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Every religion has its defining moment. For the religion of
baseball in Latin America--and make no mistake, the game is
sacred in the region--the event was not quite as transcendent
as, say, Gabriel calling to Muhammad on Mount Hira or God
speaking to Abraham in Canaan, but its impact was seminal. The
enlightening moment took place in 1866, in Cuba, on a dock 50
miles northeast of Havana. As U.S. trading ships were being
loaded with sugarcane at Matanzas Bay, the crews killed time
with a bat and ball. The sailors instructed the Cuban
longshoremen in the game and its rules, and beisbol fever was

Two of baseball's earliest Cuban disciples were Esteban Bellan
and Emilio Sabourin. A student at St. John's College (now
Fordham) in New York City, Bellan became so adept that in 1871
he played infield for the Troy Haymakers in the inaugural season
of the National Association, the first professional league in
the U.S. In 1874, during Cuba's Ten Years' War for independence
from Spain, Bellan organized the first game between Latin
American teams. His Havana squad drubbed Matanzas 51-9. Sabourin
scored eight runs for the victors.

Sabourin became a driving force behind baseball in Cuba. He
organized the island's first professional league (Liga de
Beisbol Profesional Cubana) in 1878, and over the next 14 years
his Havana team won nine pennants. But in 1895, Sabourin and
other players were jailed by Spanish authorities for giving
baseball revenue to rebel forces led by Jose Marti. Sabourin
spent the rest of his life in a prison in Morocco, and the
Spanish banned baseball from parts of Cuba.

By the 1890's several thousand Cubans had fled to the Dominican
Republic, on the neighboring island of Hispaniola, taking along
expertise in farming sugarcane and playing baseball. The U.S.
itself spread the gospel throughout the region around the same
time: Yanqui companies sponsored teams in Colombia, Cuba, the
Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Venezuela; U.S.
troops demonstrated the game in Mexico in 1877; and at the turn
of the century baseball arrived in Panama during the
construction of the canal.

Although baseball was thriving in Latin America, the U.S. didn't
begin to tap into the region's talent pool until the Wilson
Administration. Mike Gonzalez, a Cuban, was a catcher who played
the first of his 17 seasons in the majors in 1912 with the
Boston Braves. In 1914, Dolf Luque--a.k.a. the Pride of Havana--
debuted with the Braves, becoming the first Latin player to
pitch in the majors. A 5'7" righthander, Luque also became the
first Latin to appear in a World Series, in 1919, and the first
to win 20 games, in 1923, both with the Cincinnati Reds.

Over time, players from nearly every Latin American nation
started appearing on major league rosters--and making their
marks. Cleveland Indians second baseman Bobby Avila of Mexico
became the first to win a batting title, with a .341 average in
1954. The first Dominican in the majors, Ozzie Virgil, came up
with the Giants in 1956 and played all positions but pitcher
during his nine-year career. Zoilo Versalles, a Cuban native,
earned the first MVP award for a Latin player with his sterling
play at shortstop for Minnesota in 1965. Puerto Rico's Roberto
Clemente, a star with Pittsburgh, was the first Latin to reach
3,000 hits and the first to enter the Hall of Fame, in 1973.
Panamanian infielder Rod Carew, a lifetime .328 hitter for the
Twins and the Angels, followed Clemente into both exclusive clubs.

By 1959, Fidel Castro's revolution had cut the flow of players
from Cuba to the U.S. considerably, but even before the
Communist takeover, many of the island's finest had been denied
entry into the majors because of the darkness of their skin.
Hall of Famer Martin (el Maestro) Dihigo and pitcher Luis Tiant
Sr. established Ruthian reputations throughout the Americas
during the '20s, '30s and '40s in the Negro and Cuban leagues.
In a 1920 exhibition game, outfielder Cristobal Torriente
actually outslugged the Babe, bashing two homers as well as
smacking a double off Ruth himself. Of Torriente, Hall of Fame
infielder Frankie Frisch said, "I'd like to whitewash him and
bring him up." Alas, baseball's discriminatory policy would
continue for another quarter century.

Unique baseball cultures developed in nearly every Latin
American country, each built around early heroes who served as
templates for later ones. Venezuela has long been erecting
shrines to shortstops, from Chico Carrasquel in 1950 to Omar
Vizquel in 1996. "We are more fluid to the ball," says the
Indians' Vizquel. Some people think that even better shortstops
are produced by the Dominican Republic, where Alfredo Griffin
set a standard that began in the '70s; in 1986 there were seven
big league shortstops from the town of San Pedro de Macoris alone.

