The Liga Venezolana is the premier professional baseball league in Venezuela. Eight teams are currently in Liga Venezolana: Leones del Caracas from Caracas, Águilas del Zulia from Maracaibo, Bravos de Margarita from Porlamar, Cardenales de Lara from Barquisimeto, Caribes de Anzoátegui from Puerto La Cruz, Navegantes del Magallanes from Valencia, Tiburones de la Guaira from La Guaira, and Tigres de Aragua from Maracay. The current league champion is Tigres de Aragua. The team with the most number of league championship wins is Leones del Caracas, with a record of 20 titles. The strongest teams in the league are Caracas, Magallanes, and Aragua.
Most historians accept that Venezuelan students that came home after they finished their college education in the United States in the 1890s baseball introduced baseball in the country. They taught the sport to family, friends and by May 1895, Franklin brothers Augusto, Gustavo, Emilio and Amenodoro established the Caracas BBC (Caracas Baseball Club), the 1st Venezuelan organized baseball club. All the players were former students in the US, and were considered the pioneers of Venezuelan baseball.
The club claimed an open land and named it “Caracas Baseball Club Exercise Field.”
The 1st official Venezuelan baseball game in was organized by Caracas BBC in an effort to further the influence and awareness of béisbol. Using the catch phrase “a new kind of chess game” the club took out an ad in El Tiempo, announcing the “Base Bale.” This intrigued the readers and they witnessed the emergence of the Blue and the Red teams of Caracas BBC during the game. It became the talk of the town and people started to anticipate the next game.
On August 15, 1895, El Cojo Ilustrado magazine published the 1st baseball pictures taken in the country, which were submitted by Mariano Becerra, one of the pioneer players in Caracas BBC. The father of another pioneer player, Alfredo Mosquera, who was the owner of Caracas Brewery Company, constructed the country’s 1st official baseball stadium in the suburbs of Caracas. The stadium was called “Stand del Este” and was complete with stands and official American standard measurements.
The rich Caracan boys or “patiquines,” began to take earnest interest in the sport as they had the means to travel to the US and buy the proper baseball equipment and new teams such as Independencia, Magallanes, San Bernardino, Los Samanes and Vargas were formed, paving the way for the game to spread to other cities in Venezuela.
Alex Carrasquel became the 1st Venezuelan to play in the US Major League Baseball in 1939. He was followed by Chuchu Ramos in 1944.
The whole country finally caught up with the baseball craze in 1941, shortly after Venezuela participated in the 4th Amateur Baseball World Series held in Havana, Cuba. The best amateur players from all over the country were chosen by the Venezuelan Baseball Federation. The Venezuelan team won the championship against the host team, Cuba. For the 1st time, Venezuelan players were recognized in the international baseball scene, and they were called the “Heroes of ‘41.”
Liga Venezolana was formally established on December 27, 1945 by baseball team owners, Cerveceria Caracas, Venezuela BBC, Navegantes del Magallanes and Sabios del Vargas and registered as an institution at the start of the year in 1946. League tournaments were organized soon after. The league champion as of the 2011-2012 season is Tigres de Aragua. The team was founded on October 15, 1965, in Maracay, Aragua. Aragua currently has nine league championship titles and one Caribbean World Series title. They won their 1st championship title in 1972. Other championship wins followed in 1975, 1976, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2012.
Venezuela has produced several notable professional baseball players and some 270 players since Luis Aparicio have already played or are currently playing in the MLB.
Alex Carrasquel was born as Alejandro Eloy Carrasquel Aparicio on July 24, 1912 in Caracas, Venezuela. He was the 1st of the many Venezuelans who played and are currently playing in Major League Baseball in the United States. His MLB career stared on April 23, 1939 when he joined the Washington Senators as a pitcher in the American League. He was called Patón or Bigfoot in Venezuela in reference to his size-14 feet.
Alex Carrasquel was known for his fastball that is complemented by a curve and knuckleball. His debut was quite momentous. He was a reliever against the New York Yankees and went on to retire the opponent by striking out Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Bill Dickey.
The 2nd World War greatly affected the MLB. The end of the war brought the rise of the Mexican League, owned by Jorge Pasquel, a millionaire. Carrasquel’s contract was bought by Chicago White Sox in 1946 but rather than play for the White Sox, Carrasquel opted to flee and play in Mexico on a three-year contract. Danny Gardella, Sal Maglie, Mickey Owen and Max Lanier are other MLB players who decided to play in Mexico.
Carrasquel returned to the White Sox in 1949 and made three appearances. He was later swapped for Cuban Witto Aloma of the Detroit Tigers, specifically as an interpreter for Chico Carrasquel, a shortstop and nephew of Alex.
Alex Carrasquel played for the MLB for eight seasons, garnering a record of 50-39 with a 3.73 ERA, 861 innings pitched in 258 games, 30 complete games, 16 saves, four shutouts and 252 strikeouts.
