BASEBALL IN CUBA – STRAT-O STYLE
Note: With Strat-O-Matic’s first Windows-game release of all-time-great Cuban baseball stars, the man behind the project offers us insight into Cuban baseball and the methods used to select and rate the players.
By Len Durrant
Baseball in Cuba has been played for nearly as long as it has in North America. Shipping owners provided bats and balls for their dock workers; plantation jefes organized their sugar cutters into representative nines. Beisbol had captured the local imagination. After the Spanish-American War (1898) and the subsequent spike in trade, investment, and tourism from the USA to Cuba, baseball would be firmly established as Cuba’s national sport.
Within twenty years, baseball had grown to where there was money to be made from playing the game. It had become aspirational; no longer a diversion mainly for the wealthy, now it was another way to support the young working class. Not just the native born, either. North American professional teams, major, minor, and mixed, found a winter tour to Havana to be a useful revenue earner. Native sons, those with light complexions who could pass in the US for “white”, began to make inroads into US organized baseball. For the rest, if they were good enough, there was the adventure that awaited them in the north of Negro organized baseball.
While there remained prejudice based on race among some of the wealthy, the Cuban population was a healthy mix of ethnicity. The American Negro baseballer found a welcome and an opportunity in the developing professional game. Almost all of the great names of blackball spent considerable time playing in front of enthusiastic Cuban crowds. An important effect of this melting pot of North American and Cuban ballplayers was the way it elevated the quality of local talent, and Cuban born baseballers would come to play an outsized role in the explosion of baseball interest around the Caribbean during the twentieth century.
By the 1950s North Americans had become intimately familiar with light skinned Cuban baseball players, though the Cuban mulatos, jabaos, moros, and negros still found it hard to land jobs in the majors and minors. Then came the revolution and everything would change. Havana, a hotbed for the International League, lost it’s very popular Sugar Kings to relocation to Jersey City (and its subsequent failure). The local professional league would end. Families, with promising young ballplayers in tow, bolted to El Norte. Established professionals, major and minor, made life changing decisions to stay or leave.
Cuba needed its baseball so a new, amateur (in keeping with the ethos of revolutionary aspirations) league was formed in 1962, the National Series (SN). Playing during the winter months, so a season began in the autumn of one year and would finish in the spring of the next, this league attracted the best of the island’s sport talent. Promising players were trained from a young age thanks to a national sport development program. There is a smaller Super League that plays during the summer, and there are feeder teams and government supported youth classifications. It wouldn’t be long before Cuba reclaimed its position as the dominant player in Latin American sport. The National team unites baseball fans and non-fans (there are some) during international tournaments when its welfare preoccupies the country.
The SN has modified its setup in the years since. Today it is a split-season 90 game league of 16 teams, with an all star game and a postseason. In the 1960s there were as few as 4 league teams playing a brief 40 game season. Sometimes there’s a multi-division set up, sometimes it’s been a single league. Games have generally been played at 1 PM and 7 PM. The postseason tends to be played over 3 weeks.
Unique to the SN, the teams are, for the most part, constituted from their provincial catchment. There has, until recently, been little player movement from team to team. A boy is discovered and trained locally at his academy until he’s proved to be capable of joining his provincial SN team. In the past, he would see out his baseball career with the same team. The league is overseen by a government quango. This Sport Ministry has always held complete authority over the game as well as the player’s career. It can decide, even against the wish of the player and the team’s fans, when it is time for a player to be retired from his team. Last year, Cuban great Lourdes Gourriel, who lived in and managed Sancti Spiritus in the SN, was advised to move to Havana in order to receive better medical treatment there. His sons, who played for him at Sancti Spiritus, were then given special dispensation by the Ministry to follow their father to the capital and resume their playing career with its Industriales team. (There has always been provincial resentment to what is seen as favorable consideration given to Industriales, the nations’ most popular team.)
Generally speaking, there have been 3 main time frames of the SN.
The early years (1962-1975) were similar to ML’s deadball days where the emphasis was on playing small ball, as runs were extremely hard to come by and pitching seemed to be dominant. The league evolved greatly over this time frame; the number of teams expanded, the quality of play improved, the run rate increased.
The league BA was under .230 during this time. Home Runs were hit at a rate of only 1:120 at bats. The league ERA was a miserly 3.05.
The middle years (1976-1998) saw 2 major changes to the way baseball was played in Cuba. The DH was introduced across the league, and the batters switched from wood to aluminum bats. Otherwise the league stabilized and solidified, and MLB scouts were taking considerable interest.
The league BA was .268. Home Runs were hit at a rate of 1:48 at bats. The league ERA shot up to 3.87.
The current years (1999-2013) have seen much more competitive campaigns than previously, as scientific coaching principles have spread throughout the league. Surprisingly, even after the return to wood bats, offense has been at a level similar to the late 1990s MLB level.
The league BA was .288. Home Runs were hit at a rate of 1:46 at bats. The league ERA was 4.51.
The Selection Process
These Stars are selected from the post-revolutionary, amateur years. Will there be a second set dedicated to the pre-revolutionary years of mostly home based Cubans? That depends on the reliability of the statistical pool we can work from. But it also depends on the success of this release.
