Águilas Cibaeñas (AC): Arturo (Art) López to Dock Ellis, Bob Robertson and Don Bosch (Part IV)

Part III ended with AC’s tough final series loss to Licey, five games-to-three, 1963-64 finals. AC hired Al Widmar to manage their 1964-65 club. Widmar served as Gene Mauch’s pitching coach with the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies. He helped develop Grant Jackson, Chris Short, among others. AC continued to use players affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates, including catcher Orlando McFarlane, with the parent team in 37 games; Francisco “Pancho” Herrera, 1B for the Columbus Jets; shortstop Roberto Peña, with Asheville Tourists and Columbus; and, Columbus RHP Earl Francis, to name a few. But there were players from other big-league clubs and organizations such as RHP Dan Osinski, coming off his third season with the Los Angeles Angels; and, OF Willie Smith, who hit .301 for the 1964 Angels, with 11 HR and 51 RBI.

AC finished third, ahead of last-place Estrellas Orientales (EO), but behind Escogido and Licey. (EO had an agreement with the Milwaukee Braves. Rico Carty, Mack Jones, Clay Carroll and Pat Jarvis played for EO.) This (1964-65) season—plus 1963-64—featured Interleague play between LIDOM teams and Venezuelan Winter League squads, per Mario Emilio Guerrero https://listindiario.com/el-deporte/2011/12/26/215922/la-historia-de-los-juegos-interligas. Part of  the reason was the absence of the Caribbean Series, from 1949-to-1960, in Phase I. A short-lived (1961-64) Inter-American Series was held between Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Panamá and Nicaragua. To add to the “confusion,” another Inter-American Series took place between the top two Venezuelan and LIDOM clubs, just in February 1964 and February 1965. Phase II of the Caribbean Series was underway by February 1970, and continues through today. Dick Hughes—with 1963-64 Licey—recalled Interleague games with Venezuelan clubs. Conversely, Ted Davidson, who pitched in Venezuela, 1963-64, noted there were contests versus LIDOM teams.

AC disposed of Licey in three straight (1964-65) semi-final games. One hero was Arturo or Arturito “Art” López, unhappy playing for the 1964-65 Caguas Criollos, in Puerto Rico, after the Arecibo Wolves traded him to Caguas. “I was not too happy with [Caguas] manager Vic Power,” said López. “When the season was almost over, someone contacted me from the Dominican Republic to play [there]. I was apprehensive—had grown up in Puerto Rico, until moving to the South Bronx at age 12. I went anyway.” López scored the winning run in Game One versus Licey, after running through Widmar’s stop sign in the 3B coaching box. “That night, AC fans came to the hotel and mentioned they would pay the fine for me,” recalled López, who, a year earlier, was the fourth-best hitter in Puerto Rico’s Winter League, with a .337 AVG, behind teammate Tony Oliva (.365), Ponce’s Walter Bond (.349) and San Juan’s Roberto Clemente (.345).  Against Licey, López went four-for-eight, with a double, triple, walk and a run scored.

Coincidentally, Tommie Sisk pitched for the 1964-65 San Juan Senators and was offered $1,500 to pitch in the post-season for the AC. Sisk, whose Pittsburgh locker was next to Clemente’s for six seasons (1964-69), declined. “I don’t ever remember being as tired from playing the game on a year-round basis,” said Sisk. “I pitched for Bobby [Roberto Clemente], our [1964-65] player-manager, after [Cal] Ermer (AC’s 1959-60 skipper) was let go. Bobby was very proud of being a Puerto Rican and never did anything dishonorable to his country. We were very good friends…”

Julio Navarro, Art López’s 1964-65 Caguas teammate, accepted AC’s offer to reinforce them. Navarro made a relief appearance against Licey, in the semi-finals. Starters Osinski, Francis and Morrie Stevens went 1-0. Julián Javier went six-for-10 at the plate; and, Willie Smith chipped in with five hits in 13 AB for a .385 AVG. Navarro was a true gentleman, and according to Art López, a “Yankee killer,” for his effective relief work against them (with Los Angeles Angels).