Former MLB outfielder Víctor José Davalillo Romero was born in Cabimas, Zulia, Venezuela on July 31, 1936. His MLB career had him playing for the Cleveland Indians from 1963 to 1968, California Angels from 1968 to 1969 and the St. Louis Cardinals from 1969 to 1970. He also played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1971 to 1973 seasons, with the Oakland Athletics from 1973 to 1974 and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1977 up to 1980. He was a left-handed batter and ball thrower. Pompeyo Davalillo was his older brother.
Davalillo started as an amateur free agent when he signed up in 1958 with the Cincinnati Reds and was sold to the Cleveland Indians in 1961and played in the Triple-A club, Jacksonville Suns in the Minor League. With the Indians, he created history in 1962 with a batting average of .346.
He started his Major League Baseball career in 1963 with the Cleveland Indians as a center fielder and leadoff hitter. He became known for his defensive ability and quick baserunning when he started his career and was later valued as a pinch hitter and utility player.
Davalillo was already hitting a batting average of .304 in June of 1963and was already being considered for the Rookie of the Year Award in the American League when his wrist was broken by a Hank Aguirre pitch. He was included in the Topps All-Star Rookie Team in 1963 and was the league’s 2nd-placer among center fielders in fielding percentage and by 1964 Davalillo was the recipient of the Gold Glove Award of the American League. He was again leading in batting average at the start of the 1965 season and ended it with a .301 batting average but his statistics dipped starting 1965 up to 1967.
He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1969 and hit a three-run home run in his 1st game in the National League at bat. He was also used as a relief pitcher and pinch hitter. He got traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1971 and used as a utility player as 1st baseman and playing all of the three positions outfield. While with the club he helped the Pirates win the National Eastern Division and the National League Championship Series as well as the World Series in 1971.
The Pirates sold Davalillo to the Oakland Athletics in 1973. He proved valuable and helped the team secure the American League West Division pennant and the World Series against the New York Mets in 1973. He has 17 games with Athletics before he was released on May 30, 1974.
He played in the Mexican League for three seasons and was called by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977 where he became instrumental in securing the pennant for the National League West Division. He was again instrumental in securing the National League pennant in 1978 though his team again lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series. His MLB career ended with the Dodgers at the close of the 1980 season. He was already 43 at that time, making him the oldest player in the National League. He still went on to play for the Mexican League for a time after his MLB career.
Davalillo’s MLB career spanned 16 years where he played 1,455 games. In 4,017 at bats he had 1,122 hits that gave him a batting average of .279. He has 329 runs batted in, 36 home runs, 125 stolen bases, 37 triples, 160 doubles, 509 runs and a .315 on base percentage and .984 fielding average for his career.
Davalillo also played in the Venezuelan Winter League. He was with the Leones del Caracas from 1957 up to 1974 and again in 1987. He was with Portuguesa in 1975 and joined Tigres de Aragua from 1976 until 1985. His lifetime league records (30 seasons) in his home country still stands. His batting average is .325 and has 1,505 hits for 1,280 games. His at bats record is 4,633, 668 runs, 196 doubles and 483 runs batted in. He’s set a record for having 100 hits in a season and acquired four batting titles. He finally retired at age 50.
He was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame of Venezuela in 2003 and was honored by naming the Venezuelan Winter League’s Most Valuable Player Award after him as well as the Cabimas ballpark that was renamed Estadio Victor Davalillo.
Baudilio José Díaz Seijas was a former MLB catcher who played for the Boston Red Sox, the Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds in a career that spanned 13 years. He was the 1st player from Venezuela to be a regular catcher in the MLB. He was born on March 23, 1953 in Cua, Miranda in Venezuela. At age 17 he was an amateur free agent and was signed by the Boston Red Sox, where he was in the minor league for seven seasons.
In the 1st quarter of 1978 he was traded to the Cleveland Indians where he played as a backup catcher but was later relegated to the minor leagues and played in the Pacific Coast League with the Tacoma Tugs. He was recalled in 1979 and proved to be a valuable player while playing as a backup catcher, with his solid defense and almost error-free in total chances. Ron Hassey’s injury in 1981 provided Bo Díaz with the opportunity to show his worth. Mid-year of 1981 he was already hitting for a .356 batting average, had four home runs and 25 runs batted in. Eventually his performance was rewarded with a reserve player status for the All-Star game in AL in 1981 and ending the season with 63 games and a .313 batting average.
He was the starting catcher of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1982 season after he was traded in 1981and aimed high to improve his stats and he became 2nd to Gary Carter in the offensive and defensive statistics computer ranking. He achieved a major feat in 1983 when his team was playing against the New York Mets. In the 9th inning his team was trailing by 9 to 6, with two outs. He then hit a grand slam home run that won the game with a 10 to 9 score. He was only the 11th player to achieve that feat. Diaz was instrumental for the Phillies winning the National League Eastern Division title in 1983.
