All-Time Caribbean Baseball All-Stars

By Rey O’Neal

David Ortiz / Red Sox August 2013. Photo: Sofia Fay

David Ortiz / Red Sox August 2013. Photo: Sofia Fay

Since the integration of Major League Baseball in the United States in 1947, the influence of  Latin American baseball players has been  considerable.

However the first Caribbean players to leave their mark on the North American baseball scene had largely plied their trade in the relative obscurity of the Negro Leagues in the United States as many as thirty years before the official desegregation of “Organized Baseball” occurred.

Some white Latin-American players made it into Major League  rosters and a few others  might have “slipped through the cracks” but effectively the  strict racial segregation barriers that excluded Afro-American players from baseball’s major and minor leagues applied equally to non-white Latinos. Most of the Caribbean stars who performed in the Negro Leagues were Cubans with a few others from Puerto Rico, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

The following players are those who I consider to have been the best Caribbean players in baseball history:

Miguel Cuellar (Cuba) – A lefthander who made history as one of a quartet of Baltimore Oriole pitchers  who each won 20 games in 1971. Cuellar, famous for his screwball, enjoyed his best years with the Orioles after  starting his career with the Cincinnati Reds. He was a four-time All-Star and shared the 1969 Cy Young Award with Detroit’s Denny McLain. Cuellar was a 20-game winner four times in his career and usually completed about half of the  games he started. Cuellar’s career ended with a record of 185 wins against 139 losses and a healthy earned run average of 3.14.

Adolfo Luque (Cuba) – One of the first Cubans to play in the Major Leagues, the fiery Luque was undoubtedly the first Latin American star of the pre-integration era. At the time of his retirement Luque had won more major league games than any other  Latino pitcher. His total of 194 wins, with a career E.R.A. of  3.24 was supported by outstanding performances in his native Cuba, where he ranked second all-time in  career wins. At the beginning and end of his big league career Luque was used mainly as a reliever with some success. It was a starter that he excelled, however, winning 27 games for Cincinnati in 1923 and twice  leading the National League in E.R.A.

Juan Marichal (Dominican Republic) – Arguably the best pitcher never to  have won a Cy Young award, Marichal was a consistent, dependable pitcher for the San Francisco Giants for over a decade. He won 20 or more games in a season six times and pitched in ten All-Star Games. His career record of 243 victories against 142 losses for a winning percentage of .631 is one of the best ever among veteran pitchers. He ended his career with 52 shutouts, including a no-hitter. Of his 459 Major League starts he completed 249 of them. His career earned run average was 3.89 and he struck out 2,307 natters. The high-kicking Dominican right-hander was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1983,the first player from his country to be so honoured.

Dennis Martinez (Nicaragua) – From a country better known for producing boxers and football players, Dennis “El Presidente” Martinez spent 23 years in the Major Leagues. He accumulated more wins (245) than any other Caribbean pitcher, while losing 193 and compiling an E.R.A. of 3.70. He played for five bib-league teams, enjoying his greatest success with the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos. As an Expo he pitched a perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1991. He was one of only nine pitchers to have won 100 or more games in both the National and American Leagues. He was selected to four All-Star teams between 1990 and 1996.

Pedro Martinez (Dominican Republic) – Statistically Pedro Martinez has had the most impressive career of any Caribbean pitcher. Relatively small for a power pitcher at 5′ 11′ and 190 lbs., Martinez led the league in strikeouts three times  and in 1999 won pitching’s Triple Crown  with the Boston Red Sox, also leading the American League in wins and Earned Run Average. He led the league in E.R.A. five times and was named to eight All-Star  teams.

Martinez, who first made his mark with the Montreal Expos, spent most of his career with the  Boston Red Sox. He won a Cy Young Award as an Expo in 1997 and two more with the Red Sox in 1999 and 2000.His lifetime record of 219 wins against 100 losses left him with a 68% winning percentage. His 3,154 strikeouts at better than one per inning rank him among Baseball’s best.  In 2015 Martinez was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Jose Mendez (Cuba) – MENDEZ, “The Black Diamond”  is rated by most baseball authorities as Cuba’s greatest ever pitcher. His reputation was largely established by his performances against several of Major League Baseball’s best hitters who faced him in the off-season in the 1920;s. The first Cuban to attain stardom in the Negro Leagues of the U.S.A., his success paved the way for a flood of his countrymen. A small right-hander with a dominating fastball, Mendez also had an effective assortment of off-speed pitches. In a career that lasted from 1907 to 1924, Mendez had a record of 75 wins against 36 losses in the Cuban League and 51 victories against 15 defeats in Negro League action, completing well over half the games he started, with an overall E.R.A. around 2.30. Mendez was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2006.