In addition to our research and analysis to decide who would make up the 133 players of this set, we spoke to fans who had grown up with these players, those who had watched them in action at their ballpark, and we canvassed their opinions. We are grateful for the help from these knowledgeable friends in Cuba, Miami, and Puerto Rico, and their sage counsel.
These “teams” are in fact, the names of the original six provinces of Cuba (there are now 16). This fit our purpose nicely. With 15 batters and 7 pitchers per team we have enough players to roster six clubs.
Some provinces, though equal in geographic size, are very rural and have a smaller player universe to draw from. A few times we had to supplement the provinces of Camaguey, Matanzas, Pinar, with loans from Habana and Oriente.
How To Use
The stats for this set are our Major League Equivalents. This is how we expect the player to have performed, had the best part of his career occurred in the Major Leagues rather than the SN. This makes the set a nice companion piece to our Hall of Fame, Negro League Stars, and Heroes sets. Do we think most of these players would have been on the same level of achievement as these other “Heroes?” Some, yes indeed, but we don’t take that position for the whole group. What we do think is that all of these players would have enjoyed lengthy (had they been injury free) and productive ML careers.
Another way we suggest you consider using these cards is to incorporate them into a season’s play. The player bios that follow give you the years the players were active. Because we use MLE rates for each player’s corresponding Cuban season to do our carding, for example you could add Alexei Bell to your 2013 replay, or try Manuel Alarcon in your 1967 ML.
CUBAN LEAGUE STARS (1962-2013): The Batters
Rafael Orlando Acebey (b. 1965) 1984-2004
Quick glove at 3B, he pulled off an unassisted triple play in 1999.
Fausto Alvarez (b. 1960) 1985-2001
RF/DH with pop versus RHP (89 RBI). 2000 Cuba Series MVP. Finished his playing career in Japan then Holland.
Rey Vicente Anglada [The King] (b. 1954) 1973-1982
Extremely quick (Run: 17; 35 SB/47 attempts) 2B. Managed Industriales and the National team after retiring as a player.
Agustin Arias [Quick Fingered] (b. 1942) 1965-1981
Perennial national team selection, the SS (1) had a quick release and a very strong arm. 1979 Sportsman of the Year. Skilled bunter (A).
Osvaldo Arias (b. 1977) 1994->
Stumpy, home run (18) hitting C with a rifle arm (-3). With his stance on top of the plate, he’s HBP once every 60 PA. T-6th in Series Nacional career total Runners CS.
Victor Bejerano [The Doubles King] (b. 1967) 1984-2007
Leading light of the lesser league team Granma. Lengthy career (T-2nd of batters in SN seasons at 24) as 1B/OF sees him among the leaders in many batting categories, including 2nd in Doubles.
Alexei Bell [The Canon] (b. 1983) 2001->
All-round skillful CF (2) with speed (16; 21/25), good power, and a strong and sure arm (-3). MVP in 2008 and 2007 Cuba Series MVP. 10th in SN career SLG.
Manuel Benavides (b. 1964) 1990-2007
Outstanding glove at 3B (1) can also fill in at SS and the OF. Good speed (15; 17/24). 10th in SN career Triples.
Owen Blandino [The Rooster] (b. 1938) 1962-1979
Huge favorite of the Sancti Spiritus fans for his class and dignity. The 3B fought under Che Guevara before the revolution.
Armando Capiro [The Uniform] (b. 1948) 1967-1980
Top slugging (.911 OPS) LF (1) retired due to injury, not loss of skill. MVP in 1973. Ever-present with the National team.
Eduardo Cardenas [The Acrobat] (b. 1967) 1985-2003
Slick field 3B (2) was good at moving baserunners with the hit and run (B) and sacrifice (A). 3rd in SN career SH.
Luis Giraldo Casanova [Mr. Baseball] (b. 1956) 1974-1990
Spray hitting, Triple Crown winning, power hitter (71 BB; 97 Runs, 97 RBI; .910 OPS). MVP in 1984. 10th in SN career BB, 7th in OnB and 6th in HR and SLG.
Danel Castro (b. 1976) 1993->
SS/2B (.342 OnB; 80 R) with pop (15 HR).
Juan Castro Garcia (b. 1954) 1974-1989
Considered by many Cuba’s greatest fielding C (1; -3).
Frederich Cepeda (b. 1980) 1998->
National team stalwart and patient (85 BB) power hitting LF (.885 OPS). 4th in SN career BB, 2nd in OnB and 8th in SLG.
Yorelvis Charles (b. 1979) 1996->
SS with good power (14 HR) who can play all IF positions. Batting champ in 2000.
Pedro Chavez [The Strange One] (b. 1936) 1962-1969
National star before the founding, when he was 26, of the SN. League champion 4 times, the corner OF (2) and 1B (2) was a consistent performer. Pitchers were careful with him as he averaged 11 IW a season. 2 time MVP (1964, 1967) and batting champ.
Miguel Cuevas [Don Miguel] (b. 1935) 1962-1974
Steady LF (2) was an intelligent hitter and run producer (94 RBI) who holds the career record for Base Awarded due to Catcher Obstruction. Also averaged 11 IW/season. Batting champ in 1966.
Jose Raul Delgado (b. 1960) 1979-1998
Versatile C (OF, 1B, 3B) with decent pop (13 HR).