Escogido was favored over AC in the finals, with starters Juan Marichal and Ferguson Jenkins, and a line-up with the three Alou brothers and reinforcements such as Caguas SS Bert Campaneris and fellow Cuban (2B) Tito Fuentes.  Marichal and Jenkins—who was Art López’s 1964-65 Caguas teammate—were ineffective. Larry Miller, Danilo Rivas, Thad Tillotson and Pedro Reynoso did their best for Escogido, but could not match the superb AC pitching of: Osinski (2-0, 0.50 ERA), Navarro (1-0, 1.00), Stevens (1-0, 2.08) and Rudy Hernández (1-0, 0.00). In 46 innings, AC hurlers posted a 1.57 ERA and 0.83 WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched). Escogido got 34 hits, and just one HR. AC pitchers had 26 strikeouts to four walks. Ed Kirkpatrick, AC OF, was the MVP with a .529 AVG (nine-for-17).

There was some Game One controversy when AC 2B Julián Javier confronted and punched home plate umpire Emmett “Pataditas” Ashford due to a disputed strike. (Javier was suspended for Games Two-Three-Four.) Here is a summary of each AC win over favored Escogido (ESC):

  • Game One: AC 7 ESC 3; Osinski CG; one earned run allowed
  • Game Two: AC 3 ESC 1; Navarro CG; Kirkpatrick and McFarlane, two hits apiece
  • Game Three: AC 8 ESC 6; Stevens win; Marichal takes the loss; SS Peña—four hits
  • Game Four: AC 8 ESC 3; Rudy Hernández win; Kirkpatrick goes three-for-four
  • Game Five: AC 3 ESC 1; Osinski CG; Willie Smith, three-for-five with a HR.

This was the “Mamey Team’s” first league title since the 1952 summer campaign. By 1963-64, their home stadium was called “Estadio Cibao,” replacing the prior (Leónidas Rhadamés) name. 

https://www.diariolibre.com/deportes/beisbol/en-1964-65-las-aguilas-cibaenas-conquistan-la-primera-corona-bajo-luces-FO14384670

 Inter-American Series (Phase III) Crown in Caracas, Venezuela, February 4-9, 1965

AC took an improved 25-player roster to Caracas, with CF Lou Johnson replacing Willie Smith, who returned to the States. Johnson had won the Puerto Rico batting crown (.345 AVG) with 1964-65 Santurce, regular season and playoff winners. Arecibo’s LHP Miguel Cuéllar reinforced AC, as did Navarro, Art López, Kirkpatrick, et al. Ozzie Virgil Sr., Rico Carty and Silvano Quezada were Natives who played for AC in Caracas, along with the ever-reliable Winston “Chilote” Llenas, Roberto Peña and Julián Javier. They won four of six games, against Escogido, the Caracas Lions and LaGuaira Sharks—winners of the Venezuelan League. Pete Rose, a switch-hitting 2B, was one of Caracas’s top hitters. A series synopsis follows.

  • February 4—AC 9 LaGuaira (LGA) 2; Navarro scattered eight hits in his CG; Art López, Series MVP, is the hitting star with a triple and two singles; scores three, including AC’s first tally, on a Rico Carty hit; Art drives in three;
    • ESC 3 Caracas (CAR) 0; Marcelino López hurls the SHO.
Art López. (Photo credit: Pinterest).

  • February 5—CAR 11 AC 1 and LGA 4 ESC 2
  • February 6—AC 8 ESC 6; other game NA
  • February 7—AC 6 LAG 3; Lou Johnson’s HR is the key blow; Quezada wins it
    • ESC 4 CAR 2; Pete Rose’s line drive hits pitcher Pedro Reynoso and fractures his left forearm.
  • February 8—AC shuts out CAR, behind Navarro’s six-hitter (score NA)
    • ESC 7 LGA 1; Felipe Alou drives in four with a HR and a single.
  • February 9—ESC 3 AC 2, resulting in both teams with 4-2 W-L records.

Reynaldo “Pappy” Bisonó, AC president, and Ramón “Moncho” Imbert, ESC executive, requested that a tie-breaker contest be played, but the Venezuelan League declined this. General Run Average math formula gave AC the series win. In head-to-head play, AC outscored ESC, 10 to 9. AC prevailed when multiplying their runs scored by 100, divided by total runs allowed.