Knee surgeries in 1984 and a broken right wrist in 1985 caused him to be in the disabled list and he was eventually replaced by Ozzie Virgil and later was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. He earned another All-Star selection with his .292 average during mid-season with the Reds in 1987 and was even named as Player of the Month for July of that year. Díaz had a very heavy workload with the Reds as Pete Rose, the Reds’ manager used him almost daily during the season in 1988. It eventually resulted in a shoulder injury that required surgery, which again got Díaz in the disabled list. The surgery on his left knee in 1989 ended his season and he later decided to retire that year.
His MLB career stats include a total of 993 games played wherein he had 834 hits in 3,274 at bats. His career batting average was .255 with 452 runs batted in, a .297 on base percentage and 87 home runs and a fielding percentage of .986 as well as two All-Star selection. In Venezuela he played for the Leones de Caracas during the Winter League from 1972 until 1990, forming a formidable offensive force with Tony Armas.
Chico Carrasquel was a four-time All-Star player (1951, 1953-1955) who set many impressive records in MLB history, one of which is having been the 1st Latin American chosen to play in an All-Star game. He was considered the 1st great Venezuelan shortstop in MLB.
Chico was born Alfonso Carrasquel Colón on January 23, 1928 in Caracas, Venezuela. He began his professional baseball career at the age of 17, playing for the Cervecería Caracas team and immediately gained attention by hitting the 1st ever home run in the history of Liga Venezolana. He was not fluent in English when he signed up with the Brooklyn Dodgers and he was sold to the Chicago White Sox, where his uncle Alex was playing. His uncle was later traded for Witto Aloma who then acted as Chico’s interpreter to solve the language barrier.
Carrasquel debuted as shortstop for the Chicago White Sox on April 18, 1950, selected for his 1st All-Star game in 1951 and made MLB history by being the 1st Latin American to be given the privilege. He made another record that same year by handling 297 chances without committing a single error in a total of 53 games and ended 1951 by leading the AL shortstops in assists and field percentage. He rested in 1952 and came back in 1953 still on top of his game, leading to another All-Star game selection and still managing to hold the top spot in shortstop by field percentage. His most productive season with the White Sox was in 1954, when he emerged as the team’s leadoff hitter, a 3rd All-Star game selection and led the AL shortstops in games played, plate appearances, double plays and field percentage.
Before his trade off to the Cleveland Indians in 1955, he helped another aspiring Venezuelan baseball player, Luis Aparicio, to be signed in by the White Sox.
In 1956, Carrasquel scored a career high of 7 runs batted in during another game against the Kansas CityAthletics, the team he was traded to in 1958, before he was released and traded to the Baltimore Orioles. On May 10, 1959, he lost 50% of his vision when he was hit above his left eye by a thrown ball during play and got released. He finally retired from playing in 1967, at the age of 41. His MLB career statistics include a .258 batting average, 4,644 at bats, 1,199 hits, 568 runs scored, 474 RBIs, 55 home runs in a total of 1,325 games played. He finished with an on-base percentage of .333, and a 1.052 walk-to-strikeout ratio. His last MLB appearance was with the Baltimore Orioles on September 23, 1959.
Carrasquel later managed Leones del Caracas, and contributed to their 1982 Caribbean World Series title win. He was also a scout for the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals. From 1990 to 1996, he worked as a commentator for the Spanish language broadcasts of the White Sox, and as the Community Relations Representative of the team until 2002. In 1991, Liga Venezolana honored him by renaming the baseball stadium of “Puerto la Cruz” to “Estadio Alfonso Chico Carrasquel.” He was chosen for the inaugural class of the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.
Luis Aparicio was a baseball World Series champion in 1966, a ten-time All-Star player (1958-1964,1970-1972), nine-time Gold Glove Award recipient (1958-1962, 1964, 1966, 1986, 1970), and 1956 AL Rookie of the Year. He led the American League in stolen bases for nine consecutive seasons (1956-1964). He also led the AL shortstops in assists (7 times), field percentage (8 times), putouts and range factor (4 times). In 1984, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and into the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003. He was also inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame.
Luis Ernesto Aparicio Montiel was born in Maracaibo, in the Zulia State of Venezuela, on April 29, 1934. His father, Luis Sr., was a skilled shortstop who owned a Winter League team in Venezuela with his brother, Ernesto Aparicio. In 1953, at the age of 19, the young Aparicio joined the Venezuelan team in the Amateur World Series in Caracas. Shortly after that, he signed up for the local professional baseball team in Maracaibo, and played alongside his father. During the team’s home opener, Luis Sr. led as the 1st hitter of the game. After he took his 1st pitch, his son, Luis Jr., took over.
The Cleveland Indians had a change of mind when they were to sign up Aparicio because of his small build, deeming it unsuitable for playing in the majors. It was an opportune moment as fellow Venezuelan and shortstop of the Chicago White Sox team, Chico Carrasquel recommended Aparicio to Frank Lane, General Manager of White Sox. It eventually led to him replacing Carrasquel and he debuted as shortstop for the Chicago White Sox on April 17, 1956. He was given the nickname “Little Louie” in reference to his slight frame.