Enriquito Diaz [The Bullet] (b. 1968) 1986-2011
Premier fielding 2B (1) of recent seasons who, as his nickname implies, can race (17) the wind (89 R; 49/59), and can draw walks (68). 2004 Cuba Series MVP. Enrique had the most seasons played (26) in the SN of all batters, and is career leader in G, PA, AB, Runs, Hits, Triples and SB.
Orlis Luis Diaz (b. 1969) 1991-2008
Smooth fielding LF (2) and reliable bat was overlooked for national selection due to his weak throwing arm (3).
Michel Enriquez [Super “12”] (b. 1979) 1998->
Wearing #12, the 3B is a batter supreme (38 Doubles; .309/.384/.469) who could star in the ML. Twice batting champ. MVP in 1999. 3rd in SN career BA and OnB, 4th in Doubles, and 1st in Triple Plays Made.
Jose Antonio Estrada [Pepito] (b. 1967) 1986-2003
Balletic CF (1, -1), smart baserunner (15; 24/31) with a knack for scoring runs (86). Batting champ in 1997. 6th in SN career SB.
Julio German Fernandez (b. 1962) 1981-1999
Slow (8) yet very nimble around the 1B bag (1). #5 hitter (89 RBI) who hit some of the SN’s longest HR (22). 8th in SN career HR and 9th in RBI.
Evenecer Godinez (b. 1960) 1979-1995
SS with good wheels (16; 10 Triples). Rookie of the Year co-winner (with Rene Arocha). Post retirement has been an international sports ambassador for Cuba. 2nd in SN career Triples.
Luis Ignacio Gonzalez [Nacho] (b. 1966) 1985-2002
Thick legged, big-bodied leadoff hitter (14/19) with real power (14 HR).
Toni Gonzalez (b. ?) 1962-1970
SS (2) anchor of his 4 straight winning Industriales team.
Urbano Gonzalez [Country Boy] (b. 1939) 1962-1974
Near impossible to strike out (14) 2B. MVP and batting champ in 1965.
Lourdes Gourriel [Man for the Big Moment] (b. 1957) 1977-1996
Multiple batting title winner and MVP of international tournaments. SN MVP in 1994. Rookie of the Year in 1977. Batting champ in 1994. Respected manager post-playing career. Older brother of Luis and father of Yulieski.
Luis Gourriel Diaz [Kiki] (b. 1966) 1985-2005
Strong armed (-3) CF (2) who played anywhere in the OF and 3B. Co-batting champ in 1990. Younger brother of Lourdes and uncle of Yulieski.
Yulieski Gourriel [Yuly](b. 1984) 2002->
Possibly the best player in today’s SN, the 3B (2) is as talented as anyone in the game, anywhere. He’s the one the scouts drool over (95 Runs, 105 RBI; .284/.347/.516; 19/22). MVP in 2005 and 2006. Son of Lourdes and nephew of Luis. (His new team, Industriales, includes his brothers, the CF Yuniesky and dynamic young SS Lourdes Jr.)
Ramon Hechavarria [The Kid] (b. 1938) 1962-1978
The best all around C of Cuba’s “deadball” years was also tough. He finished a game after part of a cracked helmet imbedded in his cranium.
Rey Isaac (b. 1973) 1992-2012
Corner OF with a reputation as a smart hitter.
Felix Isasi (b. 1945) 1965-1982
Outstanding SS (1) at turning the DP. A very tough out (.288; 43 K in 534 PA). Marvelous at hitting behind a runner (B) and swift on the bases (15; 18/24). Master of the hidden ball trick. With Rigoberto Rosique and Wilfredo Sanchez formed the Three Musketeers of the Henequeneros team.
Pedro Jova (b. 1953) 1972-1988
1972 Rookie of the Year. Contact hitting (.300; B; 29 K) smooth and stylish SS (2) is the SN career leader in BA from his position. Managed Villa Clara to 3 straight titles post-retirement.
Lazaro Marino Junco (b. 1958) 1979-1996
RF was a multiple HR (31) and RBI (102) titlist. MVP in 1983. 2nd in SN career HR, 9th in TB and 6th in RBI.
Orestes Kindelan [The Drum Major] (b. 1964) 1982-2002
Broke in as a C, then tried in the OF, before settling in at 1B and DH. Oh but what a bat. Ever-present with the National team where he destroyed international pitching. Triple Crown and MVP winner (1989) and classic clean up hitter (34 HR; 114 RBI). SN career leader in HR and TB.
Fermin Laffita [The Greyhound] (b. 1946) 1965-1984
The “Eastern Satellite” was a quick and graceful CF (2) and a constant presence in the National team. Batting champ in 1975.
Daniel Lazo (b. 1973) 1991-2005
Corner OF was known as an RBI man (90) with good power (24 HR).
Agustin Lescaille [The Rubber Man] (b. 1954) 1977-1998
Cuba’s greatest defensive 1B (1) is among the top 10 in many career offense and defense stat categories.
Omar Linares [The Boy] (b. 1968) 1983-2002
Greatest of the Cubans, he would rank in the top 10 3B in baseball history. Starred in international play and admired by everyone he competed against. An unstoppable offense machine (86 BB; 114 Runs; 28 HR; 96 RBI; .981 OPS; 17/22). Nearly as dominant in the field (2) where he could even step in at SS when needed. Five time batting champ. His computer On Base % is 49 v L/51 v R, and his computer XBH % is 15.6/15.5. In other words, a “must-have” card for a baseball collection.