Mariano Rivera (Panama) – Undoubtedly, baseball’s greatest relief pitcher, Rivera amassed a record 653 saves in his 19 year career with the New York Yankees, with a 2.21 earned run average and 1,173 strikeouts. He owns the Major League record for games finished(957). Rivera was an American League All-Star 13 times and played on  5 World Series -winning teams and was chosen Series M.V.P..  In 1999 he was chosen the best reliever in baseball five times. 
Rivera, whose signature pitch was a cut fastball, had a phenomenal record in post-season baseball. He had a won-lost record  of 6-1 with an E.R.A. of 0.70. and 42 saves. He holds the Major League Playoff record with 33 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

Francisco Rodriguez (Venezuela) –  At the age of 20 Rodriguez was a standout reliever in 2002 as his Los Angeles Angels defeated the  San Francisco Giants to capture their first World Series title. The hard- throwing Venezuelan has a lifetime record of 41-36,with an earned run average of 2.70. He has recorded 304 saves, leading the American League in that category three times. In 2008 he set the all-time Major League record with 62 saves in a single season. He has been a four-time All-Stars election and has one the Rolaids Award as best reliever twice. Over his career he has struck out 933 batters in only 767 innings pitched, placing him among the all-time elite in that category-strikeouts per inning.

Johan Santana (Venezuela) – A lefthander whose career was cut short by injury, Santana at the top of his game was the best pitcher in the American League.  As a member of the Minnesota Twins Santana won the Cy Young Award in 2004 and 2006.In the latter year he won pitching’s Triple Crown, leading the league in wins, strikeouts and E.R.A.. He led the league in strikeouts twice  and earned run average twice. An excellent fielder, he also won a Gold Glove in 2007.  With the New York Mets, he threw the first no-hitter in that team’s 52 year history. Santana ended his Major League career in 2013. His lifetime marks included 139 wins, 78 losses and an E.R.A. of 3.20. He had struck out 1,988 hitters and graced four All-Star Game rosters.

Luis Tiant (Cuba) – The son of a pitcher of the same name who was considered Cuba’s best left-hander before Miguel Cuellar, the younger Tiant had a long and distinguished Major League career. It was highlighted by his seasons with the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox. He won 20 games in a season once with the Indians and three times with the Red Sox. He twice recorded earned run averages in a season. The eccentric Tiant closed out his career with 229 wins and 179 losses, an E.R.A. of 3.30 and 2,416 strikeouts. He completed 187 of his starts and threw 49 shutouts. He was elected to Venezuela’s Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jorge Posada (Puerto Rico) – The nephew of Cuban Major League outfielder Leo Posada, the switch-hitting Puerto Rican was one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball history. Over his seventeen seasons with the New York Yankees he averaged .273 with 275 home runs and 350 doubles. A five-time American League All-Star, he helped the Yankees to four World Series titles. He drove in 1,065 runs during his career and won 5 Silver Slugger awards for his position

Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez (Puerto Rico) – Without a doubt Major League Baseball’s best defensive catcher of the post-Johnny Bench era, Rodriguez won 13 Gold Gloves in a career that saw him catch more games than anyone else. Rodriguez, who spent the greater part of his playing days with the Texas Rangers, was selected to 14 All-Star teams. He had a lifetime batting average of .296 with 2,543 hits. He clubbed 311 home runs, batted in 1,322 runs and scored 1354.  In 1999 he was voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player. He won a World Series title in 2003 as a member of the Florida Marlins.

