 home runs, 25 RBIs and a .260 batting average in his first season. In 1992 he made 33 home runs, had 93 RBIs and improved his batting average to .261. His speed allowed him to steal 36 bases during that season. At the end of the 1994 season, Sosa had made 25 home runs, 70 RBIs, stole 22 bases and batted .300. He also gave good performances in 1995 and 1996, but struggled in 1997.
In 1998 he was hailed as one of the greatest players in baseball. This was the time that the rivalry between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for the most number of home runs started. They were trying to beat the record set by Roger Maris who had 61 home runs in a single season. McGwire ended the season with 70 while Sammy had 66, still a record for the Chicago Cubs and also a record, as Sammy was the first batter in the MLB to have a season with 66 runs. It was also during this year that Sammy Sosa had a total of 416 bases for a single season, behind the 1948 record of 429 that Stan Musial had set. He also won the National League MVP Award that year, as well as the 1998 Sportsman of the Year award, which he shared with McGwire. New York City gave him a ticker-tape parade and he was invited as a guest in the State of the Nation address of President Clinton in 1999.
The rivalry between Sosa and McGwire continued in the 1999 season, with Sosa hitting 63 home runs while McGwire had 65. Sosa became a league leader with 50 home runs in 2000 and received the Babe Ruth Home Run Award. In 2001 he had 64 home runs but he did not become the leader because Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs, which broke the 1998 record of McGwire. However, his personal stats for that season was still very impressive, recording 146 runs, 160 RBIs, 116 walks, slugging percentage of .737, on base percentage of .437 and .328 batting average. His impressive record performances had qualified him to win the Silver Slugger award in 1995 and again from 1998 up to 2002.
In 2003, he was suspended on a number of games after it was discovered that he was using a corked bat, which was illegal in the league. Unfortunately at some point in his career, he also tested positive for illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs. Sosa officially announced his retirement in 2009. In all of his 18 seasons, he accumulated a total of 2,408 hits, 609 homeruns, 1,667 RBIs, and a batting average of .273.
Sosa was known as “Mikey” to family and close friends. The nickname was said to have come from his maternal grandmother, who also gave him his birth name. His grandmother got the idea for his nickname from a character in a soap opera that she watched. What most people probably don’t know is that he was really born in a small town named Consuelo in the province of San Pedro de Macorís, but his birth was officially registered in the town of San Pedro de Macorís, which just happened to be the largest neighboring town. Sosa gained media attention in 2009 for his obvious lightened skin, which he credited to the effects of the skin cream he was using. He has denied all allegations of illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs and maintains to this day that he has always been clean. He is currently looking forward to his eligibility to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Included in the roster of famous baseball players from the Dominican Republic is Tony Fernandez. Born as Octavio Antonio Fernández Castro, Tony Fernández was a five-time all-star player, four-time recipient of the Gold Glove Award from 1986-1989, 1993 World Series Champion, and member of the Toronto Blue Jays Level of Excellence. He was born in San Pedro de Macorís on June 30, 1962. Epy Guerrero, a Latin American scout for the Toronto Blue Jays, first discovered Fernández and signed him on as an undrafted agent. He officially joined the Blue Jays in 1983, debuting as the team’s shortstop. In 1985, he became a full-time shortstop and in the same year, was instrumental in helping the team win their first division title.
Before the 1991 season started, Tony Fernandez together with teammate Fred McGriff was traded to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar. He played the two seasons he was with the Padres quite well and then signed on with the New York Mets in 1993 to begin the season. He failed to impress and was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays once again. He became a valuable player for the team and helped the Blue Jays win the World Series in 1993, and even achieving a shortstop record of 9 runs.
He was instrumental in having the Cleveland Indians reach the World Series in 1997. His stint with the Indians was only for one season and he went back to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998. His hitting and batting performances improved and his average for the two seasons with the Blue Jays this time is over .300. He signed up to play for Japanese team, Seibu Lions in 2000 before returning to major league and spending short stints with the Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays in 2001 before finally making the decision to retire.
Fernández was best known for his excellent defensive skills as a shortstop. His signature move was simultaneously jumping into the air while making an underhand throw to the first base. He retired in 2001. In all of his 18 seasons, he accumulated a total of 2,276 hits, 844 RBIs, and a batting average of .288.
Fernández was a thin man with a tilted and unstable-looking batting stance that usually looked like he wouldn’t be able to make a strong hit. He also had a scar on his right cheek – a souvenir from a pitched ball. He was also known to be a fitness fanatic, prone to buying various exercise tools and apparatus and trying them out.
Tony Peña is another famous baseball player the Dominican Republic continues to produce. Born as Antonio Francisco Peña Padilla, Tony Peña was a five-time all-star player, four-time recipient of the Gold Glove Award, 2009 World Series Champion, and 2003 AL Manager of the Year. He was born in Monte Cristi on June 4, 1957. Peña started as an amateur free agent for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1975. He mostly played as a right-handed outfielder in the minor leagues until he moved on to play as catcher in 1977. He made his official debut for the Pirates in 1980. He finally became a full-time catcher for the team in 1982. Peña was best known for his excellent defensive skills as a catcher and his signature squat behind the plate – he squatted on his right leg while his left leg was straightened out. This stance, he said was to make his pitchers maintain low pitches in the strike zone.
While with the Pirates in 1981, Peña played 66 games and hit a .300 batting average. When he became the team’s full-time catcher in 1982, his batting average improved to .340, which allowed him to be named as a reserve in the 1982 All-Star Game of the National League. Somehow Peña’s overall batting average in 1982 only reached .296.