Oscar Machado (b. ?) 1987-2005
Free swinging (140 K) CF (2; -2) good for chipping in 15 HR a season. Hitting coach after retirement.
Roger Machado [Bazooka Arm] (b. 1974) 1993-2006
C who it was a big risk to run on (-4). Post-retirement managed Ciego de Avila to the SN 51 title; now has taken charge of the National team after Victor Mesa.
Oscar Macias (b. 1969) 1985-2002
Power hitting (83 Runs; 19 HR; 84 RBI) 2B.
Elpidio Mancebo [The Imp] (b. 1944) 1963-1979
Patient contact hitting, small ball style, 1B. Batting champ in 1972.
Juan Manrique [The Cat] (b. 1967) 1986-2003
Excellent C (2; -2) with power (15 HR) and patience (80 BB). 3rd in SN career in Runners CS.
Agustin Marquetti [The Slugger] (b. 1944) 1966-1987
Little farm boy becomes one of the great names of Cuba baseball. MVP in 1972. 3rd in SN career IW. Clutch hitting 1B now runs a baseball school in Miami.
Albertico Martinez (b. ?) 1973-1988
Alberto was a sure handed C (2, e3) with a strong arm (-2). Held in very high esteem by the pitchers he worked with. 8th in SN career Runners CS.
Isaac Martinez [Sparky] (b. 1975) 1994->
Steady corner OF and frequent pick for the Cuba B team.
Romelio Martinez [Fatty] (b. 1965) 1984-1998
LF/DH who, when he swung (76 BB, 145 K), swung really hard (25 HR, many of them were majestic; 87 RBI). 4th in SN career HR, 7th in HBP, 8th in BB, 1st in K.
Alexander Mayeta (b. 1977) 1996->
Powerful clutch hitting 1B (23 HR; 90 RBI). MVP in 2006 and 2006 Cuba Series MVP. T-8th SN career IW.
Pedro Medina [The Doctor] (b. 1952) 1972-1988
Some call him the best C (1; -2) over Cuba’s rich history of producing C. He could really hit too (22 HR; .847 OPS). Managed Industriales to a title after retiring.
Javier Mendez (b. 1964) 1982-2003
CF won the batting title in 1987. Smart, patient (.380 OnB) hitter. Batting champ in 1987. 10th in SN career AB, 8th in R, 10th in H, 3rd in Doubles, 5th in BB, 9th in OnB, 9th in SF.
Rolando Merino (b. 1971) 1990-2011
Decent C who was never going to play ahead of Pestano for the National team, but what a strong batter (.779 OPS). 2008 Cuba Series MVP. 8th in SN career R, 1st in Doubles, 10th in RBI, 3rd in K.
German Mesa [The Magician; Magnet] (b. 1967) 1985-2000
There’s an argument to be made that he’d rank alongside Ozzie Smith as a glove man. Certainly he was as athletic, though more prone to mistakes (E-27) as he performed the SS (1, as there is no 0 rating) position like a premier ballet dancer. Lost 2 years when he was banned, along with El Duque Hernandez, for, allegedly, negotiating to jump to the ML. This embargo infuriated baseball fans across Cuba as no hard proof of his “crime” was ever presented. Very useful batter too (15; 30/40; .330 OnB). 7th in SN career SB.
Victor Mesa [Crazy Man; The Show] (b. 1960) 1975-1993
One of the most popular, and controversial, baseball players from Cuba. CF (1, -1) with an amazing skill set. Capable of outlandish behavior, he entertained and delighted the fans just as he tried the patience of teammates, opposition, umpires, and administrators. Yet post retirement he proved remarkably successful as a team manager, though his recent experience piloting Cuba in WBC 2013 exposed his volcanic and petulant side. The soul of a leadoff hitter (95 R, 16 r rating; 41/53) packed inside the body of a run producer (94 RBI; .447 SLG), Mesa had all the elements required of a baseball superstar. 8th in SN career AB, 5th in R, 7th in H, Doubles and RBI, 6th in TB and SF, 2nd in SB.
Silvio Montejo [The Bullet] (b. 1946) 1964-1975
Track star, then converted from a P, he used his speed (15) and arm to patrol CF and LF (2, -1). Crashed into a lot of unpadded outfield walls, willingly, as he played like no ball was uncatchable. Brother of Detroit’s Manny.
Juan Carlos Moreno [The Walrus] (b. ?) 1992-2006
SS (2) with pop (10 HR) was a National team reserve.
Antonio Munoz [The Giant] (b. 1949) 1968-1991
Long time star 1B (2) of the league and National team. Quick bat (25 HR; 98 RBI; .886 OPS) for a huge man. MVP in 1974. T-3rd in SN career seasons and PA, 6th in R, T-4th in HR, 4th in TB, 2nd in RBI, 1st in BB and IW.
Alejo O’Reilly [The Viking] (b. 1961) 1979-1994
Preceded Kindelan at 1B (1) with the National team. 1979 Rookie of the Year. Cleanup hitter whose heavy frame wore out his knees, forcing him to retire while still in his prime.
Eulogio Osorio (b. 1948) 1968-1983
Starred in international softball as well, the corner OF won 6 league titles, including in his rookie season. Batting champ in 1977. Passed away in 2006.