Roberto Alomar (Puerto Rico) – The son of a Santos, a Major League utility infielder, and brother of All-Star catcher Santos Jr.(Sandy), Roberto carved his own niche en route to a Hall of Fame career.
Selected 12 times as an All-Star in a career that peaked as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, Alomar was the best defensive second baseman of his day, as his ten Gold Gloves, more than any other at the position, will attest.  Alomar, whose lifetime batting average was .300, exceeded that mark in nine seasons. His 1508 runs scored reflected six seasons with 100 or more. He also batted in 100 runs twice in a total of 1,134. He amassed 2,724 hits,including504 doubles and 210 home runs. A switch-hitter, he won 4 Silver Slugger awards. He also ended his playing days with 474 stolen bases. Alomar is the only player to have had his number retired by the Toronto Blue Jays. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011.

Luis Aparicio (Venezuela) – Venezuela has been famous for producing top-class  shortstops since the mid-1950’s and continues to do so. Some question whether Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio was actually better than Omar Vizquel, a better hitter and almost his match defensively. However Aparicio’s impact0n the game in the late 1950’s and the 1960’s cannot be denied. With the Chicago White Sox (twice), the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox, Aparicio stole 504 bases, leading the league nine times. Best known for his defensive play, Aparicio won nine Gold Gloves. An excellent lead off hitter, Aparicio’s lifetime batting average of .267 might seem modest, but was better than most shortstops of his day. He accumulated a total of 2,677 hits and scored 1,355 runs. He regularly led the league in sacrifice hits.He played in 13 All-Star Games.

Miguel Cabrera (Venezuela) – Not really a man without a position Cabrera has played regularly in left field, at first base and third base, never distinguishing himself defensively but usually adequate to the task. At bat, though “adequate” falls far short of the mark in describing his achievements. The American League  Most Valuable Player in both 2012 and 2013. In 2012 he became the first player in 45 years to win the batting Triple Crown, leading the league in home runs, batting average and runs batted in.  A two-time home run leader, Cabrera has been a nine-time All-Star and won six Silver Slugger awards. He won a World Series Championships as a 20-year old with the Florida Marlins and also played in the 2012 Series with the Detroit Tigers. Cabrera’s lifetime statistics at the end of 2013 surpass every contemporary hitter except Aklbert Pujols. He had a career batting average of .321with 1,995 hits including 365 homers and 412 doubles. He had batted in 1,265 runs and scored 1,064,with a slugging percentage of .568.

Rod Carew (Panama) – Although he actually played a few more games at first base than at second, Rod Carew is generally considered the Caribbean’s all-time best second baseman. A hitter without great power, Carew accumulated 3,053 hits en route to a .328 lifetime batting average with the Minnesota Twins and California Angels. He collected over 200 hits in a season four times and was a ember of 18 American League All-Star teams.
Carew was usually among the league leaders in triples and sacrifice hits. He ended his Major League playing days with 1,424 runs scored, including 17 steals of home plate. Carew had his number retired by both the Twins and Angels. He became his country’s first Hall of Famer in 1991.

Martin Dihigo (Cuba) -Dihigo might just as well have been named to this roster as a pitcher, for it was in that capacity that he earned his greatest notoriety in Latin America. The versatile Dihigo was elected to the Has of Fame in Cuba, Mexico,the United States and Venezuela. In a poll of players and sportswriters affiliated with the Negro Leagues, Dihigo was named the all-time greatest second baseman and also received support at third base, Left field and right field. Not the usual utility man with no set position, Dihigo, who played every position but catcher, was a good glove-man anywhere and had outstanding speed. In his professional career Dihigo batted .302 in four countries, exhibiting good power, and won 252 games against 132 losses. He won batting and home run titles in the Negro Leagues and Cuba and one year in Mexico he led the league in batting average, games won and E.R.A.  He was inducted into U.S. Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1997.

Tony Perez (Cuba) – Perez was a player without overwhelming statistics but one worthy of selection for his high level of productivity over an extended period of time. Perez, whose prime years as a player were spent with Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine”, was a competent fielder at both first and third base. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000,played on three World Series champion teams. He also played in even All-Star Games and was named MVP  of the 1967 edition.  
A durable player who never went on the disabled list, Perez drove in 100 or more runs seven times  and topped 90 in five other seasons. His career ended with a .279 batting average. He had 2,732 hits, including 505 doubles and 379 homers. He drove in 1,625 runs and scored 1,272,with a slugging percentage of .460.

Albert Pujols (Dominican Republic) – Without debate, Major League Baseball’s most productive hitter in the first decade of the 21st century was Albert Pujols. His career with the St. Louis Cardinals, which ended after 2011 when he led them to a second World Series championship before signing as a free agent with the Los Angeles Angels, produced nine All-Star Game selections. He twice won National League home run titles as well as leading the league in batting once, in runs batted in once and in runs scored five times. A decent third baseman at the start of his career, he twice won Gold Gloves after moving across the diamond to first base. He also won six Silver Slugger awards. At the end of the 2013 season Pujols’ career statistics included a batting average of .321with 524 doubles and 492 home runs. He had driven in 1,498 runs and scored 1,426 with a .599 slugging percentage. He had batted in at least 100 runs in ten straight seasons and scored more than 100 in ten seasons.

Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico) – Clemente was the first Latin American ballplayer to be named  Most Valuable Player in the Major Leagues He earned a similar distinction as the first from the region to be voted M.V.P. for his World Series performance. Clemente, who died on the last day of 1972 in a plane crash while on a humanitarian mission to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua, had ended the 1972 season with exactly 3,000 career hits, the first Caribbean player to reach that milestone. He won four National League batting titles and was considered one of baseball’s best defensive outfielders ever, winning twelve Gold Glove awards. The Pittsburgh Pirates star made 15 All-Star Game appearances. 
Clemente had a lifetime batting average of .317 with 240 home runs and 166 triples. He scored 1,174 runs and batted in 1,305. Clemente was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1973,with the usual five year post-retirement  waiting period having been waived.

Juan Gonzalez (Puerto Rico) – The big Puerto Rican slugger, “Igor” Gonzalez won two American League Most Valuable Player awards while with the Texas Rangers. He twice won home run titles and hit 40  or more round-trippers in five seasons. The three-time All-Star won six Silver Slugger awards and ranks fourth all-time in ratio of home runs to times at bat.  Gonzalez had eight seasons in which he drove in 100 or more runs. Gonzalez’ career statistics include a .295 batting average,368 doubles and 434 home runs. He batted in 1,404 runs and secured 1,064 with an impressive slugging percentage of .568.

Vladimir Guerrero (Dominican Republic) – Several times the rifle-armed  Dominican right-fielder led his league in both outfield assists and errors but it is for his offensive prowess that he will be best remembered. The nine-time All-Star closed out his career with a .318 batting average, with 2,590 hits,,which included 449 home runs and 477 doubles. He batted in 1,496 runs, scored 1,054 and had a slugging percentage of .553. He also stole 181 bases. 
Known for his propensity to swing at any ball within reach, Guerrero never struck out as many as 100 times in a season. An eight time Silver Slugger winner, Guerrero twice hit 30 homers and stole 30 bases in a season. In at least two seasons he ranked in the top ten in the league in batting average, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases, slugging percentage and total bases.

Manny Ramirez (Dominican Republic) – The unpredictable Dominican was the most feared right-handed hitter in the American League until the rise to prominence of Miguel Cabrera. A 12-time All-Star, he counted 21 grand-slams among his 555 homers and no player has surpassed his29 post-season home runs. He played in two World Series for the Boston Red Sox  and was named Series  Most Valuable Player in 2004. Ramirez led the American League once each in batting average, homers and runs batted in. He won nine Silver Slugger awards and had a career batting average of .312.Among his 2,574 hits were 555 homers and 547 doubles. His slugging percentage upon retirement was .588.He ended with 1,831 runs batted in and 1,544 runs scored. In nine consecutive seasons he had hit 39 home runs and driven in 100.

Cristobal Torriente (Cuba) – The temperamental Cuban outfielder amassed some impressive  statistics both in his native country and in the U.S. Negro Leagues. A stocky left handed hitter with fairly good power, Torriente was a solid defensive center fielder who could also play right fields and pitch and, despite being a left-handed thrower, occasionally lined  up at second base or shortstop.  Torriente won two Negro League batting titles and  had a lifetime batting average there of .331.In Cuba  his career average of .352 is the highest ever.  
In 2006, Torriente was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame along with other players whose race denied them the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues.