Aparicio went on to lead the American League in assists, putouts, and stolen bases, and was also awarded Rookie of the Year, a 1st for a Latin American and The Sporting News Rookie of the Year. In the mid-1950s, he became a member of the “Go-Go Sox” team, known for their formidable defense skills and quick speed. In 1957, he led the AL in assists and stolen bases. Aparicio was already one of the best shortstops in MLB when he was selected as a starting shortstop for his 1st All-Star game in 1958. That same year, he won his 1st Gold Glove award and led the AL once again in assists, putouts and stolen bases.
Rather than receive a reduced salary from the White Sox in 1963 he asked to be traded and went to the Baltimore Orioles where he continued to lead the AL in stolen bases in 1963 and 1964. He also formed a formidable infield defense with Jerry Adair and Brooks Robinson. In 1966, he helped the Orioles win the World Series and he won his 7th Gold Glove award. In 1968 and 1969, he led the AL in range factor. He had his best offensive season in 1970, and hit a grand slam home run in a game against the Cleveland Indians in 1972.
Aparicio announced his retirement in July of 1973 at the age of 39, ending his playing career as an AL shortstop leader in assists, double plays, putouts, total chances, and number of games played.
In 1984, the Chicago White Sox had his #11 jersey retired and he got inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame; becoming the 1st Venezuelan to be given the honor. He was nominated for the MLB All-Century Team in 1999 and was inducted into the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.
Throughout his career in MLB, Aparicio played with the Chicago White Sox (twice), Baltimore Orioles, and Boston Red Sox. His MLB career statistics include a .262 batting average, 10, 230 at bats, 2,677 hits, 1,335 runs, 791 RBIs, 506 stolen bases, 394 doubles and 83 home runs in a total of 2,599 games. He played as shortstop for 2,100 games out of his total games played. He finished with a .972 field percentage. His last MLB appearance was with the Boston Red Sox on September 28, 1973.
The “Luis Aparicio Award” is named in his honor and is given yearly since 2004 to the Venezuelan MLB player with the best individual performance as voted by Venezuelan sports journalists. In 2005 he was again asked to throw the 1st pitch at the 1st game of the World Series. In 2006, two bronze statues representing Aparicio and fellow teammate and Hall of Famer Nellie Fox, were unveiled at the US Cellular Field. Honors for Luis Aparicio and son can be seen throughout Venezuela. Streets, landmarks and avenues were named after them. The Estadio Luis Aparacio El Grande in Maracaibo is named after the elder Luis Aparicio while the sports complex Polideportivo Luis Aparicio Montiel honors the younger Luis Aparicio.
Dave Concepción was a two-time World Series champion (1975, 1976), nine-time All-Star player (1973, 1975-1982), five-time Gold Glove Award recipient (1974-1977, 1979), two-time Silver Slugger Award recipient (1981, 1982), and 1982 MLB All-Star MVP.
David Ismael Concepción Benitez was born on June 17, 1948, in Ocumare de la Costa, in the Aragua State of Venezuela. In 1967, he was signed in as an amateur free agent for the Cincinnati Reds. Though drafted as a pitcher, Concepción followed in the footsteps of his Venezuelan baseball idols, Aparicio and Carrasquel, and debuted as shortstop for the Reds on April 6, 1970. Under the command of Sparky Anderson, the manager of the Reds, Concepción played part-time during his 1st three seasons, and shared duties with teammates Darrel Chaney and Woody Woodward.
Finally, Concepción gained recognition at batting and in the field in 1973, and was designated as the starting shortstop. Unfortunately, just two days before his 1st All-Star game, he broke his ankle during a game and had to stop playing for the 2nd half of the year. He made a comeback the following year, which turned out to be his best, played a total of 160 games, and earned his 1st Gold Glove Award. In 1975, he was included in the “Great Eight” lineup of “The Big Red Machine” – the Cincinnati Reds’ powerhouse pool of their best Major League players. He helped the Reds win two World Series titles. When he wasn’t busy in the Major League, Concepción played in the Venezuelan Winter League to further improve his batting skills.
He earned a National League win and a Most Valuable Player award for his two-run homer during the All-Star game at the Olympic Stadium at Montreal on July 13, 1982. Later in his career he trained with Cuban MLB great and Hall of Famer Tony Pérez, to get the “one-bounce throw to 1st base” technique. Concepción became the 1st shortstop to utilize and perfect this technique, which he used to his advantage in games. As he became handy in all the four infield positions, Barry Larkin was being groomed as his successor. Concepción was replaced by Larkin in 1986, and he finally retired from playing in 1988.
The Cincinnati Reds had his #13 jersey retired on August 25, 2007. He has been included in Donald Honig’s list in his 1992 book, “The Greatest Shortstops of All Time.” He has been described as the best shortstop in Major League during the 1970s, who eventually evolved as a skilled hitter and possessed versatility in the field.
Throughout his career in MLB, the right-handed Concepción played with only one team: Cincinnati Reds. His MLB career statistics include a .267 batting average, 2,326 hits, 950 RBIs, and 101 home runs. His last MLB appearance with the Reds was on September15, 1988.