Antonio Pacheco [The Great Captain] (b. 1965) 1981-2002
Leader of the classic National team IF of Kindelan-Pacheco-Mesa-Linares. Won that 2B position on the strength of his bat (18 HR; 94 RBI; .809 OPS). Held down 3B and SS when needed. 9th in SN career PA, 6th in AB, 7th in R, 2nd in H, 3rd in RBI, TB and SF. Retired after losing vision in his right eye. Twice managed a title winner after retirement. Managed Cuba in the Beijing Olympics.
Juan Padilla A [The Vacuum Cleaner] (b. 1965) 1984-2000
Padilla Alfonso followed Pacheco as National team 2B (1) and was acknowledged as the superior defender. Would manage to chip in 10 HR a season while better renowned for his wonderful bunting (A). 7th in SN career Triples.
Eduardo Paret (b. 1972) 1990-2011
His career overlapped with German Mesa, and every fan had an opinion who was the better torpedero (SS). Not the fielder (2) Mesa was, of course, but had plenty to offer (17; 41/50; 9 HR; .340 OnB). 3 times a league champ. 2005 IBAF’s Player of the Year. Homered off Dice K in the 2006 WBC Gold medal game. 3rd in SN career R and SB, T-8th in Triples, 9th in BB and SH, 10th in HBP.
Joan Carlos Pedroso (b. 1979) 1998->
Immensely strong cleanup hitter (31 HR; .876 OPS) and nimble around 1B (1). 9th in SN career HR, 5th in OnB, 7th in SLG and K, and 1st in HBP.
Yosvani Peraza [Fatty] (b. 1979) 1998->
6’, 280 pound C generates a lot of power (22 HR). 69 RBI in just 399 AB confirms his reputation as a run producer. 4th in SN career IW.
Ariel Osvaldo Pestano (b. 1974) 1991-2013
Fiery C (1; -4) and the acknowledged leader of recent National teams. Though known primarily for his outstanding defense (1; -4) and firm handling of the pitching staff he supplies enough power (12 HR) to be pitched to cautiously. 1st in SN career in Runners CS.
Gabriel Pierre (b. 1966) 1986-2003
Overshadowed as a 3B by contemporary Linares, Pierre packed plenty of power (23 HR; .812 OPS) to not be overlooked by the National team. 7th in SN career HR, 3rd in HBP.
Rodolfo Puente [Buddy] (b. 1948) 1968-1983
1968 Rookie of the Year. Just 5’8’’, 150 lbs., he compensated for his scrawny physique with a sharp baseball mind. Batting champ in 1980.
Sergio Quesada (b. ?) 1976-1995
His glove at 2B (2) kept him in the lineup for 20 seasons. His speed (16; 17/22) and instincts helped too. 1st in SN career Innings Played, Assists (and Errors).
Alexander Ramos [The Man of Steel] (b. 1969) 1988-2005
Cuba’s Iron Man was the 1988 Rookie of the Year. The 2B (.293), Mr. Consistent, played in 1112 consecutive games. 6th in SN career BA.
Cheito Rodriguez (b. 1955) 1974-1998
Pedro Jose- we use his nickname (Joey) to distinguish him from Pedro Luis R- was a masher (34 HR; 113 RBI; .886 OPS) at 3B. MVP in 1980. Rookie of the Year in 1974. (His son was RotY in 2001.) T-10th in SN career HR.
Pedro Luis Rodriguez (b. 1960) 1982-1995
As a C he was a heck of a hitter (14 HR; 83 RBI; .791 OPS). MVP and co-batting champ in 1988. Always arguments over his defense (1st in SN career Steals Against, but also 4th in Runners CS); nobody questioned his bat.
Eddy Rojas [The Professor] (b. 1966) 1985-2004
Excellent OFer (2; -1) would provide cover anywhere in the IF (but 1B) when needed. 1985 Rookie of the Year. Won 3 league titles. Rumors of a handshake deal with an ML team were just that.
Rigoberto Rosique (b. 1944) 1964-1976
Among the greatest of the SN era. CF (1; -1) who played very shallow yet, as the rating attests, went back for a ball as well as Andruw Jones in his prime. His offense (.298; .377 OnB) didn’t take a backseat to his defensive prowess. Twice batting champ. A Three Musketeer of the Henequeneros title winning team with Felix Isaasi and Wilfredo Sanchez.
Fernando Sanchez (b. 1951) 1972-1994
Jardinero (OF) who played forever. 2 time MVP (1978, also batting champ, and 1982). 1st RHB to 2000 H. 7th in SN career Seasons Played, 5th in PA, AB and TB, 3rd in H, 8th in Triples, 4th in RBI. Brother of Wilfredo.
Wilfredo Sanchez [The Deer; Hit Man] (b. 1949) 1969-1987
OF/1B won 3 MVPs (1969, 1970 and 1979) and 5 batting crowns (1969, 1970, 1976, 1979, and 1984). 1st batter to 2,000 H. 6th in SN career H and Triples, 4th in RBI, 6th in SB. A Three Musketeer of the Henequeneros title winning team with Felix Isaasi and Rigoberto Rosique. Brother of Fernando.