The 1965-66 LIDOM season was canceled due to political instability. U.S. Marines occupied the Island in response to the April 24-September 3, 1965 Civil War (Guerra Civil Dominicana). There were casualties on both sides—Loyalists, supported by the U.S. and six South American and Central American countries—and Constitutionalists—who supported Juan Emilio Bosch Gaviño. Post-war elections were held on July 1, 1966, with Joaquín Balaguer defeating Bosch. San Pedro de Macoris native Tony Anglada—a LHP and Art López’s teammate with the 1962 Ft. Lauderdale Yankees—fought in the Guerra Civil Dominicana, per Art, who debuted with the New York Yankees, on April 12, 1965. Later that year, December 1, 1965, ex-AC LHP Joe Gibbon and Ozzie Virgil Sr. were traded by Pittsburgh to San Francisco for OF Matty Alou, in a deal involving two Dominicans and a Mississippian. On July 25, 1966, Juan Marichal and Virgil became the first Dominican battery in a big-league game, when the Giants defeated the Pirates, 2-1, at Candlestick. https://momentodeportivord.com/?p=103948

Joe Gibbon
Ozzie Virgil Jr.

LIDOM 1966-67 Season

Harding Peterson managed AC to a first-place (34-24) finish. Peterson spent 35 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a minor-league player, 1955 big leaguer, scout, minor-league manager and director and parent club GM. He was 37 when he led AC to their second winter crown, and third overall title, including the 1952 summer season. Per Steve Blass, who pitched for 1963-64 AC, Peterson “coordinated a lot of the minor leagues and player development and scouting and really helped create one of the strongest minor league systems in all of baseball coming up through those late ’60s and forming a big nucleus of our 1971 championship team.” https://www.post-gazette.com/news/obituaries/2019/04/22/Harding-Pete-Peterson-general-manager-1979-Pittsburgh-Pirates-obituary/stories/201904220034

Steve Blass

RHP Dock Ellis and 1B Bob Robertson were Pirates prospects in Santiago, Dominican Republic, with RHP John Gelnar and LHP Dave Roberts, whose 1966 season with Class AA Asheville Tourists in the Southern League featured 14 wins, 190 innings, 157 strikeouts, 2.61 ERA, and being named to the Southern League’s All-Star team, per his SABR bio by Gregory Wolf. Pittsburgh did not protect Roberts; Kansas City A’s took him in the November 1966 Rule 5 draft. (Roberts was returned to Pittsburgh when he hurt his left arm in a 1967 spring training game versus Baltimore.)

Robertson had a .287/32/99 slash line at 1966 Asheville, with a .931 OPS, Ellis was 10-9 with a 2.76 ERA for the Tourists. Gelnar won 12 of 21 decisions for the 1966 Columbus Jets, the Pirates Class AAA affiliate. With AC, Robertson had a .295/.356/.490 slash line and .846 OPS. He and 3B Winston “Chilote” Llenas each hit 10 HR, to tie for the league lead. Robertson’s 36 league-best RBI topped 35 by José Vidal and 34 by Rico Carty, both with EO. Ricardo Joseph and Felipe Alou tied for fourth, with 32 RBI, playing for Escogido.

The pitching trio of Ellis (9-3, 2.54 ERA), Roberts (6-4, 2.17) and Gelnar (5-9, 3.32), combined for 20 regular season wins. Fred Beene contributed a 2-2 record and 2.91 ERA, after joining the club late in the season. They were helped by a strong double-play combo of 2B Julián Javier and SS Roberto Peña, who batted .272 and .290, respectively. Pirates prospect Jerry May did most of the catching. LF, Bob Oliver provided pop with eight HR in 160 AB.