He made a complete turn-around in 1983 and his batting average reached .301, a career-high for Peña, and added 15 home runs to his stats for the year. His 976 putouts in the National League and a second place record of .992 fielding percentage next to Gary Carter earned him a Gold Glove Award, the first in his career.
While the Pirates suffered a period of decline after a very productive 1983 season, Peña was a consistent player and improved his defensive play. He was the leader among catchers in the National League in terms of baserunners caught stealing, in putouts as well as in assists in 1984 and 1985, thereby adding two Gold Glove Awards and additional two All-Star selections to his career statistics. Peña lined up along with Gary Carter, Jim Sundberg and Johnny Bench who had more than 100 assists within a season after WWII ended and he was voted as the best throwing catcher in the major leagues in a canvass of major league managers in 1986. Late that year he was part of the major league All-Star selection that won over the Japanese All-Stars and became the American team’s MVP. The Pirates later traded him to St. Louis Cardinals in 1987.
While his career with the Cardinals did not start smoothly due to injury, he was part of the team when they won the National League Eastern Division in 1987. From then on he went to improve his personal stats and was again selected for the fifth time to join the All-Star selection in 1989 and recording a .997 fielding average to lead the catchers in the league.
Peña became a free agent late in 1989 and he was able to play for the Boston Red Sox and again became a leader of the catchers in American League and with another Gold Glove award to his name, he became the second catcher to win the award in the National and American Leagues, next to Bob Boone. While with the Red Sox, his team won the American League Eastern Division pennant, although they lost eventually to Oakland Athletics when they played in the American League Championship Series in 1990.
He signed on as a free agent for the Cleveland Indians in 1993, contributing his strong defensive skills to the team and was part of the team when they played in the 1995 World Series before moving to join the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros in 1997, again as a free agent. The Houston Astros was the last team he played for before he retired in 1997. In all of his 18 seasons, he accumulated a total of 107 homeruns, 708 RBIs, and a batting average of .260.
Peña served as manager of the New Orleans Zephyrs in 1999. He also had a hand in helping Águilas Cibaeñas win national championships in 1998 and 2000, plus a Caribbean World Series title in 2001. He became manager of the Kansas City Royals from 2002-2005, and in 2003, won an American League Manager of the Year title. He moved on as first base coach to the New York Yankees in 2008 and then became a bench coach in 2009, where he still is today. He was inducted into the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons Hall of Fame in 2011.
Peña is married and has three children. Continuing the tradition of Dominican baseball players enjoying a stellar career in Major League Baseball,his son, Tony Peña, Jr. is currently a Major League pitcher.
From the new crop of baseball players from the Dominican Republic, Albert Pujols is quite busy stamping his mark and creating history in Major League Baseball. Born as José Alberto Pujols Alcántara, Albert Pujols is recently getting the buzz as one of the top professional baseball players out there, and currently the most-feared right-handed hitter. His impressive record includes the following:
• Nine-time all-star player with eight consecutive selections from 2003-2010
• Two-time World Series Champion
• Three-time NL MVP
• Six-time recipient of the Silver Slugger Awards for three different positions—outfield, first base, and third base
• Two-time recipient of the NL Hank Aaron Award
• Two-time recipient of the Gold Glove Award
• Six-time NL Player of the Month
• Eleven-time NL Player of the Week
• Two-time recipient of the Sporting News Player of the Year Awards
• NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2001
• NL Batting Champion in 2003
• NLCS MVP in 2004
• Recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award in 2008
• NL Homerun Champion in 2009-2010
• NL RBI Champion in 2010
Pujols was born on the 16th of January 1980 and raised by his grandmother in Santo Domingo. In 1996, he and his family migrated to the United States and first lived in New York. When he was a teenager, Albert witnessed a shooting, and this prompted the family to move to Independence, Missouri.
Even while still in school, Pujols had been making history. In his first season in high school at Fort Osage, his batting was over .500, which earned him all-state honors twice. In 1999, during his first game in college, he made an unassisted triple play and had a grand slam. For the year, Pujols’ batting was .461.
He was drafted by the Saint Louis Cardinals in the 1999 draft, with a signing bonus of $60,000. He quickly rose through the ranks as he played for the Cardinals’ lower clubs. He instantly caught the eye of Mark McGwire during training for his impressive playing skills and apparently told Tony La Russa, team manager to include Pujols in the starting roster in 2001. His road to Major League stardom started when he debuted as third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001. He is still playing with them today. In his rookie year, Pujols played as the third baseman before he was later made to play as a left fielder. During an injury scare in 2003 he was assigned as first baseman. He also played as a right fielder in his rookie year. In that season alone Pujols won the Rookie of the Month in the National League and was included in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game roster. His contribution to the team gave them the Central Division title in the National League and Pujols was named the Rookie of the Year. He made 37 home runs, one run short of the record for a rookie in the National League. He did set a National League rookie record for his 130 RBIs.
While playing first base in 2003 he won the batting title in the National League with an impressive record of batting .359 and making 124 RBIs and 43 home runs.
To date, this remarkable baseball player from the Dominican Republic has accumulated 445 homeruns, 2,073 hits, 455 doubles, 1,329 RBIs, and a batting average of .328. Hailed as one of the most consistent Major League baseball players since 2001, he has an annual average of 39 homeruns and 122 RBIs, and is always included in the top three hitters every year. Many are excitedly anticipating the next best thing in Pujols’ career. His great skill and impressive record is enough to garner him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in the future.