Eriel Sanchez (b. 1975) 1993->
Reserve C/1B/DH with the National team. Not a skillful receiver, though helps to make up for that with a ridiculous arm (-3). Good for 14 HR and a reliable RBI man (77). 2nd in SN career Runners Caught Stealing, 1st in GDP.
Felipe Sarduy (b. 1944) 1964-1984
1B was Rookie of the Year in 1964. At his peak he was a safe pair of hands, and though that period wasn’t long (his career certainly was), he did handle 642 consecutive chances without an error. 3rd in SN career in Putouts and Chances.
Antonio Scull [Liquid] (b. 1965) 1988-2007
Smooth 1B (2) with some power (14 HR) and RBI ability (83). 2003 Cuba Series MVP. 8th in SN career in Doubles, 2nd in SF.
Carlos Alberto Tabares [The Linx] (b. 1974) 1992->
Little Tabares is a quick (15; 19/27) CF (2; -1) who likes bunting (A) for hits and hitting behind runners (B). 1st in SN career SH.
Andres Telemaco (b. 1942) 1962-1974
Primarily 2B, but equally at home at SS and 3B. Surprising power (14 HR) especially for the small ball times he played.
Luis Ulacia (b. 1963) 1984-2004
He played a lot of shortstop, befitting his size (5’8”; 160) and the #1 on his shirt, but he had too many miscues there. He blossomed into a star when shifted to LF (1; -3). 3 time batting champ. 7th in SN career AB, 10th in R, 5th in H, 4th in SB.
Alfonso Urquiola [Lightning] (b. 1953) 1971-1989
2B (2) with a very smooth pivot on the double play. For that position he had a nice combo of speed (15; 18/26) and pop (10 HR). Post-retirement he was a title winning manager and helmed the National team.
Ermidelio Urrutia (b. 1963) 1981-1996
Dynamic RF (1; -3) good for 15 HR and 82 RBI. Would be overshadowed by his generously talented cousin Osmani, but was a better ballplayer than his son, Baltimore’s Henry. Post-retirement he managed both men.
Osmani Urrutia [Mr. 400] (b. 1976) 1994-2009
Corner OF twice MVP (2004 and 2007) and 6 times a batting champ- 5 years consecutive- his 2004 season was the highest BA ever achieved in the league. 2nd in SN career BA (.02 behind Linares), 8th in OnB. Cousin of Ermidelio.
Lazaro Vargas [The Black Beast] (b. 1964) 1981-2002
Good 3B (2) and a good hitter (.355 OnB). MVP in 1986. 8th in SN career PA and H, 9th in AB, 4th in SF (but 2nd in GDP).
Mario Jorge Vega [Mayito] (b. 1975) 1992-2013
Outstanding defensive 2B (1). Played for what had been a poor league team, until as a part-timer in 2012 he helped Ciego lift the title. 6th in SN career SH, 9th in DP Turned.
Rolando Verde [The Green “Blue”] (b. 1962) 1981-1996
Industriales (who play in blue, and verde means green) 3B (2) was the 1981 Rookie of the Year. Could capably handle SS.
Amadito Zamora (b. 1953) 1976-1994
Corner OF was MVP in 1995. Twice batting champ, 1981 and then a wait til 1995. Amado’s great speed (16) gained him many infield hits. 5th in SN career Triples. His son Andy, also a good average hitter, currently plays for his dad’s old team Villa Clara.
CUBAN LEAGUE STARS (1962-2013): The Pitchers
Pablo Miguel Abreu (b. 1967) 1984-1996
72-48. Seven times selected SN Best LHP. 4 times a league champ. Unfortunately, often injured. Good enough hitter to have played some OF. Pitched in Europe (Holland, Italy) after “retirement”, and now works there for a Miami based sports agency.
Omar Ajete (b. 1965) 1985-2004
179-96. 5 time a league champ. 9th in SN career W, 10th in W % and K. Kept a close bond after retirement with his Pinar teammates Casanova, Linares, Castro Garcia, and Rogelio Garcia.
Manuel Alarcon [The Coppersmith] (b. 1941) 1962-1968
41-24. Exaggerated rotation to the plate, like a Tiant. Feasted off his sharp breaking curveball. Suspended for the 1966 season (Bo Belinsky disease). Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1968. A ruptured disc forced him to retire. Passed away in 1998 (56).
Jose Luis Aleman [Pepe] (b. ?) 1977-1995
174-125. Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1989. 6th in SN career CG, 10th in Shutouts and HR.
Yovani Aragon [The Hurricane] (b. 1974) 1993-2008
156-124. Fastball, forkball, slider Pitcher. 7th in SN career K. Currently the manager of Sancti Spiritus.
Omar Carrero [The Peasant] (b. 1949) 1972-1988
149-105. Sinker-slider-forkballer, not especially fast, who threw from multiple angles with outstanding control. Pitched for weak hitting Pinar and Ciego teams. Pitching Triple Crown, Cy Young (equivalent) and MVP in 1976. 2nd lowest single season ERA (1976). A no hitter in 1981. 10th in SN career CG, 3rd in Shutouts. Passed away in 2012.
Faustino Corrales (b. 1965) 1983-2005
172-135. Pascual type big breaking curve baller. A no hitter in 1991. K’ed 22 in a 9 inning game. Led league in K 4 times. 3rd in SN career Seasons and K, 6th in GS, 10th in IP, 7th in Shutouts, 2nd in BB, 1st in WP.