Bernie Williams (Puerto Rico) – Probably the best Latin American center fielder of the modern era (rivaled closely by another switch-hitting Puerto Rican, Carlos Beltran) Williams carved out an impressive career with the New York Yankees. Deceptively fleet of foot, Williams won 4 sprint gold medals as a 15 year old at the Central American and Caribbean Athletics Championships. As a Major Leaguer, Williams was a five-time All-Star and four times a World Series champion. He won 4 Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger award. He was the American  League batting champion in 1998. Williams’ career batting average of .297 was the product of 2,336 hits, which included 449 doubles and 287 home runs. He scored 1,360 runs and batted in1,267.


Camilo Pascual (Cuba)-RHP
Aroldis Chapman (Cuba)-LHP
Francisco Cordero (Dominican Republic)-RHP
Teddy Higuera (Mexico)-LHP
Fernando Valenzuela (Mexico)-LHP
John Candelaria (Puerto Rico)-LHP
Roberto Hernandez (Puerto Rico)-RHP
Felix Hernandez (Venezuela)-RHP

Manny Sanguillen (Panama)
Yadier Molina (Puerto Rico)
Victor Martinez (Venezuela)

Rafael Palmeiro (Cuba)*
Orlando Cepeda (Puerto Rico)
Carlos Delgado (Puerto Rico)*
Hector Espino (Mexico)
Adrian Gonzalez (Mexico)

Adrian Beltre (Dominican Republic)
Aramis Ramirez (Dominican Republic)
Vinnie Castilla (Mexico)

Omar Vizquel (Venezuela)
Tony Fernandez (Dominicazn Republic)
Miguel Tejada (Dominican Republic)
Dagoberto Campaneris (Cuba)
David Concepcion (Venezuela)
Edgar Renteria (Colombia)
Silvio Garcia (Cuba)

Robinson Cano (Dominican Republic)
Carlos Baerga (Puerto Rico) +
Rennie Stennett (Panama)

Carlos  Guillen (Venezuela)+
Julio Franco (Dominican Republic)
Alfonso Soriano (Dominican Republic)
Cesar Tovar (Vrnezuela)

Tony Oliva (Cuba)*
Carlos Beltran (Puerto Rico)+
Moises Alou (Dominican Republic)
Sammy Sosa (Dominican Republic)
Bobby Abreu (Venezuela)*
Magglio Ordonez (Venezuela)
Jose Canseco (Cuba)

David Ortiz (Dominican Republic)
Edgar Martinez (Puerto Rico)
Chili Davis (Jamaica)

MANAGER – Felipe Alou (Dominican Republic)

Before he became the poster boy for Baseball’s battle to rid the sport of performance-enhancing drugs, Alex Rodriguez was regarded as the Latino player with the widest array of honours among those who have played in the Major Leagues.

Why then was he not included among the twenty-five players  selected to the All-Time Caribbean squad? The answer lies in the question  as to whether the bilingual, bicultural  Rodriguez regards himself as belonging to the category of Latino, as opposed to United States’ players.  At the 2006 World Baseball Classic, after much waffling, he opted to represent the United States rather than the Dominican Republic. For the second Classic, he switched allegiance  but withdrew from the Dominican team before the tournament began. If he chose to be a member of the Caribbean All-Time All-Stars he would replace Luis Apasricio as the starting shortstop and could also fill in at third base. To make room for him, Tony Perez would probably have to be dropped.

Rodriguez’ career statistics are phenomenal. He was three times voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player. He won two Gold Gloves as a shortstop, to go along with ten Silver Slugger selections. He is one of only three players to have hit more than 40 home runs and stolen more than 40 bases in the same season.

Rodriguez has led the American League five times each in homers and runs scored, four times in total bases and slugging percentage, twice in runs batted in and once each in doubles and batting average. The 14-time All-Star has played for the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers  and New York Yankees in a career which at the end of 2013 had yielded 2,939 hits for a batting average of .299. He had batted in 1,969 runs and scored 1,919. His  home run total stood at (including 24  grand slams) and he had stolen 322 bases. His slugging percentage of .558 ranks him among the all-time leaders and his 5,480 total bases places him among the top 10 Major League hitters.

*  – Left-handed hitter/pitcher
+    Switch-hitter