Showing posts with label Cuban Baseball. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cuban Baseball. Show all posts

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vicente Lopez, Cuban pitcher for Almendares dead at 83

Former Cuban League star and Brooklyn Dodger farmhand Vicente Lopez passed away Wednesday at the age of 83 in Miami. Lopez was signed by the Dodgers after an outstanding Cuban amateur league career in 1948. He won 18 and 20 games in 1949 and 1950 for their Class B Miami Sun Sox team.

Vicente Lopez
All signs pointed towards Lopez quickly advancing towards the major league level. During the winter league season of 1950-51, Lopez was the target of scrutiny by the Dodgers scouts. During a winter league game against another Dodger prospect Joe Black, Lopez battled for 10-innings during a 2-2 ballgame. After his brilliant display in front of the Dodgers brass, Lopez realized that he threw his arm out in the process. He would never regain the life on his fastball to supplement his knee buckling curve to become a major league prospect.

Lopez pitched for 13 seasons in the minor leagues, Mexico, and Cuba before settling in Miami. After his baseball career, he worked as a clerk in a food warehouse while operating Los Cubanos Libres, a baseball academy alongside fellow Cubans Julio Moreno and Sandy Consuegra.

* Ed Note - Lopez founded Los Cubanos Libres and operated the baseball academy with Julio Moreno amongst other former players. He did not work at Carlos Pascual's Academy as previously reported.

More Info -
El Lanzador - Vicente Lopez was almost the Cuban Koufax - Miami New Times
Muere en Miami el ex lanzador cubano Vicente López - Diario Las Americas



Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rogelio Martinez, 91, Cuban baseball legend and Washington Senator

Former Cuban pitcher and Washington Senator Rogelio "Limonar" Martinez died Monday at his home in Connecticut at the age of 91 after suffering a fall that caused severe internal bleeding.

A legend in the Matanzas province, Martinez was just the seventh pitcher in Cuban baseball history to pitch a no-hitter, spinning the gem while a member of the Marianao club in 1950 against Almendares.

He briefly made two appearances for the Washington Senators in 1950, posting an 0-1 record with a 27.00 ERA. Martinez at the time was plagued by knee injuries which would affect him for the rest of his career and into retirement.

He lived for many years in Queens, New York after moving from Cuba in 1962 with his family. He was inducted into the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. He spent the last few years of his life living in Connecticut with his daughter.

More Information -
He died a legend of Cuban Baseball - El Nuevo Herald (Translated)


Limonar Martinez Dies - Jesus Alberto Rubio (Spanish)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Orioles pitching ace Mike Cuellar dies at age 72 (1937-2010)

The sad news of Mike Cuellar's death from stomach cancer on Friday caused me to reminisce about our meeting in Florida last August which was captured in the above photo. Cuellar, standing proudly in the center in his red shirt and fancy hat was in a joyous mood surrounded by his fellow teammates and countrymen.

The native of Santa Clara, Cuba began pitching for Almendares in 1957, and would later help lead them to the Carribean Series championship in 1959. That would be the same year that Cuellar would make his Major League debut with the Cincinnati Reds. He made his debut in April, and was quickly sent back down to Havana after pitching just 4 innings.

Cuellar's career didn't end there, and it is a story of perseverance. He would not return to the big leagues for five seasons. After bouncing around AA, AAA and Mexico, the screwball tossing lefty resurfaced with the Cardinals in 1964 and would spend the next 14 season playing with the Astros, Orioles and Angels. It is with the Orioles where at the age of 32, Cuellar had his resurrection.

In 1969, Cuellar won 23 games en route to winning the Cy Young award and leading the Orioles to a World Series appearance. Cuellar would help to drive the Orioles to the World Series the next two years, winning 24 and 20 games during each of those seasons. At the age of 37 in 1974, Cuellar won 22 games, making him a four-time 20 game winner.

Cuellar most recently lived in Orlando, and spent the last few months of his life hospitalized after suffering a brain aneurism, followed by the removal of his gall bladder, all of which preceded his stomach cancer. Adorned by many, I choose to remember the strong man I met during a warm summer day surrounded by members of his Cuban baseball family. Rest in peace Mike Cuellar.

More Articles on Mike Cuellar -

El béisbol cubano está de luto: Murió Mike Cuellar - Terreno de Pelota
Baseball Legend Struggling in Orlando Hospital - Orlando Sentinel
Steady Cuellar, A Master of the Screwball - ESPN.com
Cuban Pitcher Mike Cuellar passes away - Orlando Sentinel
Former Baltimore Orioles Ace Mike Cuellar dead at age 72 - ESPN.com

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Aroldis Chapman signs with the Reds

MLB.com reports that Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman has signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Chapman made headlines at last year's World Baseball Classic where he routinely hit 100 mph on the radar gun. The lefty fireballer was able establish residency in Andorra after he defected from the Cuban National Team in July. Since that time, he has switched agents and been a coveted target for many teams, with the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Marlins all making offers to Chapman in the winter months.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Brooklyn Dodger who didn't make it - Hampton Coleman's journey with the Dodgers of the 1950s

The future Brooklyn Dodgers of 1952? Look hard in the bottom left-hand corner and you'll see Solomon "Hampton" Coleman. The righty "curveball artist" is the only player pictured that didn't make the major leagues.



His close cut with the Brooklyn Dodgers involved a meteoric rise from the low minors to Triple-A early in his career that crossed paths with some of the finest players in baseball's history.

The 81-year-old Coleman, explained via telephone from his Florida residence in July 2008, how he came so close to becoming a Brooklyn Dodger.

He was first signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1947 and was sent to Roanoke of the Class B Piedmont League. After posting a record of 13-5 with a 3.17 ERA, he was given an invite to major league spring training. What a jump for the young rookie from Red Springs, N.C., to go from the bushes to the big leagues in two years!

The 1948 spring training season allowed Coleman rub elbows with baseball's elite.

"I was in spring training with the Red Sox when I was 20 with Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio. I threw batting practice to Williams," Coleman said.

One of his highlights was facing Joe DiMaggio. The Hall of Famer proved to be a tall task for the rookie.

"I pitched against Joe DiMaggio," he said. "There were a few men on base and he hit a home run off of me to win it. The Red Sox had a pitcher Boo Ferriss, and he said, 'Don't worry about it, he's hit home runs off of better pitchers than you!' That picked me up a little bit."

DiMaggio's home run off of Coleman was chronicled in the March 15, 1948 edition of the Prescott Evening Courier.

In only his second professional season, Coleman wasn't flustered by his encounter with DiMaggio. He was sent to Triple-A to play with Louisville of the American Association. After playing the 1948-1950 seasons with Louisville (with a short loan to Seattle of the PCL in 1949), Coleman's next break came courtesy of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

"I was playing in Louisville, and St. Paul was the Dodger team in the American Association," he said. "When Boston was on the verge of winning the pennant that year (1950), they were looking for a pitcher by the name of Harry Taylor to buy. They purchased him from the Dodgers, and the Red Sox gave them any choice of a Triple-A pitcher in their system, so they selected me. That's how I got to the Dodgers. I played with Montreal for a couple of years. Walter Alston was the manager, and when he went to Brooklyn, he took four of us to the Dodgers."

Hampton Coleman 1953 Canadian Exhibit / Author's Collection

Alston was hired as the Dodgers manager in 1954 and it was the break that Coleman needed. During the winter, Coleman chose to go to Cuba to sharpen his skills in preparation for his big break.

He pitched the 1951-52 winter season with Almendares and 1952-53 winter season with Marianao in Cuba. Many veterans reached out to help, including pitching tips from a future Hall of Famer.

"Do you remember Hoyt Wilhelm?" he asked. "He was down there. I was trying to get another pitch, and he was helping me with a knuckleball to use as an out pitch. He helped me a lot."

Discussing Cuba evoked the memories of some of his legendary teammates. Another Hall of Fame teammate he prominently recalled was Ray Dandridge,

"I played with him in the Cuban winter leagues," Coleman recalled. "The first time I saw him was with Louisville against Minneapolis in the American Association. He was a great third baseman; he was like a vacuum cleaner, anything that came his way, he scooped up. He was a terrific fielder and good hitter. I absolutely thought he should have been a major league player. He was a tough man to get out."