Reinaldo Costa (b. 1959) 1977-1987
110-67. Fastball and control pitcher who threw from a 3/4 angle. Pitching Triple Crown and Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1985, but in his peak, that season ruined his arm.
Jose Modesto Darcourt [Little Fellow] (b. 1958) 1977-1990
129-107. Curve baller who came under suspicion for mixing with gamblers and was blackballed from the national team. His laconic and carefree nature didn’t endear him to the more demanding fans. Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1982.
Lazaro de la Torre [Iron Arm] (b. 1957) 1979-1995; 2000-2002
208-139. Fastball pitcher and workout freak. Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1986. Made a comeback when 45; attempted another at 49. 6th in SN G and IP, 10th in GS, 5th in W, 9th in CG, H and BB.
Jose Angel Garcia [The Barber] (b. ?) 1999->
56-65/142. Intimidating closer with not the best control. 10th in SN career in G, 1st in GR and Saves, 2nd in IW.
Rogelio Garcia [Cyclone] (b. 1955) 1975-1988
202-100. Fastball/forkball pitcher. Almost identical in his (smaller) stature to Tom Gordon, and similar in wracking up big K numbers. 1981 Cy Young (equivalent) and MVP, the year he pitched a no hitter. Cy Young (equivalent) winner again in 1988. 3rd in SN career CG, 6th in W and W %, 1st in K, 3rd in BB, 2nd in Shutouts, 8th in IP.
Jose Antonio Huelga [The Hero of Cartagena] (b. 1948) 1968-1974
73-32/14. In a 1970 international tournament in Columbia, vs the US, he beat Burt Hooton in 11 innings, then came back in the 5th inning the next day to help defeat the US again. Hence earning the appellation. Won 17 games for the national team. No hitter in 1968. Beat the great Braudilio Vinent in the 1972 league tie-breaker on 96 pitches/71 strikes. 1st in SN career ERA. Died in a 1974 car accident. Since his pitching career was brief, we card him in this set as a closer.
Manuel Hurtado (b. 1942) 1963-1974
90-47. Offered a contract with the Senators as a 17 year old. In the Cuban tradition of great curve ball artists. Known for his calm and gentlemanly demeanor. Remembered for his classic matchups against Manuel Alarcon. Used a double windup motion. Idolized by El Duque Hernandez. 3rd in SN career ERA, 7th in W %.
Jose Ibar [Cheo](b. 1969) 1987-2004
173-100. Slider was his big pitch, but also threw a knuckle ball. Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1995, 1998 and 1999. Had an amazing run of consecutive W. 1st in single season W. Was the series opener against the Orioles.
Pedro Luis Lazo [The Skyscraper; Junkyard Dog] (b. 1973) 1991-2010
257-136. The best SN pitcher of his time. Hotly pursued by ML agents. Pitched 72 G in the post-season. Pitched in 4 Olympics. 4th in SN career in G and HR, 2nd in IP, GS and K, 5th in CG, 1st in W, 8th in W %, 3rd in H, 6th in BB. Pitching coach in Mexico after retirement, and also devotes time to work with at-risk children.
Gaspar Legon (b. 1945) 1965-1979
141-101. Pitched for Camaguey when the team was known as The Unbeatables, before it fell into years of decline. His main weapons were control, intelligence, and changing his arm angle.
Ciro Silvino Licea [The Indian] (b. 1975) 1994->
196-140. Switched from IF to P at the start of his SN career. Dealing with a spinal injury, he retired only to return. 9th in SN career G and K, 3rd in GS, 7th in W and HR, 10th in L, 5th in IP and Shutouts, 2nd in H, 9th in K
Jonder Martinez (b. 1978) 1997->
121-117. Breaking ball pitcher, usually with good control, who tops out at 91. Moved from starter to closer recently when he joined pitching rich Villa Clara. Pitched a no hitter in 2008. 7th in SN career in HB (which he uses for a purpose).
Santiago Mederos [Joker] (b. 1945) 1965-1979
123-67. Southpaw curve ball artist and K king. Overcame early control problems. OF as a youth and remained a good hitter. Rumored to have been offered a few hundred thousand dollars to jump to the ML. Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1969. Won nine international tournaments; K’ed 21 Mexicans in 1970. 6th in SN career ERA and Shutouts. Died in a 1979 car crash- the Metropolitanos’ baseball stadium in Havana was renamed in his honor.
Eliecer Montes de Oca (b. 1971) 1990-2007
136-91. Large repertoire of pitches. 5th in SN career HB.
Vicyohandri Odelin [Viyo] (b.1980) 1998->
124-94. Throws an assortment of pitches. Qualified as a phys ed teacher before starting his SN career.
Juan Carlos Oliva (b. 1954) 1974-1984
101-57. OF as a youth moved to P. Younger brother of Minnesota’s Tony.
Adiel Palma (b. 1970) 1988-2008
139-165. Protege of Julio Romero. Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 2003. Pitched a no hitter in 1999. 5th in SN career Seasons, 9th in GS, 6th in W, 8th in K, 5th in BB and WP.