The fame the Dominican Republic has received for its shortstops
has often overshadowed the caliber of its pitchers (from Juan
Marichal to Jose Mesa) and outfielders (from Rico Carty to Raul
Mondesi). Similarly, Clemente's legacy of potent Puerto Rican
outfielders, including Juan Gonzalez and Orlando Merced,
obscured the island's production of fine players at other
positions. Puerto Rico has produced the top two second basemen
in the game today (Roberto Alomar and Carlos Baerga) and three
of the finest catchers (Sandy Alomar Jr., Javier Lopez and Ivan

In all, more than 600 Latin Americans have suited up in the big
leagues since Bellan took the field in 1871. On a day 130 years
ago when some U.S. sailors were importing sugarcane from Cuba,
they could have had no idea that they were also creating a
flourishing trade of another sort.

TWO B/W PHOTOS: NATIONAL BASEBALL LIBRARY Gonzalez, Virgil, Tiant, Dihigo and Luque (clockwise from top left) didn't all get the chance to show their skills in the majors, but they led the way for others who did. [Mike Gonzalez; Martin (el Maestro) Dihigo]

B/W PHOTO: AP [See caption above--Ozzie Virgil]

B/W PHOTO: FPG INTERNATIONAL [See caption above--Luis Tiant] B/W PHOTO: UPI/BETTMANN [See caption above--Dolf Luque] COLOR CHART [MAJOR LEAGUE BEISBOL] Over the past 30 years the tide of Latins arriving in the big leagues from other countries has more than made up for the decline in the flow coming out of Cuba. This chart shows how many Latins have played in the major leagues, at 10-year intervals, since 1965. [Bar graph showing number of players from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Other* (*Includes the Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica, Nicaragua and the Virgin Islands), and Totals for 1965, 1975, 1985, and 1995]

COLOR CHART [MAJOR LEAGUE BEISBOL] Contrary to the stereotype that Latin players are best suited for second and shortstop, this chart indicates that over the past 30 years, Latins have been just as likely to appear in the outfield and even more likely to take the mound. [Bar graph showing number of players playing pitcher, catcher, first, second, third, shortstop, outfield, and designated hitter for 1965, 1975, 1985, and 1995]

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY DAVID DIAZ [Map of Latin America showing where baseball has spread to from United States]


Due primarily to expansion, the total number of players
in the major leagues has grown 61.4% over the last
three decades. As this chart reveals, Latins have kept
up with that pace and have even surpassed it, filling an
ever-increasing percentage of big league jobs.

1965 1975 1985 1995
Number of Latins in MLB 54 69 97 172
Number of players in MLB 702 844 943 1,133
Pct. of players who are Latins 7.7 8.2 10.2 15.2



As baseball spread from the U.S. throughout the Caribbean, each
country produced its own major league heroes, and often
traditions at positions.



Aurelio Lopez
Royals, Cardinals, Tigers, Astros (1974-87)

Fernando Valenzuela
Dodgers, Angels, Phillies, Orioles, Padres (1980-91, 1993-present)

Ted Higuera
Brewers (1985-94)

Armando Reynoso
Braves, Rockies (1991-present)

Ismael Valdes
Dodgers (1994-present)


Dennis Martinez
P Orioles, Expos, Indians (1976-present)


Gerald Young
OF Astros (1987-92)


Hector Lopez
OF Athletics, Yankees (1955-66)

Rod Carew
IF Twins, Angels (1967-85)

Manny Sanguillen
C Pirates, Athletics (1967-80)

Rennie Stennett
2B Pirates, Giants (1971-81)

Ben Oglivie
OF Red Sox, Tigers, Brewers (1971-86)

Omar Moreno
OF Pirates, Astros, Yankees, Royals, Braves (1975-86)

Juan Berenguer
P Mets, Royals, Blue Jays, Tigers, Giants, Twins, Braves

Roberto Kelly
OF Yankees, Reds, Braves, Expos, Dodgers (1987-present)



Chico Carrasquel
White Sox, Indians, Athletics, Orioles (1950-59)

Luis Aparicio
White Sox, Orioles, Red Sox (1956-73)

Cesar Tovar
Twins, Phillies, Rangers, Athletics, Yankees (1965-76)

Dave Concepcion
Reds (1970-88)

Ozzie Guillen
White Sox (1985-present)

Omar Vizquel
Mariners, Indians (1989-present)



Frank Taveras
Pirates, Mets, Expos (1971-82)

Alfredo Griffin
Indians, Blue Jays, Athletics, Dodgers (1976-93)

Rafael Ramirez
Braves, Astros (1980-92)

Tony Fernandez
Blue Jays, Padres, Mets, Reds, Yankees (1983-present) Andujar
Cedeno Astros, Padres (1990-present)


Felipe Alou
Giants, Braves, Athletics, Yankees, Expos, Brewers (1958-74)

Matty Alou
Giants, Pirates, Cardinals, Athletics, Yankees, Padres (1960-74)

Manny Mota
Giants, Pirates, Expos, Dodgers (1962-80, 1982)

Rico Carty
Braves, Rangers, Cubs, Athletics, Indians, Blue Jays (1963-79)

George Bell
Blue Jays, Cubs, White Sox (1981-93)