AC qualified for the best-of-nine finals by virtue of its first-place finish. Fourth-place Licey (23-35) disappointed its fans. Manny Mota (.360 AVG) and Pedro “Speedy” González (.326 AVG) produced, as did starter Pat Dobson (7-5, 2.69 ERA). EO featured knuckle-baller Phil Niekro (8-6, 2.60 ERA). They fell to Escogido, in the semis. The final series included these scores:

  • Game One: ESC 5 AC 1; Miguel de la Hoz and Tito Fuentes homer for ESC.
  • Game Two: ESC 3 AC 2; Felipe Alou scores the winning run; ESC hosted Games Two, Four, Six and Eight.
  • Game Three: AC 4 ESC 0; Dave Roberts hurls a SHO.
  • Game Four: AC 3 ESC 0.
  • Game Five: AC 5 ESC 2.
  • Game Six: AC 3 ESC 1.
  • Game Seven: ESC 9 AC 4.
  • Game Eight: AC 3 ESC 2. CF Don Bosch, series MVP, robbed Federico Velázquez of a HR.
https://www.diariolibre.com/deportes/guilas-superan-al-escogido-en-series-finales-KNDL368020

Don Bosch

Switch-hitting CF Don Bosch—no relation to Juan Bosch—covered a lot of ground and made fine plays, including a magnificent Final Series catch witnessed by historian Tony Piña Campora, who—via twitter—called it a great moment in LIDOM history and covered it in his book Los Grandes Finales. Fred Beene was pitching at Quisqueya Stadium versus Escogido when catcher Federico Velázquez drilled one to deep CF, but snared by Bosch. By this time, Bosch was traded by Pittsburgh to the New York Mets, December 6, 1966, while with AC. He was the Mets #1 prospect, ahead of Tom Seaver (#2), Nolan Ryan (#4) and Jerry Koosman (#7). Bosch made his MLB debut for Pittsburgh, September 19, 1966, prior to the 1966-67 LIDOM season. He led AC with 33 runs scored and was second on the team with seven SB, one behind Julián Javier. https://www.diariolibre.com/deportes/blogs/brv/don-bosch-elegante-fildeo-NH11525392  Bosch (.385 AVG, .529 OBP, .538 SLG and 1.067 OPS) was series MVP.

AC OF George Spriggs had a .324 AVG in the finals. Four AC starters pitched two games apiece with Gelnar (2-0, 1.10 ERA), the most effective. Ellis (1-1, 1.76), Roberts (1-1, 3.14) and James Shellenbach (no decisions, 0.00 ERA) hurled over three-fourths of AC’s 77.1 innings. Team ERA was 2.09; WHIP was 1.09. The bullpen was led by Beene (0-1, 0.00) and Octavio Acosta (1-0, 3.60). Escogido hit seven HR to none by AC, with de la Hoz, Fuentes and Joseph each hitting two HR.

LIDOM 1967-68 Season

Al Widmar returned to manage AC after a three-year absence. They finished third (26-34), before dropping a semi-final series to Escogido, three games-to-two. Manny Sanguillén emerged as a bright spot at catcher. On November 22, 1967, at Quisqueya Stadium, versus Licey, Sanguillén accounted for all three Licey outs in the first frame. That Wednesday evening, Manny Mota hit a short chop in front of home plate, which Sanguillén quickly grabbed and tagged him. Pedro González doubled, followed by a walk to Dave Ricketts and another double by 1B Bill Davis. González scored, but Ricketts became the second out when he failed to score. An alert Sanguillén outhustled Davis to 3B and put the third-out tag on him (Davis) trying to take an extra base. In the visitor’s eighth, Bob Robertson cracked a 420-foot homer off Pedro Borbón, but Licey prevailed in 12 innings, 5-4. https://listindiario.com/el-deporte/2017/12/16/495156/el-receptor-manny-sanguillen-realizo-3-outs-en-un-inning

Tony Oliva joined AC toward season’s end and went seven-for-29 at the plate (.259 AVG). Dock Ellis (3-8) received little run support in posting a 2.83 ERA. He was 1-0 in the semi-final series. Rudy Hernández (4-4, 2.96 ERA) also pitched well for AC, in his 70 innings. The next winter, he opened his 10th Inning Lounge, on San Jorge Street, Condado section of Santurce, Puerto Rico.