Angel Gaspar Perez [The Worker] (b. 1943) 1965-1974
76-63. Beat Manuel Alarcon 1-0 in his very first game. 3B as a youth, he’s well remembered in Cuba as The Hero of Quisqueya (D.R.), site of the 1969 World Championship final vs USA. Asked to bat for himself, 2 down in the 9th with Cuba trailing 0-1, he singled home the tie run, then scored the winner on a hit by Rigoberto Rosique. Followed that by shutting down USA in the 9th to seal the Championship.
Juan Perez Perez (b. 1951) 1970-1978
89-58. Fastball (95-100)/slider pitcher. Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1974. Pitched a no hitter in 3 consecutive years (1973-1975). Passed away in 2013.
Raul Reyes (b. ?) 1983-1996
44-39/63. 6th in SN career GR, 9th in Saves.
Jose Ramon Riscart [Marmalade] (b. 1961) 1979-1997
155-93. Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1991. Pitched a 17 inning G. 3 time league champ. 9th in SN career Shutouts. Victor Mesa’s pitching coach.
Jose Riveira [Nito] (b. 1958) 1978-1989
81-47. Rookie of the Year in 1978. Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1983. Retired young after obtaining a teaching degree in phys ed. Highly regarded pitching coach for Victor Mesa at Villa Clara. Passed away in 2012.
Maels Rodriguez (b. 1979) 1998-2003
65-45/11. Power fastball (97-101)/slider thrower. MVP and Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 2001. Pitched a perfect game in 1999, and a no hitter in 2002. Single season K record (2001). His arm went bad in 2003, so when he defected that October his dream of pitching in the ML came to naught. We card him in this set as a closer (like his nearest comparable Aroldis Chapman.)
Euclides Rojas (b. 1964) 1982-1994
59-42/90. Closer who got by on guile and control rather than speed. Threw a tight breaker of a curveball, which he kept down in the zone. 5th in SN career GR, 6th in Saves. Made it to the US, but his arm had gone bad. Bounced around the Minors for a bit, then transitioned to a Minor league pitching instructor for Boston, Miami and Pittsburgh.
Julio Romero (b. 1950) 1973-1987
148-100. 8th in SN career CG and Shutouts, 10th in WP. Pitched a no hitter in 1983. Pitching coach, including a stint with the national team, after retirement.
Ormari Romero [The Giant] (b. 1968) 1991-2008
194-124. 6’6”. 2005 post-season MVP. 6 time league champ. 8th in SN career W, 7th in IP and IW, 6th in H
Oscar Romero Albert (b. 1947) 1967-1983
125-114. Change up/screwball pitcher who messed with hitters’ timing. Pitched a no hitter in 1975.
Walfrido Ruiz (b. 1946) 1967-1979
102-50. MVP in 1975. Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1975. Pitched a no hitter in 1971. 5th in SN career W %. T-1st single season GS. Passed away in 2013.
Luis Tissert (b. ?) 1982-1991
94-55. Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1987. His brother Jorge, a pretty good starter/closer, replaced him with Santiago.
Yolexis Ulacia (b. 1977) 1998-2010
67-43/122. Submariner relies on sinker/slider movement and good control. 2nd in SN career GR and Saves, 8th in IW.
Jorge Luis Valdes [Tati](b. 1961) 1978-1997
234-166. Threw a very nasty knuckle curve to go with his sinker. MVP and Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1992. Pitched a no hitter in 1984. Undefeated season in 1992. 5th in SN career G, L and IW, 4th in IP, GS, H, BB and Shutouts, 2nd in CG and WP, 3rd in W, 6th in K, 9th in HR.
Roberto Valdes [The Mulatto] (b. 1944) 1967-1977
77-40. Pitched a no hitter in 1967. Undefeated season in 1972. T-1st most CG in a season and T-2nd most GS.
Lazaro Valle [Supersonic] (b. 1962) 1987-1997
138-73. Formed a dominant tandem for Industriales with El Duque Hernandez and Rene Arocha. Running fastball/slider/change up. T-8th SN career W %.
Norge Luis Vera [The Star] (b. 1971) 1994-2011
176-68. High leg kick combined with the manner that he was able to hide the ball out of his hand deceived batters and made his fastball appear much faster than its 91. MVP and Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 2000. 6 time league champ. Threw a no hitter in 2001. Post-season MVP in 1999 and 2001. 10th in SN career W, 2nd in W %. T-1st in single season Shutouts. 7 innings of 3 hit relief vs Baltimore at Camden Yards. Suffered facial trauma from a night club fight in 2009, then was very seriously injured in a 2011 car accident.
Braudilio Vinent [The Meteor; Bayiyo] (b. 1947) 1968-1987
221-167. Relied on a heavy fastball; later Connie Marrero helped him to perfect a slider. Kept focus on the mound, no nonsense, no distractions, like Bob Gibson. Cy Young (equivalent) winner in 1973 and 1980. 5th in SN career GS and K, 1st in CG and Shutouts, 4th in W, L, and WP, 3rd in IP, 10th in H, 6th in BB. 2nd in single season W.
Carlos Yanes [The Man With the Iron Arm] (b. 1965) 1985-2012
235-242. 5’8” bulldog. Totally relied on location, and throwing slow and slower, as his fastball topped out in the mid-80s. Pitched a no hitter in 2000. 1st in SN career Seasons, G, GS, IP, H, HR, BB and L, 2nd in W, 3rd in IW, 4th in CG, K and HB.