With the baseball season fast approaching, it’s time to turn our attention to the New York teams that have brought us glory throughout history. From 1947 to 1957, the three teams that represented New York City were the Yankees, Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers. Some of the greatest players came out of this decade. In the heydey of the 40’s and 50’s, the Yankees won seven World Series Titles. The Dodgers won their only title in 1955, while the Giants won two in 1954 and 1957 before both teams were to moved to California. Yet there remains one question: does anybody remember the New York Cubans??
The same year that the Yankees won the first of five World Series in a row, 1947, the New York Cubans won the Negro League Championship. This is hardly remembered or spoken about, which is surprising since the Cubans was a Negro League team that had players who were just as good as the Major League players. The average baseball fan today most likely has never heard of them, but in the hearts and minds of the Latin community they still exist.
First up Martin Dihigo, considered by many to be the greatest ball player who ever played in the Negro Leagues, is the only ballplayer elected to four baseball Hall of Fames – in the U.S., Mexico, Cuba, and Venezuela. Long before Pete Rose became an All-Star in five different positions, Dihigo had done the same. He was called “El Maestro” (The Teacher, or The Master). As a pitcher he won 256 games, with a winning percentage of 653. He had a lifetime batting average .303. When Satchel Paige, the greatest pitcher in the Negro Leagues, was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971 he said, “I’m not the best, Martin Dihigo is.” Dihigo was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977.
Tetelo Vargas, from the Dominican Republic, is considered by many to be the Father of Dominican Baseball. Long before fellow countryman Juan Marichal (elected to Hall of Fame in 1987), Manny Ramirez, or Vladimir Guerrero, there was Vargas. He was also known as the Dominican Deer. He excelled in defense, was a consistent hitter, had good speed, and was a slick base stealer. When you see Ramirez’s power or Guerrero’s arm, you see Vargas in spirit.
Other outstanding players include Pedro Anibal “Perucho” Cepeda, of Puerto Rico, who played shortstop. He was the father of Baseball Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda. He was on the Cubans roster in 1941. An outstanding fielder and hitter, he finished with a .325 batting average. When you see Derek Jeter (NY Yankees), Miguel Tejada (Baltimore Orioles), or Alex Rodriguez when he played shortstop for the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, they are representing the new prototype of power-hitting shortstops and hitting those long balls that was Cepeda.
Another great on the New York Cubans was Luis Tiant, father of Cleveland and Boston All-Star pitching great Luis “El Tiante” Tiant and Saturnino Orestes Armas “Minnie” Minoso, who would set an MLB record for appearing in games, mostly with Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, over five decades (and even attempted a sixth).
Could this team compete with the Golden Teams 1947 to 1957? Their records prove it. For more information about the New York Cubans and the Negro Leagues, visit the following links: