We remember Frank “Pancho” Herrera (1934-2005)

 

Juan Francisco (Villavicencio) Herrera was born June 16, 1934 in Santiago de las Vegas, Cuba.   He was known as Frank or Pancho or even Panchon.

Herrera began his baseball career in 1954 with La Habana in the Cuban Winter League.    His manager was the legendary Adolfo Luque, a major leaguer from the 1920’s.

The Philadelphia Phillies signed him in 1955 (their first black Latino player) and he spent the next few years between the minors and the Cuban league.    He played with fellow Cubans, Tony Gonzalez, Tony Taylor and Octavio Rojas in the Phillies’ organization.

His major league career was short but he hit .281 with 17 HR & 71 RBI in 1960.    He was second to Frank Howard in the 1960 Rookie of the Year vote!

He came back with 13 HR in 1961.   He was sent back to AAA in 1962 and hit 32 HR but never got another chance to play in the big leagues.    In retrospect, that’s hard to believe because Herrera proved that he could hit and expansion brought 4 new teams in 1961-62.

After the majors, Panchon played for various seasons in Mexico.  He led the league with 39 HR in 1969.   They remember him as one of the great power hitters in Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico!   He was a big favorite there with Mexican baseball fans.

Herrera died in Miami in 2005.    We remember him as one of the last Cuban players to play in the US and the old Cuban Winter League.

Happy # 74 to Tony Perez, the pride of Ciego de Avila

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We remember today Atanasio (Rigal) Perez, the pride of Ciego de Avila and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Tony broke with the Cincinnati Reds in the summer of 1964.   He went on to have a wonderful major league career:  2,777 games, 2,732 hits, 379 HR, 1,659 RBI and a very good .279 career batting average.

Tony’s career was more than numbers. He was the steady bat in a Reds’ team that won 4 NL titles and the World Series in 1975 and 1976.

Willie Stargell spoke for many of his fellow players:  ““With men in scoring position and the game on the line…Tony’s the last guy an opponent wanted to see.””

Tony had many big hits for the Reds Machine in the 1970s.   He is best remembered for a big homer in game 7 of the 1975 World Series:

 

We remember Mike Cuellar (1937-2010)

 

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Question: Who was the first Latino to win the Cy Young Award? The answer is Mike Cuellar, who shared the award with Denny McLain in 1969.

We remember Miguel Angel Santana Cuellar today.

Mike was born May 8, 1937 in Las Villas.  He started in the Reds’ organization and played with The Sugar Kings, Havana’s AAA franchise. He spent the next few years between Cincinnati and Houston, where he won 16 games in 1967.

Cuellar was traded to the Orioles and won 139 games over the next 7 seasons. He was one of the most effective pitchers in the American League and won 20-games in 4 different seasons. He pitched a complete game to win the 1970 World Series for Baltimore.

During his brilliant career, he won 185 games to go with a 3.14 ERA. He also completed 172 starts!

Without question, one of the best Latino pitchers ever. Mike died in 2010.    He was voted # 27 in the Top 40 Orioles of all time.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

The great Cuban baseball “9”

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The baseball season starts today and tomorrow……..so we would like to share a show that we did years ago……..it is long so please be patient……..in the first segment, Enrique Hubbard from Mexico tells us about the great black Cubans who played in the Mexican league before Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947………in the second segment, the Reyes brothers from New York joined me and we put together the Cuban baseball 9………by the way, our friend Ziva can be heard on this show…….you will learn a lot about Cuban baseball…….enjoy it!

 

Remembering some of the great Cuban players of major league history………https://t.co/WpZclsq4jj

Happy # 82 to Camilo Pascual

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As a young kid, my favorite Cuban baseball player was Camilo Pascual.  He pitched most his career for the original Washington Senators who became the Minnesota Twins in 1961.

As a Senator, Pascual pitched for very bad teams.   It got better when the team moved to Minnesota and the Twins became a perennial contender with a young Harmon Killebrew, power hitter Bob Allison,  the very good lefty Jim Kaat and fellow Cubans Tony Oliva & Zoilo Versalles.

His numbers were great with the Twins:   20-11 in 1962 and 20-9 in 1963.     He led the league in strikeouts 3 years in a row.  In other words, he was one of the best right handed pitchers in baseball.

Overall, he won 176 games with a very good 3.63 career ERA.    He would have easily won 230 games with a better team!

We say happy birthday to one of my heroes.    I don’t know what Camilo is doing these days.   I read a few years ago that he was scouting for the Twins in Latin America.

Happy birthday to the great Camilo.

The all-Cuban triple play in baseball

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A little baseball history to distract us from the horrific stories coming out of Cuba.

On July 23, 1960, 3 Cubans playing for the Washington Senators made baseball history.   They were involved in the only Cuban to Cuban to Cuban triple play.   I’m sure that it is the only “all latino” triple play too.   I couldn’t find any other example of 3 latinos turning a triple play.

The 3 players were pitcher Pedro Ramos, shortstop Jose Valdivielso and first baseman Julio Becquer.   Whitey Herzog, future manager with the Kansas City Royals and St Louis Cardinals, hit the ball back to Ramos, who went to first and then second.

A little more about the game.   The Senators became the Minnesota Twins in 1961.  The Kansas City A’s moved to Oakland in 1968.

Ramos won 117 games but pitched for very bad teams.   I wrote a post about him earlier when he turned 80.   Becquer had a fine glove but hit only .244 with the Senators and later the Twins.     Valdivielso hit .219 and was primarily a part-time player.

Another Cuban, Camilo Pascual, watched the proceedings from the dugout.

My thanks to Fernando Hernandez, author of “The Cubans” for bringing this to my attention.  By the way, his book is full of stories of Cubans in the US, from Celia Cruz to Desi Arnaz to lots of other less known Cubans who left their footprints.

TWO BROTHERS! ONE DREAM! LIBERTAD!

Livan El Duque

For those of you who have wondered why most Cuban-Americans take such a hardline posture when it comes to Cuba, I encourage you to watch the ESPN video “30 for 30: “Brothers in Exile.” The video recounts the story of brothers Livan and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez – two Cubans who defected to the United States and gained fame by playing for the Miami Marlins and the New York Yankees. After seeing what they went through to leave the Island in search of freedom — a saga that is mirrored with those of most Cuban-Americans — you’ll understand why this is such a personal issue for us. Restoring democracy to a people who have lived in fear and repression for 55 years of totalitarian, communist rule is a commitment that we have with our dignity and values.

The video is available via Netflix. To view the trailer, click on http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11514741