The Dodgers sent many of their prospects including a left-hander who later became the club's greatest ambassador. Coleman explained how Tommy Lasorda displayed the makings of a future manager while he was an active player.

"The years I was in Cuba, I played with him, as well as two-and-a-half years in Montreal," he said. "Lasorda was managing the whole time he was playing. He was a motivator from day one. He didn't like to see anybody loafing. He'd get on your case if you were losing. Nobody loses more than a player that is loafing. I spent a lot of time with Tommy."

Despite the legendary connections he made, a car accident towards the end of the 1953-54 winter season in Cuba derailed his chances of making the Dodgers club.

"I had my wreck at the end of the season on my way to Cuba for the third year down there," he said. "I had a car accident and almost got killed. I fell out of the car on my shoulder. I was a right-handed pitcher and I could never gain any momentum again. The doctors said I would never pitch again. Later on, when technology improved, they said they could have fixed my shoulder in two hours!"

The doctors were wrong about Coleman pitching again. He returned in time for spring training, and Alston held to his word, giving Coleman a shot in February 1954. Unfortunately, Coleman knew he was at the end of the line.

"It was pretty much the end of my career. I had nothing left on the ball."

He was there long enough to be included in the Dodgers 1954 spring training team photo but lasted only 10 games at Montreal. His final season came in 1955 with Double-A Fort Worth and Mobile, where he posted a combined record of 4-11 in 20 appearances.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spook Jacobs steals the show at the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society Cuban Baseball celebration

Forrest "Spook" Jacobs is back stealing again; this time it's not bases, but the spotlight from two prominent former major leaguers. Nine-time All-Star Minnie Minoso, 19-year veteran Tony Taylor, as well as former Pirate Cholly Naranjo spoke the highest praises of "Spook" Jacobs at the recent Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society tribute to these former stars of the Cuban League. While Jacobs only played parts of three seasons from 1954-1956 with the A's and Pirates, his play south of the border left an indelible impression on those that watched him.

Spook Jacobs
"[Jacobs] was a guy I've known for many years from when I was a young man in Cuba," Taylor said. "He played baseball in Cuba many years there. I remember watching him and I used to say, 'Someday I wish I could play baseball like that man.' I remember him playing in Cuba as a good hitter, a good second baseman with a lot of speed. One thing I liked about him, he hustled. He played baseball how you're supposed to play baseball. I enjoyed watching him play. When I signed into professional baseball, I was a reserve in Havana. I got traded to the same team where he played second base, and I finally got to practice with him to learn how to play second base."
Tony Taylor
Minoso cited Jacobs as his reason for attending the event. A friendship made over 50 years ago lured the Cuban great to the reunion.

"It's beautiful to be here," Minoso said. "I didn't come here for money, not for anything. [I came for] a good friend, Spook Jacobs, the second baseman. I remember him very well because I used to hate the way he hit us! He used to be a crazy hitter in Cuba. I used to hit .260, .280, he used to hit .300 easy! [It amazed me] he wasn't in the big leagues. I used to say, 'Geez this guy is a hell of a hitter. How does nobody take him in the big leagues?' Finally, he made it. He's a good person. That's the reason I am here."

Minnie Minoso
Naranjo had the opportunity to host Jacobs while he was in Florida for the recent Cuban Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Naranjo recounted how he reunited with Jacobs.

"I had a call from some time back that Spook Jacobs was coming to Miami because he was being nominated into the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame," Naranjo said. "Bobby Bragan called me and let me know he was coming to Florida, for me to give him a call. Bob, Spook and I met for the first time 1952. Spook went to play second base for us, Bobby was our manager and it was my first year in winter ball in Cuba. I told Spook he was welcome to stay with me for this occasion. Spook was kind enough to visit. In response to that, Spook called to invite me to come to Philadelphia, and here I am."

Cholly Naranjo
For these players, this event was an opportunity to reconnect with men whom they shared a special bond from playing in Cuba together over 50 years ago. Jacobs was delighted to spend precious time the other three players over the reunion weekend.