Jay Ritchie (2-0) helped Escogido prevail over AC in the best-of-five semi-finals. Pittsburgh prospect George Spriggs reinforced AC in this series, but only had a .200 AVG, same as Oliva. EO won their second league title, besting Escogido in eight games. Juan Marichal (2-0, 0.00 ERA) sparkled by allowing 10 hits in 18 innings, with only an unearned run, but Larry Dierker (2-0, 1.23 ERA) earned Series MVP honors for EO by hurling 29.1 innings in three starts plus one relief appearance. Two other Houston Astros pitchers—Miguel Cuéllar (1-0, 0.00 ERA) and Danny Coombs (2-0, 1.08 ERA) accounted for EO’s other series wins. Jim Ray (0-2, 5.68 ERA) was a fourth Astros hurler to pitch for EO. Silvano Quezada (0-1, 2.35 ERA) figured in the other decision for EO. Ritchie was 0-2 for Escogido in the finals.

Pittsburgh continued sending prospects to AC, as evidenced in Table I, a trend that continued in the late 1960s and early 1970s, leading up to the Pirates 1971 World Series win over Baltimore. And more Pirates found their way to Santiago, Dominican Republic throughout the 1970s, into the 1980s. Part V will continue with AC’s 1968-69 season.

Table I: AC-Pittsburgh Pirates Connection, 1964-65 to 1966-68 (1965-66 canceled)

Player or MGRPOSSeason(s)AC Highlights
Orlando McFarlaneC1964-65169 AB, .241 AVG, 8 HR, 29 RBI.
Ed Kirkpatrick#OF1964-65MVP, Finals, .529 AVG.
Francisco Herrera1B1964-65199 AB, .302 AVG, 5 HR, 22 RBI.
Jerry MayC1966-67120 AB, .225 AVG, 0 HR, five RBI.
Manny SanguillénC1967-68199 AB, .286 AVG, 2 HR, 16 RBI, seven SB.
Bob Robertson1B1966-68455 AB, .303 AVG, 19 HR, 71 RBI.
Ozzie Virgil Sr.IF1967-68Seven-for-33, .212 AVG. Played for Mayagüez Indios in Puerto Rico, mid-to-late 1960s.
Roberto PeñaSS1964-65, 66-68.259  AVG, 179 hits/691 AB. Reliable/consistent.
Don BoschCF1966-67MVP, Finals, .385/.529/.538 slash line; 1.067 OPS.
George SpriggsRF1966-67.333 AVG regular season (8/24); 324 AVG in finals.
Earl FrancisRHP1964-656-5, 2.39 ERA. Bested Licey in semi-finals; eight strikeouts, one unearned run, nine innings.
Dock EllisRHP1966-6812-11, 2.69 ERA, 194.1 innings. In 1966-67 finals, 1-1, 1.76 ERA, 15.1 innings. 1-0, 1967-68 semis.
Dave RobertsLHP1966-676-4, 2.17 ERA. In 1966-67 finals, 1-1, 3.14 ERA.
John GelnarRHP1966-675-9, 3.32 ERA. In 1966-67 finals, 2-0, 1.10 ERA.
Harding PetersonMGR1966-6734-24 W-L; won finals versus Escogido, 5G to 3G.

# Kirkpatrick played for Pittsburgh, 1974-77; with 1964 Los Angeles Angels, pre-AC.

3B Winston “Chilote” Llenas, an AC mainstay, played in the majors for the 1972-75 California Angels. Llenas was in their farm system, 1963-1971; 1973, 1975, and one 1983 game. This explains why AC had a “secondary” agreement with the 1964 Los Angeles Angels, who became the 1965 California Angels.

Winston “Chilote” Llenas. Photo credit: http://www.pabellondelafama.do/exaltados/winston-chilote-llenas/ 

With special thanks and appreciation to Art López, for recollections on his 1964-65 post-season with AC; to Tony Piña Campora, for chronicling the 1966-67 Finals between AC and Escogido; Luichy Sánchez and Mario Emilio Guerrero, for LIDOM insights. Thanks to Fred Beene, Cal Ermer, Julio Navarro, Tommie Sisk and Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian, Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League.

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