El Cooperstown

El Cooperstown

October 2023

The ultimate recognition of a baseball player's greatness is to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, or just the Hall, as it is known in Cooperstown, New York. To understand the Baseball Hall of Fame, you must understand a little bit about the Hall. The Hall of Fame was founded in 1936 and dedicated in 1939. The Hall is filled with plaques and memorabilia of the greatest ball players of today and yesteryear. It also recognizes the best and most influential players, managers, umpires, announcers, as well as executives who have left their mark on the game. Many people assume that the Hall is a division of Major League Baseball. In short, it is not. It’s an independent entity that recognizes ball players from various leagues throughout history. This includes Major League Baseball and the Negro Leagues. It takes a minimum of 75% of the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) votes to be enshrined. The first class inducted was Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. Those first five men established what kind of career it would take to be voted into the most exclusive sports Hall of Fame in existence. Until 1961 the Hall was filled with the best white baseball players to ever play the game. It wasn’t until 1962 when Jackie Robinson, who was the first black man to integrate Major League Baseball as a member of the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, also integrated the sacred Halls of Cooperstown. Starting in the 1970’s the Hall of Fame established special committees to examine the careers of players that were ignored due to race. In 1997 we saw the opening of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum under the leadership of Negro League legend Buck O’Neil. Buck O’Niel spent his life sharing stories and anecdotes to ensure these men and women’s stories were passed on to the next generation. Still this day, the Hall continues that research to right the wrongs of the past. Today the Hall is filled with a mix of men and women of all color and ethnic backgrounds. In 2024 it’s a good bet that Japanese icon Ichiro Suzuki will be the first Asian inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. For more information please visit www.nlbm.com & www.baseballhall.org 

The first Latino to be inducted into the Hall was the “Great One”, Roberto Clemente (Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker). A native of Carolina Puerto Rico. He would amass 3,000 hits and a .317 batting average in his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After Clemente’s untimely death in 1972, the Baseball Writers Association of America held a special election that saw Roberto get 92.7% of the vote. In 1973 the Major League Baseball’s Commissioner’s award was renamed the Roberto Clemente Award. This award is given to a player that best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and contribution to his team. Roberto is the standard that all Latin ball players measure themselves up to. Many Latino ball players and fans believe Roberto’s jersey number 21 should be retired by all of baseball, similar to the honor that was bestowed upon Jackie Robinson’s number 42.

In 1977 a Special Committee on Negro League Baseball selected two players to be enshrined in the Hall. One of those players was Cuban born Martín Dihigo (Martín Magdaleno Dihigo Llanos) the other was Pop Lloyd. Martín’s extraordinary playing would earn him the nicknames The Immortal and El Maestro. Many believe he was the most complete ball player to ever play the game. He excelled at all nine positions but spent the majority of his career at 2b and starting pitcher. His career of playing and managing began in 1922 and ended in 1953. Martín not only graces Cooperstown but also the Baseball Hall of Fames in Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. 

Dominican Born Juan Marichal (Juan Antonio Marichal Sánchez) would become the first from the baseball loving island to be inducted into the Cooperstown in 1983. Unlike today, the Majors weren’t always loaded up with Dominican talent. Known as the “Dominican Dandy” he was a fierce right-handed pitcher. His Major League career lasted from 1960 to 1975. His pitching prowess took him from the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He finished his career with almost 250 wins and an ERA under three. You can find statues of him from San Francisco to his beloved Dominican Republic.

In 1984 we saw the first Venezuelan born player be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He was born Luis Aparicio (Luis Ernesto Aparicio Montiel), but his teammates called him “Little Louie”. Luis played from 1956 till 1973. He racked up 9 Gold Gloves and led the league in stolen bases 9x. His career took him from the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and the Boston Red Sox.

Native Argentinian Eloy “Buck” Canel (Eloy Justino Buxo Canel) was inducted into the Hall in 1985. Not as a player, but as a Spanish language sportscaster. He called games broadcasted on radio for teams like the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Mets, and New York Yankees. He is also known for calling forty-two World Series Games all in Spanish. He will always be remembered for his catchphrase, “¡No se vayan, que esto se pone bueno!” (Don’t go away, this is going to get good!). He was posthumously awarded the Ford C. Frick Award in 1985. He was the first Spanish broadcaster to win this award.