Manny Trillo was a two-time World Series champion (1974, 1980), four-time All-Star player (1977, 1981-1983), three-time Gold Glove Award recipient (1979, 1981, 1982), two-time Silver Slugger Award recipient (1980, 1981), and 1980 National League Championship Series MVP. He led the AL in assists (4 times), putouts (twice), and range factor (three times). He was inducted in the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
Trillo was born Jesús Manuel Marcano Trillo on December 25, 1950, in Caripito, Venezuela. Originally, he signed up as catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1968. Dallas Green, his minor league manager, had him play 3rd baseman instead. The following year, he was drafted by the Oakland Athletics. He debuted as 2nd baseman for the Athletics on June 28, 1973 and later helped the team win six games over their rival, the Kansas City Royals, for the AL Western Division pennant, and also helped in winning the 1973 American League Championship Series title.
In April 1974, Trillo was sent back to the minor league to play with the Tucson Toros. He came back to the major league in September of that year, but didn’t make much of an appearance when the team won the World Series. The following month, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. While with the Cubs, he gained recognition as one of the top 2nd basemen in the field during his era, and for having a strong throwing arm. He was selected for his 1st ever All-Star game in 1977 and partnered with Iván De Jesús, the shortstop of the Cubs to form a formidable double play combination.
In 1979, Trillo was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and won his 1st Gold Glove Award that same year. He was instrumental in the Phillies’s 1st ever World Series title in 1980. His solid performance also earned him a Silver Slugger Award and the League Championship Series MVP Award. In 1982 he won another Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award, and was selected as starting 2nd baseman for the 1982 All-Star game. As 2nd baseman, he set what was then a record of 479 for consecutive errorless chances. That same year, Trillo was traded to the Cleveland Indians. In 1983, he was selected as 2nd baseman for his last All-Star game, and earned his last Gold Glove Award. He spent his last few seasons as utility player and finally ended his playing career in 1989.
Throughout his career in MLB, Trillo played with Chicago Cubs (twice), Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Montreal Expos, Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies, and San Francisco Giants. His MLB career statistics include a .263 batting average, 5,950 at bats, 1,562 hits, 571 RBIs, and 61 home runs in a total of 1,780 games. He finished with a .981 field percentage. His last MLB appearance was with the Cincinnati Reds on May 20, 1989.
Tony Armas, a former MLB player is a two-time All-Star player (1981, 1984), Silver Slugger Award recipient (1984), two-time AL home run champion (1981, 1984), AL RBI champion (1984), and The Sporting News AL Player of the Year in 1981.
Antonio Rafael Armas Machado was born on July 2, 1953, in Puerto Piritu, Venezuela. His professional baseball career started when he debuted with the Gulf Coast League under the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1971, shortly before his eighteenth birthday. He was on his 6th season in the farm system when he was called into the major league. He debuted as outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 6, 1976.
During spring training in 1977, Armas and some Pirates teammates were traded to the Oakland Athletics. At the start of the season, he was the opening day right fielder for the Athletics, but by the end of the season, he was playing in the center. In 1978 and 1979, he only had a total of 91 games due to his inability to stay physically fit and healthy enough to play. By 1980, he made a full-time comeback playing a full season as right fielder. In 1981, he led the AL in home runs and games played, and was named by the magazine Sporting News as the AL Player of the Year. In 1982, he set an AL record in putouts (11) and total chances (12). By the next season, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox where he played center fielder and shared duties with teammates Dwight Evans and Jim Rice. His performance peaked in 1984 and he led the AL in extra base hits (77), home runs (43), RBIs (123), and total bases (339). He was selected as an All-Star player, and a Red Sox co-MVP. His performance in the following two seasons was drastically affected by recurring leg injuries. After he was released by the Red Sox after the 1986 World Series, he joined the California Angels.
Armas hit more home runs than any other Major League player from 1980-1985. Armas is currently the batting coach for the Leones del Caracas team in Liga Venezolana. For a time, he also played with Caribes de Oriente and Leones del Caracas. In Liga Venezolana, he had a career record of 97 home runs before it was beaten by center fielder, Robert Perez in 2007. His brother Marcos also played with the Oakland Athletics in 1993, while his son, Tony Jr., made it as starting pitcher for the Montreal Expos in 1999.
During his MLB career Armas played with the Boston Red Sox, California Angels, Oakland Athletics, and Pittsburgh Pirates. His MLB career statistics include a .252 batting average, 5,164 at bats, 1,302 hits, 815 RBIs, 614 runs, and 251 home runs in a total of 1,432 games. He finished with a .981 field percentage. His last MLB appearance was with the California Angels on October 1, 1989.
Andrés José Padovani Galarraga was born in Caracas, Venezuela on June 18, 1961. He was drafted as catcher and 3rd baseman for the Leones del Caracas team in the Venezuelan Winter League, and in 1978 made his debut. He originally started out as a utility player, and became a regular 1st baseman after three seasons. In 1979, he was signed up by the Montreal Expos, based on Felipe Alou’s recommendation, a former MLB player and the team manager of the Expos. Other MLB scouts at that time considered Galarraga (at 6 foot 3 inches, and 235 pounds) a bit overweight to play professional baseball. Due to this he was nicknamed the Big Cat, shortened to El Gato (The Cat) in Venezuela.