"I was very happy they could come up from Florida and Chicago for me," Jacobs said. "I was excited to see Minnie. We played against each other in Havana for six winters. We battled back and forth, good-naturedly of course. Being in Havana, most of the American players stayed with each other and didn't associate with the Cuban players, not because we didn't want to, but that is where we were supposed to stay. The only time we got to talk with the Cuban players was either during the ballgame or at the ballpark. I thought it was a shame that we didn't associate with the Cuban players while we were there. It was very nice to be able to spend time with the Cuban players here today."

Minoso relished his recent encounter in Miami with Jacobs for the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame induction. They spent many hours reminiscing about their playing days and their lives after baseball.

"We met again in Miami for the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame Banquet," Minoso said. "It was the first time through all of those years that we were together. We ate dinner together with Naranjo. We played dominoes and I cooked chicken and rice. It was great to have the opportunity to talk so long with Jacobs. He has a great family, his wife and his son."

The event, which was sponsored by the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society served to not only celebrate the merits of their efforts in Cuba over a half-century ago, but to raise funds for the volunteer organization. The Historical Society is a tremendous resource for the fan and researcher alike, with a wonderful museum in Hatboro that showcases the history of the Philadelphia Athletics as well as the baseball from that time period. The members of the society went through great efforts to organize the event and should be commended for a job well done. The atmosphere was friendly and inviting. One could gain a sense that they were surrounded by many others who shared the same love for the national pastime. Naranjo summed up his feelings for the event, which were also shared by the other three former Major Leaguers in attendance.

"I've been away so long, it's like coming back again to the old times when people really know about you, and you find out that you are still welcome."


Bobby Shantz, Minnie Minoso, Tony Taylor

Friday, April 17, 2009

Minnie Minoso And Others To Be Honored In Philadelphia April 25, 2009 For Their Cuban Sports Hall of Fame Induction

Pioneering baseball legend Minnie Minoso will be appearing in Horsham, PA alongside Cholly Naranjo, Forrest "Spook" Jacobs and Tony Taylor starting at 10AM on Saturday April 25, 2009 to be honored for their recent induction into the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame. Minoso is a legendary figure in both Cuban and American professional baseball, and was a finalist for the 2006 Negro League inductees for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Taylor was an All-Star in 1960, playing 19 seasons in Major League Baseball. Jacobs, one of the last surviving members of the Philadelphia Athletics, played 11 years in the Cuban Winter Leagues. Naranjo was a curveball specialist who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1956 and 9 seasons in the Cuban Winter Leagues.

Admission is free and the festivities are sponsored by the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society. There will be an autograph signing and silent auction will follow the festivities. You can register online for the auction via the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society website.

The proceeds from the auction and silent auction will benefit the Historical Society which is composed entirely of volunteers. They maintain an excellent museum in Horsham, PA which chronicles Philadelphia's vast baseball history.

Stay tuned to Baseball Happenings, as we will bring you photos from the event and interviews with the legends who are being honored.

Autograph Session Details
April 25, 2009 10AM-2PM - FREE Admission
In-Person Prices
Minnie Minoso (Only 7 decade player in baseball) - $20 any item
Tony Taylor (1958-76 Cubs, Phillies, Tigers) - $20 any item
Spook Jacobs - (1954-56 Philadelphia / KC's A's, Pirates) $10 any item
Cholly Naranjo - (1956 Pirates) One free item, $6 extras

Mail Order (Orders accepted until April 24th) - For mail order inquries, contact the Philadelphia A's historical society
Phone: (215)323-9901 Toll Free Phone: 1-800-318-0483
Email - yorkroad6@aol.com

Minnie Minoso:
Our signed baseball - $35, Our signed photo - $25, Your signed item - $25
Tony Taylor:
Our signed ball - $35, Our signed photo -$25, Your signed item - $20
Spook Jacobs:
Our baseball signed - $25, Our signed photo - $12, Your signed item -$10
Cholly Naranjo:
Our baseball signed - $15, Our signed photo - $8, Your signed item -$6