In 1991 we witnessed the first Panamanian to be inducted into the Hall. Rod Carew (Rodney Cline Carew) was a hitting machine. His career saw him collect 3000+ hits and a batting average of .328. He would play for the Minnesota Twins, California / Anaheim Angels, Milwaukee Brewers. He was a 7x batting champ. Today Rod spends his time spreading awareness of heart disease prevention through his charity organization Heart of 29. To this day he is regarded as one of the greatest pure hitters to ever play the game.

Two voices became synonymous with Dodger Baseball. If you listened in English, it was Vin Scully. Vin called Dodgers games from 1950 till 2016. If you listened in Spanish. You heard the voice of Ecuadorian born Jaime Jarrín. He started calling games in 1959 and is still on the air as of this blog post. Béisbol never sounded as sweet as it did coming from Jamie. In 1998 he was the second Spanish broadcaster to win the Ford C. Frick Award and be inducted into Cooperstown.

In 1999 Orlando Cepeda (Orlando Manuel Cepeda Pennes) was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Cepeda was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Known as the “Baby Bull” Orlando stood 6’2” and weighed over 200lbs. He smacked 2,351 hits and clobbered 379 home runs in his career. He finished his career with a Rookie of the Year Award, NL MVP, 11X All-Star, and a World Series Ring in 1967. He is best known as a San Francisco Giant. He also made appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox, and the Kansas City Royals.

Tony Pérez (Atanasio Pérez Rigal) was undoubtedly the leader of one of the greatest baseball teams ever assembled. He was nicknamed “Big Dog” by his Big Red Machine teammates. Tony was born in Ciego de Ávila, Cuba. He played for the Sugar Kings, a AAA baseball team based in Havana, Cuba. He would earn two World Series rings as a player and another as a coach. During his MLB career he collected 2,732 Hits and 1,652 RBI. He would be voted into the hall in 2000. He spent his most successful years with the Cincinnati Reds. He would also play for the Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies.

In 2001 the veterans committee voted Bayamo, Cuban native Rafael “Felo” Ramírez into the hall. He became the third Spanish announcer to win the Ford C. Frick Award. His career led him from his native Cuba in 1945 and took him to Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and eventually the United States. He was the voice of the Florida Marlins from 1993-2017. He is also known for calling 40 Caribbean World Series Games (Serie de Caribe).

The Special committee on Negro League Baseball elected legendary Negro League pitcher José Méndez (José Colmenar del Valle Méndez) to Cooperstown in 2006. Jose was born in Cuba and played baseball from 1907 till 1926. He was known as the Black Diamond or El Diamante Negro. Statistics from his playing days are incomplete. But what we do know is that he was absolutely dominant in every league he played. He played for several teams throughout his career. Almendares, Brooklyn Royal Giants, Cuban Stars, All Nations, Los Angeles White Sox, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, and the Kansas City Monarchs.

Also in 2006, the Special Committee on African American Baseball elected Alex Pompez (Alejandro Pompez). Alex was born in Key West Florida to Cuban immigrants. He was elected to the hall as an executive. He owned two New York City based teams in the Negro Leagues, the Cuban Stars (1923-1928) and the New York Cubans (1935-1951). He also helped create the first Negro League World Series. He was responsible for signing numerous Latin ball players throughout his career.

Known as the Cuban Babe Ruth, Cristóbal Torriente was a force to be reckoned with. He started his playing career in his native Cuba for the Habana Leones in 1912. His career took him to the heights of the Negro Leagues from 1919 till 1932. Along with Mendez, and Pompez he was elected by the committee on African American Baseball. His all-time career batting average was an impressive .352. He was known as a pull hitter for the majority of his career. His skills would lead him to play for the Habana Leones, Cuban Stars, All Nations, Almendares, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Kansas City Monarchs, Detroit Stars, Louisville Black Caps, Atlanta Black Crackers, and the Cleveland Cubs.