Stan Javier
Yankees, Athletics, Dodgers, Phillies, Angels, Giants

Luis Polonia
Athletics, Yankees, Angels, Braves (1987-present)

Sammy Sosa
Rangers, White Sox, Cubs (1989-present)

Moises Alou
Pirates, Expos (1990-present)

Raul Mondesi
Dodgers (1993-present)


Juan Marichal
Giants, Red Sox, Dodgers (1960-75)

Pedro Borbon Sr.
Angels, Reds, Giants, Cardinals (1969-80)

Elias Sosa
Giants, Cardinals, Braves, Dodgers, Athletics, Expos, Tigers,
Padres (1972-83)

Joaquin Andujar
Astros, Cardinals, Athletics (1976-88)

Mario Soto
Reds (1977-88)

Pascual Perez
Pirates, Braves, Expos, Yankees (1980-91)

Alejandro Pena
Dodgers, Mets, Braves, Pirates, Red Sox, Marlins (1981-present)

Jose DeLeon
Pirates, White Sox, Cardinals, Phillies, Expos (1983-95)

Jose Rijo
Yankees, Athletics, Reds (1984-present)

Jose Mesa
Orioles, Indians (1987-present)

Ramon Martinez
Dodgers (1988-present)

Mel Rojas
Expos (1990-present)

Juan Guzman
Blue Jays (1991-present)

Pedro Borbon Jr.
Braves (1992-present)

Pedro J. Martinez
Dodgers, Expos (1992-present)

Julian Tavarez
Indians (1993-present)

Luis Andujar
White Sox (1995-present)



Dolf Luque
Braves, Reds, Dodgers, Giants (1914-15, 1918-35)

Camilo Pascual
Senators, Twins, Reds, Dodgers, Indians (1954-71)

Mike Cuellar
Reds, Cardinals, Astros, Orioles, Angels (1959-77)

Diego Segui
Athletics, Senators, Pilots, Cardinals, Red Sox, Mariners

Luis Tiant Jr.
Indians, Twins, Red Sox, Yankees, Pirates, Angels (1964-82)

Tony Fossas
Rangers, Brewers, Red Sox, Cardinals (1988-present)

Rene Arocha
Cardinals (1993-present)

Ariel Prieto
Athletics (1995-present)

Osvaldo Fernandez
Giants (rookie)

Livan Hernandez
Marlins (rookie)


Minnie Minoso
Indians, White Sox, Cardinals, Senators (1949, 1951-64, 1976,

Sandy Amoros
Dodgers, Tigers (1952-60)

Tony Oliva
Twins (1962-76)

Jose Canseco
Athletics, Rangers, Red Sox (1985-present)


Joe Christopher
OF Pirates, Mets, Red Sox (1959-67)

Horace Clarke
2B Yankees, Padres (1965-74)

Elrod Hendricks
C Orioles, Cubs, Yankees (1968-79)

Jose Morales
1B Athletics, Expos, Twins, Orioles, Dodgers (1973-84)

Henry Cruz
OF Dodgers, White Sox (1975-78)

Jerry Browne
2B Rangers, Indians, Athletics, Marlins (1986-present)



Sandy Alomar Sr.
Braves, Mets, White Sox, Angels, Yankees, Rangers (1964-78)

Ed Romero
Brewers, Red Sox, Braves, Tigers (1977-90)

Tony Bernazard
Expos, White Sox, Mariners, Indians, Athletics, Tigers (1979-91)

Jose Lind
Pirates, Royals, Angels (1987-present)

Joey Cora
Padres, White Sox, Mariners (1987-present)

Roberto Alomar
Padres, Blue Jays, Orioles (1988-present)

Carlos Baerga
Indians (1990-present)


Roberto Clemente
Pirates (1955-72)

Jose Cruz Cardinals,
Astros, Yankees (1970-88)

Sixto Lezcano Brewers,
Cardinals, Padres, Phillies, Pirates (1974-85)

Candy Maldonado
Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Brewers, Blue Jays, Cubs, Rangers

Ivan Calderon Mariners, White Sox, Expos, Red Sox (1984-93)

Danny Tartabull
Mariners, Royals, Yankees, Athletics, White Sox (1984-present)

Ruben Sierra
Rangers, Athletics, Yankees (1986-present)

Juan Gonzalez
Rangers (1989-present)

Orlando Merced
Pirates (1990-present)

Bernie Williams
Yankees (1991-present)


Ozzie Virgil
Phillies, Braves, Blue Jays (1980-90)

Benito Santiago
Padres, Marlins, Reds (1986-present)

Sandy Alomar Jr.
Padres, Indians (1988-present)

Ivan Rodriguez
Rangers (1991-present)

Javier Lopez
Braves (1992-present)


Hensley Meulens
OF-IF Yankees (1989-92)


Chito Martinez
OF Orioles (1991-92)