El Maestro

El Maestro

April 2023

Martín Magdaleno Dihigo Llanos “Martín Dihigo” was born in 1906. He was raised among the sugar mills in Cidra, a small town in Matanzas, Cuba. By the time the Afro-Cuban was 16 years old, he was playing infield for the Habana Leones in the legendary Cuban League which existed from 1878-1961. By 1923 Dihigo made the jump from Cuba to the United States. He began his Negro League career with the New York based team the Cuban Stars East. Coincidently, other Cuban born baseball players would begin their careers in the Major Leagues around the same time. The only difference between these players and Dihigo was the color of their skin. Dihigo would have an extremely successful Negro League career. He played for the Cuban Stars East, Homestead Grays, Hilldale Giants, Baltimore Black Sox, and the New York Cubans.

Dihigo’s stats spoke for themselves. In twelve seasons he collected 26 wins, 2.92 ERA, a .307 batting average, and a .511 slugging percentage. He easily mastered all nine positions and led the Negro Leagues in home runs twice. At times throughout his career Dihigo served as a player-manager. In 1953 he led the Leones del Caracas to the Serie del Caribe as a manager. Dihigo’s playing and managing career would stretch decades from the 1920’s to the 1950’s. His impeccable playing and leadership would earn him nicknames like, “El Inmortal,” the Immortal and “El Maestro,” the Master. He left his mark in leagues from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and the United States. His lifetime Cuban League stats as a pitcher were 107 wins with 56 loses and a .300 batting average. Dihigo was considered a true five tool player meaning he excelled at hitting, hitting with power, running, fielding, and throwing. He also possessed a gifted pitching arm making him a true two-way player like Babe Ruth and Shohei Ohtani. In 1938 Dihigo was credited with throwing the first no-hitter in Mexican league history while playing for the Rojos del Águila de Veracruz. That season he had a sub 1 ERA and led the league in hitting with a .387 batting average. He dominated on both sides of the plate in Mexico and in Cuba. His dominance on the baseball field would lead several baseball experts to call him the greatest baseball player of all time.

In 2023 the video game MLB The Show added Martín Dihigo amongst eight other Negro League players to a new feature called Story Lines. In Story Lines gamers are able to play as one of these legends and experience their stories while taking in a bit of history. This feature is narrated by the President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick. Dihigo is the only professional baseball player to be enshrined into five separate Hall of Fames. He is a member of the Cuban, Mexican, Venezuelan, and Dominican baseball Hall of Fames. In 1977 he was inducted to the American Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY by the Negro League Committee. Martín Dihigo would die in his beloved homeland of Cuba one week before his 65th birthday in 1971. His legendary feats cannot be overstated. He could do it all on the field. He hit home runs, batted as a switch hitter, stole bases, turned double plays, pitched shutouts, and could even manage a great game. Dihigo truly lived up to his moniker, “El Maestro.”

“He was the best ballplayer of all time, black or white.”

     - Buck Leonard, Legendary Negro League Player 

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