We remember today a few Cubans who excelled in the major leagues in the month of July.
Before Luis Tiant became the darling of Boston fans, he was a pretty good pitcher with the Cleveland Indians. As you may remember, Tiant pitched some rather good post-season baseball in 1975. He beat the A’s in game 1 of the ALCS and then won 2 games against the Reds in the World Series. His complete Game 4 performance is still talked about in Boston.
Back in July 1968, Luis Tiant was just awesome: 19 Ks in 10 innings as Cleveland beat Minnesota 1-0! A couple of weeks later, Tiant was the AL starter in the 1968 All Star game. He pitched 2 innings and gave up the game’s only run. The NL beat the AL, 1-0.
Tiant finished the 1968 season: 21-9, a 1.60 ERA, 264 strikeouts and 19 complete games. Unfortunately for Tiant, Denny McLain won 31 games that year and ran away with the AL Cy Young award. Tiant’s excellent pitching put the Indians in 3rd place behind Detroit in the last season before divisions. Overall, Luis Tiant won 229 games, with a 3.30 ERA and 187 complete games.
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. This is the story:
Kansas City OF Whitey Herzog hits into the only all-Cuban triple play in major league history. Herzog hits into a triple play when his line drive is snagged on the mound by Pedro Ramos, who tosses it to first baseman Julio Becquer to double up the runner, and the third out of the play is made by relaying the ball to shortstop Jose Valdivielso getting the runner returning to second base. The win, however, goes to reliever Chuck Stobbs as the Nats take an 8 – 3 decision. Harmon Killebrew has a two-run homer.
Ramos won 117 games but pitched for very bad teams. 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.
July was also an important moment for Hall of Famer Tony Oliva. He was the starting right fielder in the 1964 American League All Star team. Oliva went on to win the batting title the next 2 years.
Last but not least, A’s rookie Bert Campaneris hit 2 home runs in his Major League debut in July 1964.
This is how SABR remembered the day:
After an overnight plane trip, he arrived in Minneapolis the next day two hours before the start of the A’s game against the Twins, and had an unforgettable major-league debut. Playing shortstop and batting second, he sent a pitch by the Twins’ Jim Kaat over the left-field fence in his first at-bat. In the seventh inning he hit another home run. He turned in a brilliant defensive play, singled, and stole a base in the A’s 11 inning victory. Campaneris became the second major leaguer to hit two home runs in a debut game, after the St. Louis Browns’ Bob Nieman, who did it in 1951.
Campy became one of the best players in the AL and a key component of the A’s who won the World Series in 1972, 1973 & 1974.