In 2011 Puerto Rican Robbie Alomar (Roberto Alomar Velázquez) was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is the son of well-known player Sandy Alomar Sr.. Roberto was a 12x All-Star, 10x Gold Glover, 4x Silver Slugger. He was an all-around solid baseball player. He received 90% of the vote in his second year on the ballot. He played for the San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, Chicago White Sox, and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Pedro Martínez (Pedro Jamie Martínez), 3x Cy Young Award winner, was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2015. Dominican born Pedro would rack up 3,154 strikeouts and a career ERA under three. Pedro was known as a fierce competitor. His resume reads like a greatest hits album. Three Cy Young Awards, 8x All-Star appearances, and 3x American League Strikeout Leader. After his retirement Pedro has also made a name for himself as a baseball analyst. Although he also spent time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies, Pedro will always be remembered as a Boston Red Sox.

In 2017 catcher extraordinaire and Puerto Rican born Pudge Rodríguez (Iván Rodríguez Torres) was inducted into Cooperstown. He was a 13x Gold Glover and 7x Silver Slugger. He ended his career with a .296 batting average. That puts him in the top 15th highest batting average for a catcher of all time. He also claimed an AL MVP in 1999. Pudge played for the Texas Rangers, Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Houston Astros, and the Washington Nationals.

Possibly one of the best “bad-ball hitters” to ever play the game, Dominican born Vladimir Guerrero (Vladimir Alvino Guerrero Sr.) was inducted into the hall in 2018. Vladdy earned 8 Silver Slugger awards and retired with a .318 batting average. He also collected 2,590 hits and 449 home runs and was an AL MVP in 2004. He suited up for the Montreal Expos, Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels, Texas Rangers, and the Baltimore Orioles. His son Vlad Jr. hopes to follow in his Father’s footsteps.

Only the second Panamanian to be elected to the Hall as of 2019. Mariano Rivera would go on to do something no Hall of famer has ever done. He was and still is the only Hall of Famer to be elected on 100% of the ballots. His dominance as the Yankees closer is legendary. He is a 13x All-Star, 5x AL Relief Man Award winner and 5x World Series Champion. He made his debut in 1995 and played till 2013. He was drafted by the Yankees organization and would spend his entire career with the New York Yankees.

Along with Mariano, 2019 saw the induction of New York born and Puerto Rico raised Edgar Martínez. Edgar would make his mark on baseball as a designated hitter. He would collect 5 Silver Sluggers and 7 All-Star appearances. He would finish his career with a .312 batting average and 2,247 hits. He spent his entire career with the Seattle Mariners.

In 2022 the Golden Days Era Committee would induct Cuban born Minnie Miñoso (Santurnino Orestes Armas Miñoso Arrieta). Minnie got his start in 1947 playing for the New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues. His New York Cubans would go on that year and win the Negro League World Series against the Cleveland Buckeyes. In 1947 the Major Leagues became integrated. Jackie Robinson would integrate the National League and Larry Doby would do the same in the American League. Two years later in 1949 Minoso would become the first Afro-Latino to play in the Majors. Minnie would go on to be a 3x Gold Glove award winner and a 3x American League stolen base leader. He would play for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, and Washington Senators. He will always be known as Mr. White Sox.

The Golden Days Era Committee would also induct another Latin player in 2022, Cuban born Tony Oliva (Antonio Oliva Lopez Hernandes Javique). Tony-O, as he was known, grew up playing baseball among the tobacco fields of Pinar del Río. Tony would play all his 15 Major League seasons with the Minnesota Twins. He collected 3 American League Batting Titles, 8 All-Star appearances and a lifetime .304 batting average.

Dominican born David “Big Papi” Ortiz (David Américo Ortiz Arias) was elected to the hall with 77.9% on his first ballot. Big Papi was a force on nature. He would collect 2 Hank Aaron Awards, 7 Silver Sluggers, 10 All-Star appearances and would become a 3x World Series Champion. He started his career as a Minnesota Twin. He made his biggest impact as a designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox. He would play a total of 20 major league baseball seasons. Big Papi can be seen in numerous commercials.  He was a baseball analyst and an all-around great ambassador for the game of baseball. 

Nearly 25% of Major League rosters are made up of Latino ballplayers. As some of these players retire and become superstars, we will see a large increase of Latino players being inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2024 we could see Dominican born Adrián Beltré (Adrián Beltré Pérez) join this exclusive club. Andruw Jones, a Willemstad, Curaçao native is getting close with 58.1% vote in 2023. Professional baseball is in good hands!

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