Andrés Galarraga is a five-time All-Star Player (1988, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2000), two-time Gold Glove Award recipient (1989, 1990), two-time Silver Slugger Award recipient (1988, 1996), two-time National League Comeback Player of the Year (1993, 2000), 1993 NL batting champion, and 1996 NL home run champion.
Galarraga spent six seasons in the minor leagues, playing for Calgary, Jacksonville, Jamestown, Indianapolis, and West Palm Beach. In 1984, he was awarded the Double-A Southern League MVP of the Jacksonville team. He also led the minor league on 1st base in doubles bases (130), hit by pitches (9), intentional base on balls (10), slugging percentage (.508), total bases (271), and total chances (1,428). Before moving on to the Major League, he won the title of Rookie of the Year for the Triple-A International League.
He debuted as 1st baseman for the Montreal Expos on August 23, 1985. Though he struggled in his 1st year, he had a good start in 1986, hitting eight home runs and leading the AL rookies with 25 RBIs. Knee injury plagued him in the later part of 1986 but was impressive in 1987 that Whitey Herzog, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals considered him as the best “right-handed 1st baseman” in the field “since Gil Hodges” of Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. Galarraga proved his mettle in 1988 and was chosen for his 1st All-Star game, and led the AL in doubles (42) and hits (184). Although 1989 was a tough season for him, he still managed to lead the AL in strikeouts (158), scored his 1st grand slam, and stole home for the 1st time, which led to his 1st Gold Glove Award. In 1990, he led the AL in strikeouts for the 3rd consecutive year, and earned his 2nd Gold Glove Award. Despite new injuries in 1991 he was able to hit his 100th career home run. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals when the season ended.
A broken wrist affected Galarraga’s brief stint with the Cardinals. But he was still able to impress the Cardinals’ batting coach, who later convinced the Colorado Rockies to sign Galarraga as a free agent. Despite assorted injuries and missing many games, Galarraga proved that he was an excellent hitter. In 1993, he led the AL in batting average, which earned him the record of the highest batting average (.370) by a right-handed hitter since Joe DiMaggio’s .381 average in 1939. His average is also the highest ever by a Hispanic player. He became the 1st Venezuelan to win a batting title. The Sporting News also awarded him with Comeback Player of the Year Award. Despite a 3rd arthroscopic knee surgery, he set a new NL record in 1994 with 30 runs in the month of April though his right hand was fractured in July of that year. His performance in 1995 was considered excellent and was attributed to the fact that he managed to stay fit and uninjured for a whole season.
By 1998, Galarraga was signed as a free agent by the Atlanta Braves and set a new MLB record – the 1st player to score 40 or more home runs in one season in consecutive years and for two different teams. During spring training in 1999, he developed a persistent sore back and was later diagnosed with to have a tumor in his lower back’s 2nd lumbar vertebra. It was a type of lymphatic cancer called Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy and was inactive for the whole season.
After a successful run of chemotherapy, he came back to the field in 2000 and scored the winning home run. He also tied in leading the AL in home runs and was given his 2nd Comeback Player of the Year Award. He spent the next few years with brief stints in different teams.
Galarraga’s cancer relapsed in 2004. He went through another round of chemotherapy and an extended hospital stay for additional treatment. He recovered successfully and played for one more season before finally retiring in 2005. He was just one home run short to make it to his 400th career home run. His MLB career statistics include a .288 batting average, 2,333 hits, 1,425 RBIs, and 399 home runs. His last MLB appearance was with the Anaheim Angels on October 3, 2004.
Guillén was born Oswaldo José Guillén Barrios on January 20, 1964 in the city of Ocumare del Tuy, Venezuela. In 1980, he joined the San Diego Padres as an amateur free agent. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in1984 as part of an 8-player trade. He debuted as shortstop for the White Sox on April 9, 1985. He was also named The Sporting News Rookie of the Year and AL Rookie of the Year. He was the 3rd rookie shortstop to win in the history of MLB a fielding title.
Guillén had a trademark aggressive and daring kind of play that was 1st noticed during a game with the New York Yankees. During the eleventh inning, when the game was tied at 5-5, he suddenly hit a 2-out single and stole the 2nd base. As soon as the next batter was able to hit an infield single, Guillén stole the 3rd base and scored a winning run.
