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People may not know how important baseball is to the Latino community. In the Caribbean, for instance, the sport attracts thousands of young Latinos as a means of self-improvement, an escape from poverty, and drugs.
There are many Latinos – especially Afro-Latinos – in MLB history. Yet, history tends to forget those who broke barriers to make room for others. So, here is a ranking of 15 Afro-Latino baseball players of all time.
Also known as “The Cuban Comet,” Minnie Miñoso was the first Afro-Latino player integrated into the Major Leagues. He first started playing with the Negro Leagues and in 1951 he became part of the Chicago White Sox, breaking the race barrier. Miñoso played 17 seasons – 12 of them with the White Sox and won a Gold Gloves for three seasons. Minnie Miñoso’s accomplishments include 186 home runs, 1,963 hits, and 1,136 runs scored. Miñoso was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2022.
Puerto Rico-born Roberto Clemente was the first Afro-Latino inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1954, he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Clemente won 12 Gold Gloves as well as four National League. He reached, in 1972, his 3,000th base hit, which at the time, only 10 players had conquered this mark. He was also an advocate for Latino players to be treated equally. In 1972, Robert Clemente lost his life when the plane he was on – en route to Nicaragua to help earthquake victims – crashed. The following year he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Puerto Rican was the first Afro-Latino player drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953. For years, it was said that Curt Roberts was the first Black player drafted by the team. However, that became a reality a year later (in 1954.) During his time with the Pirates, Bernier played 105 games and led the team in stolen bases. He was one of the first players to break the race barrier in the 50s.
Nino made his major league debut in 1954. He was the Cincinnati Redlegs’ first Black player. Nino is considered one of the best basemen in Puerto Rico’s history. He played 73 games with the Reds. In 1955, Escalera returned to the minor leagues with the Havana Sugar Kings. Later on, in 1958, he played in the International League All-Star Game. From 1966 and 1981, he scouted the New York Mets – in 1982, the San Francisco Giants.
The Cuban player was the first Afro-Latino player to join the Washington Senators in 1954. He played 157 games for three years, scored nine home runs, 60 runs batted in, and 44 runs scored. Paula died in 1983 at the age of 55 in Miami, Florida.
Osvaldo was the first Dominican to play in Major League Baseball with the New York Giants. Osvaldo Virgil’s legacy goes beyond the numbers he made in those nine years. Thanks to his draft, more Dominican players were drafted. Virgil served as a coach for the San Francisco Giants, Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres, and Seattle Mariners.
Juan Marichal’s debut in the MLB was in 1960 with the San Francisco Giants. He’s considered one of the greatest pitchers of the 60s. In his 16-season career, “Manito” had 243 wins against 142 losses and an Earned Run Average of 2.89. Marichal was the first Dominican inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which took place in 1983.
The Cuban-born Tony Oliva is considered one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball. He played with the Minnesota Twins for 16 years after his draft in 1962. Among his accomplishments is the Golden Glove that he received in 1966. He always ended up being the runner-up to MVP. Oliva was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021.
Born in Venezuela, David Concepción made his MLB debut in 1970 for the Cincinnati Red; this team contributed to his entire career. Considered one of the greatest shortstops of all time, this Afro-Latino won five Gold Glove Awards, two Silver Slugger Awards, and was named MVP in Montreal’s first All-Star Game held in 1982. In 2000, Concepción was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.
The Panamanian pitcher made his MLB debut in 1995 for the New York Yankees. With the Yankees, Rivera won five World Series titles. Rivera’s achievements include being named an All-Star on 13 occasions and his record-breaking 602nd career saves made in 2011. He is considered the greatest reliever of all time and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019.
Rod Carew was the first Panamanian to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. He, too, was inducted into the Caribbean Hall of Fame, the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame, and the Angels Hall of Fame. Carew was named the Most Valuable Player in the American League in 1977. He made his MLB debut in 1967 for the Minnesota Twins where he remained until 1979. The generously decorated baseball player was traded to the California Angels and finished his playing career with them in 1985.
The Dominican hitter and first baseman made his MLB debut for the Minnesota Twins in 1997. He ended his career in 2016 with the Boston Red Sox. “Big Papi” Ortiz won seven Silver Slugger Awards and was named World Series MVP in 2013. In 2022, he was inducted in the Baseball of Fame; previously, he was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Alex Rodriguez was a shortstop and third baseman during his MLB career. Rodriguez made his debut in 1994 for the Seattle Mariners. Then, he played for the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003. In 2004, he was drafted by The New York Yankees where he stayed until 2016. Among the many achievements of Alex Rodriguez is his two Gold Glove Awards and being named American League Most Valuable Player for three years: 2003, 2005, and 2007. Rodriguez also won the All-Star 14 times and the Slugger Awards 10 times. Now retired, Rodriguez is an advocate for drafting more Afro-Americans and Afro-Latinos to the MLB.
Roberto Alomar’s MLB career is extensive. He made his MLB debut for the San Diego Padres where he played for three years. Between 1991 and 2004, Alomar played for the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, Chicago White Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, and finished with the Chicago White Sox. Aside from being a 12-time All-Star, he won four Silver Slugger Awards, and ten Gold Glove Awards, and was named – by Time magazine – as the best second baseman of his generation.
Unstoppable in the field, Pedro Martinez is considered one of the most dominant pitchers in history. The Dominican player made his MLB debut in 1992 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. From 1994 until his retirement in 2009, he was part of four teams: Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies. He is an eight-time All-Star as well as won three Cy Young Awards, Triple Crown, and was awarded by the MLB as the player with most wins in the 1999’s season. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, being the second Dominican, along with Juan Marichal, to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Most of these players not only battled in the sandlots but also outside them. They faced racism from the fans and press, while often being singled out for their mistakes rather than their achievements. But their bravery and talent sufficed; it made all the Latinos that watched them get a glimpse of themselves. Thus, feeling represented and knowing that they could thrive as well.
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