Throughout his career he was plagued by the knee injury he suffered during a collision with a fellow player in 1992. Sidelined for the rest of the season due to the injury he made a very impressive comeback in 199. He helped his team in winning the AL Western Division Title. In 1997, he signed up as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles although he was released by 1998 and then he signed up as utility infielder with the Atlanta Braves. He went on to help the Braves win the National League Championship title in 1999. After spending a year with Tampa Bay Rays, he finally retired from his playing career in 2000. When he finished, he ranked 40th in overall career fielding percentage among all other shortstops in the MLB. He was even ahead of his fellow Venezuelan baseball greats, Dave Concepción and Luis Aparicio. He also played with the Tiburone de La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Guillén moved on as coach for the Montreal Expos in 2001 and 2002. In 2003 he was coach of the Florida Marlins. Shortly after that, he replaced Jerry Manuel as the Chicago White Sox’s. On his 1st game as the White Sox manager on April 13, 2004, the crowd at the U.S. Cellular Field welcomed him with a standing ovation. He guided the White Sox in 2005 in winning their 1st World Series title since 1917, and their 1st AL pennant since 1959. He also became the 1st Hispanic manager to win a World Series in MLB history. His contract as manager of the White Sox was extended, and in 2005, he was awarded the AL Manager of the Year. He won his 500th game on September 4, 2009 as manager of the White Sox. Personal conflict with Kenny Williams, the White Sox General Manager, made it impossible for Guillén to secure an extension to his contract for the 2011 season. He was taken instead as the new manager by the Florida Marlins’ new manager on September 28, 2011.
Guillén used his left arm for hitting and his right arm for throwing the ball. As a hitter, Guillén was a free swinger, known for posting the highest at bats per walk ratios in the MLB. He was known for his excellent playing skills and defensive abilities, amazing speed, intensity, passion, and his big love for baseball. He is also known for being outspoken and gutsy. Guillén set up his own Twitter account in 2010 and tweets bilingually—in both English and Spanish. He is married and has three sons. His eldest, Ozzie Jr., is a Spanish broadcaster for the White Sox’s radio network.
Guillén played with the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His MLB career statistics include a .264 batting average, 6,686 at bats, 1,764 hits, 619 RBIs, and 28 home runs in a total 1,993 games. He finished with an on-base percentage of .287. His last MLB appearance was with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on October 1, 2000. Ozzie Guillén is a two-time World Series champion (2003, 2005), three-time All-Star player (1988, 1990, 1991), Gold Glove Award recipient (1990), 1985 AL Rookie of the Year, and 2005 AL Manager of the Year. He led the AL shortstops once in assists and field percentage, and twice in range factor.
Omar Enrique Vizquel González was born in Caracas, Venezuela on April 24, 1967. His debut in the MLB was in 1989 while he was contracted to play for the Seattle Mariners. He was 22 at that time. He’s a very good defensive player and hitter. He was transferred to the Cleveland Indians in 1994.
Vizquel has a very stellar career, winning the Gold Glove Award consecutively from 1993 to 2001. He formed a very formidable defense partnership with 2nd baseman teammate Roberto Alomar, even winning three consecutive Gold Glove Awards with him from 1999 to 2001. Vizquel also received the 2005 and 2006 Gold Glove Award.
Since his debut with the Seattle Mariners, Vizquel has played with the Cleveland Indians from 1994 to 2004, the San Francisco Giants from 2005 up to 2008, a one season stint with the Texas Rangers in 2009 and in 2010 to 2011 he was with the Chicago White Sox. He’s currently with the Toronto Bluejays as a shortstop and 3rd baseman. Leones del Caracas is his team when he plays in Venezuela. In 1998, 1999 and in 2002 Vizquel was a member of the All-Star team. He also played in the World Series Finale when he was with the Cleveland Indians, though sadly they lost in both, 1st against the Atlanta Braves and later against the Florida Marlins.
From 2007 Vizquel has created MLB history for holding the highest shortstop fielding percentage of .984 and has surpassed the record of Luis Aparicio in the number of games played as a shortstop. Baseball experts believe that Vizquel will likely be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame once he retires. If that happens, he will just be the 2nd Venezuelan to be given that honor. He’s already been inducted to the Hall of Fame by the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum together with Matty Alou. He is also a recipient if the Willie Mac and Hutch Awards and was a Heart & Hustle Award finalist.
Outside of baseball, Vizquel has written an autobiography entitled “Omar! My Life On and Off the Field” in 2002, with co-author Bob Dyer. It was in the New York Times Best Seller List for four weeks. He also creates booklets, raises funds for charity and is already an advanced student in glass blowing. He’s known to be a good dancer and singer, loves to play the guitar and drums. He’s an art collector, clothes designer, painter and sculptor.
Still very active in MLB and showing no signs of retiring, Vizquel’s current (end of 2010 season) MLB statistics list a batting average of .273, 2,799 hits, and 400 stolen bases. His fielding percentage is .984. He has 1,414 runs and 1,012 walks.
Bob Kelly Abreu was born in Turmero, Venezuela on March 11, 1974 and he currently plays for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as an outfielder. He has so far gained a slot in the All-Star games twice, has a Silver Slugger Award and a Gold Glove Award. He has twice led the league in number of games played, in doubles as well as in triples. For 2011 he’s 2nd in doubles with 554, ranks 3rd in 1,419 walks, 393 stolen bases, (3rd) and a.397 on base percentage (ranked 9th) and leader among active MLB players in 2011 on outfield assists, with his current tally of 134. This is almost a repeat of his record in the Winter League where he played with the Leones del Caracas when he was younger.
His career in the MLB started with the Houston Astros although he only played 74 games for the team, covering two seasons and soon found himself joining the Philadelphia Phillies in 1998. He impressed the team with his stats, leading his teammates with a .312 batting average, 74 RBI, 19 bases stolen and 17 home runs in 151 games. He also gave 17 assists in the right field and 271 putouts. His performance for the 1998 up to the 2003 seasons made him one of the leading Phillies players with impressive statistics, which ranked him in the top ten
He got selected for the All-Star games in and honored the occasion with a home run, his 1st, during the opening of the Citizens Bank Park of the Phillies. He finished his 2004 season with 105 RBI, 30 home runs and a .301 average and ranked in the top five in offensive categories – runs (118), doubles (47), stolen bases (40), walks (127) and on base percentage (.428). His statistics continued to improve during the 2005 season with the Phillies and he received the Player of the Month award in May 2005.
He was traded to the New York Yankees in 2006 and with another impressive performance, he helped his new team clinch the American League East Division title although they failed to secure the division series title, which went to the Detroit Tigers. He maintained his stellar baseball performance while with the Yankees until his last season with the club in 2008.
He started the 2009 season with his current team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a one-year $5 million deal. Although he signed on to play left field, he was assigned in right field, which was actually his natural position. He registered a .380 batting average with 28 RBI in 26 games and became Player of the Month in July 2009. His stats was a 1st in 12 years for an Angels player. He had a solo home run during the 5th inning against Chicago White Sox in August 2009 and Abreu became one of the 11 major league baseball players to have 250 home runs, 300 stolen bases, 1,000 walks, 1,000 runs batted in, 2,000 hits and 1,000 runs. He declined the team’s offer of a two-year extension of his contract that would have amounted to $16 million at the end of the 2009 season. Abreu however agreed to a two-year deal in November 2009 that will see him play with the Angels until 2011.The deal is guaranteed for a total of $19 million, broken down into an annual salary of $9 million, a $1 million buyout of the $9 million option for 2012.
He was born in Tovar, Mérida, Venezuela on March 13, 1979 and was christened as Johan Alexander Santana Araque. He is currently a left-handed starting pitcher for the New York Mets.
Santana is a 2-time Cy Young awardee during his stint with the Minnesota Twins and considered as one of baseball’s best pitchers. He can throw an 88 mph to 94 mph fastball, a slider as well as a circle changeup. He listens to the Rob Thomas-Carlos Santana song “Smooth” during his warm-ups. With his current six-year contract that’s worth $137.5 million, he’s the highest paid pitcher, according to Forbes, with an average annual salary of over $22 million.
Chance Partin, Cheech Marin’s brother-in-law and a scout for the Houston Astros discovered Johan Santana in 1994. He was signed up and sent to the baseball academy in Guacara in 1995 and trained to be a pitcher. Four years later Santana received the Tovar Mérida Athlete of the Year award.
Due to a deal between Minnesota Twins and Florida Marlins, Santana was drafted by the Marlins but later sent to the Twins in exchange for Jared Camp. He debuted for the Twins on April 2000 and had a taste of an MLB win in June as a reliever, posting a rookie year stats of 86 innings pitched with a 6.49 ERA. He was later sent to play in the minor leagues for two months to perfect his changeup as complement to his fastball and later spent time as a long reliever.
Pretty soon he was in the starting rotation of the Minnesota Twins and continued to develop his style. He gave up only a few hits in 10 straight starts in 2004, which since 1961 was a 1st for a pitcher. He made a record of 13-0, which broke the Major League record held by Rick Sutcliffe and Burt Hooton for years. With an impressive season record of 20-6, and an American League leader with 265 strikeouts, 2.61 ERA, 10.46 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, 0.92 WHIP and .192 batting average allowed, he was clearly on the way to collect the Cy Young award. Add such stats as .249 OBP .315 SLG¸ .564 OPS and only allowed 54 batters to walk in 228 innings, he won the AL Cy Young Award that year.
After a shaky start in the 2005 season, he went on to win the Major League Pitching Triple Crown and was again a leader in the majors in strikeouts and ERA while leading the American League in WHIP, opposing batting average and innings pitched. His impressive performance in 2006 earned him his 2nd Cy Young Award and a 3rd All-Star game selection in 2007. He also received a Fielding Bible Award as the MLB’s best fielding pitcher in 2007 as well as a pitcher’s Gold Glove Award.
Santana was traded to the New York Mets during the off season in 2007-2008 and continued to impress with his exemplary performance and despite some injuries managed to maintain top-rank career statistics. He considerably slowed down in 2010 and has to rest for the whole 2011 season due to surgery on his shoulder. He returned to the field in the 2012 season.
Santana is very active in charity work and in 2006 started The Johan Santana Foundation. He and his family currently resides in Miromar Lakes, Florida.