Águilas Cibaeñas (AC): Bill Mazeroski 1960 heroics to Steve Blass and Willie Stargell (Part III)

Parts I and II covered how the AC yellow uniform colors evolved from the mamey fruit and Marianao Tigers uniforms in Cuba, early 1950s; AC’s first (1952) title; two winters Bill Mazeroski played (1955-57) for AC; Branch Rickey Jr., Pittsburgh Pirates’ Vice-President and Farm System Director of Farm Operations, and AC’s President Juan Bautista Sánchez Correa, signing the first agreement between a big league and LIDOM club, in 1955. Mention was made of Pirates’ super scout Howie Haak, who traveled to the Caribbean, Central and South America, 1950s-1980s. Luis R. Mayoral met him in 1965 on a flight from Miami, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mayoral, at first, found Haak to be blunt and direct, but over time, saw another side; caring and sincere, in spite of his “gruff exterior.” Mayoral opined Haak “was very influential in calls (decision-making) made by the Pirates, based on the fact that he had, great respect from top management from his days as a minor-leaguer and God-given analytical expertise when it came to prospects or MLB players with the qualities—in all aspects of the game—needed  by Pittsburgh.” Thus, Haak had a “say” in trades and acquisitions aimed to bolster Pirates’ chances.

The mamey fruit, which influenced AC’s uniform color. Pittsburgh uniforms were similar to those of AC, by 1960. AC’s original yellow color from the early 1950s did not blend well with the incandescent lights installed in 1958-59 at Leónidas Rhadamés Stadium, in Santiago.

Selected Trades-Acquisitions made by Pittsburgh, pre-1960 World Series Title

Mayoral made excellent points on Haak’s input for Buccos decision-making. Eduardo Bauta’s SABR bio by the author mentioned the May 28, 1960 trade, of Pittsburgh prospects Bauta and AC’s Julián Javier, for Vinegar Bend Mizell and Dick Gray. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/ed-bauta/ (Haak traveled to Camagüey, Cuba, where he observed Bauta in a tryout.) Pittsburgh had Mazeroski entrenched at 2B, and needed a veteran lefty (Mizell) to complement Vern Law, Bob Friend and Haddix. Pittsburgh made other trades and Rule 5 acquisitions, hoping to improve.

  • On January 30, 1959, when AC played Licey in a semi-final series, the Pirates acquired Harvey “The Kitten” Haddix, Don Hoak and Smoky Burgess, from Cincinnati, who, in return, got Frank Thomas, John Powers, Jim Pendleton and Whammy  Douglas. (Gabe Paul, Cincinnati executive, would regret it.) Haddix pitched for the 1952-53 San Juan Senators; Frank Thomas was with 1951-52 San Juan. Haak knew the Pirates needed more pitching and a reliable 3B. Haddix was called “El Conejo,” (The Rabbit), by the way he hopped to-and-from the mound for San Juan. Hoak played for 1948-49 Aguadilla Sharks, in Puerto Rico; helped Brooklyn win the 1955 National League pennant and first World Series); and, reinforced champion Escogido in LIDOM, 1955-56. Haddix got two rings with the Pirates: 1960 and 1979 (pitching coach). He once retired 36 straight Milwaukee Braves, May 26, 1959, before Félix Mantilla reached first on a Hoak error, and later scored. Some other Pirates’ trades and acquisitions, pre-1960 World Series, included:
  • December 21, 1959—Gino Cimoli/Tom Cheney received from St. Louis for Ron Kline.
  • December 9, 1959—Dick “Siete Leguas” Hall, Kenny Hamlin and player-to-be-named (Hank Foiles) traded to Kansas City’s for catcher Hal Smith.
  • November 30, 1959—Bob Oldis chosen via Rule 5 Major League Draft.
  • December 1, 1958—Rocky Nelson selected from Toronto, Rule 5 Major League Draft.
Harvey Haddix, Pittsburgh Pitching Coach (1982). Photo Credit: E-Bay (Donruss Card).

LIDOM 1959-60

Cal Ermer managed AC to a 31-28, second-place finish, behind 39-22 Escogido. Estrellas Orientales (EO) were third (29-30), but edged AC, three games-to-two, in the semis. (Licey was last at 20-39.) Escogido then won the finals, five games-to-one, for their fifth title in six winter seasons. Ermer managed 1952-57 Chattanooga Lookouts, a Washington Senators affiliate in the Southern Association, but in 1959 and 1960, he led the Columbus Jets, Pittsburgh’s Class AAA International League club. As of March 1, 2021, he ranked 20th all-time, with 1,906 wins as a minor-league skipper, 10 behind Clay Hopper, manager of 1946 Montreal Royals, with Jackie Robinson. Ermer began his minor-league managing career at 23, in 1947, and retired in 1985, with a 1,906-1,728 record. http://www.greatest21days.com/2019/08/cal-ermer-so-much-50.html

The 1959 Columbus Jets featured Pirates pitching prospects Joe Gibbon and Al Jackson, a 15-game winner for Columbus, who went 8-6 for the 1959-60 AC. Gibbon pitched for AC, 1958-59, and won 16 games for Ermer at Columbus in 1959. Julián Javier played well for Ermer at 1959 Columbus, and hit four HR, with a .252 AVG for 1959-60 AC. Nino Escalera reinforced 1958-59 AC in the semi-finals, and then had a fine season for the 1959 Columbus Jets, leading them with 28 SB. He opined “Ermer was a fair, no-nonsense manager, who demanded the best from players, but also had a ‘simpático’ side.” Ermer, for the most part, did not play favorites and was well-liked by Caribbean/Latin American players such as Joe Christopher and Elmo Plaskett (U.S. Virgin Islands), Javier (Dominican Republic), Leo Rodríguez (Mexico), as well as Escalera.

Dick Stuart (.221 AVG, five HR and 18 RBI in 149 AB) was a disappointment for 1959-60 AC, but rebounded to play a key role for the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates. Stuart hit an opening day HR, October 24, 1959, at the newly dedicated Tetelo Vargas Stadium, in La Romana. AC teammate Chuck Harmon also homered per  https://aguiluchos.com/2017/10/15/boletin-de-prensa-estrellas-orientales-vs-aguilas-cibaenas-141017/  Bob Oldis caught for AC, with a .237 AVG in 169 AB. Oldis turned 32 that [1959-60] season. He “knew Ermer well, having caught for Chattanooga between 1952-56, interspersed with call-ups by the Washington Senators.” Per Oldis’ interview with the author, his winter season with AC was “a factor in becoming the Pittsburgh Pirates 1960 third catcher, post-Danny Kravitz trade.” (Kravitz was traded to Kansas City A’s, June 1, 1960 for catcher Hank Foiles.) Oldis caught in the Yankees farm system, 1957-59.

Bob Oldis, Pittsburgh Pirates.

Al Jackson (8-6, 2.78 ERA), Jim Umbricht (7-6, 2.47 ERA) and César Imbert (8-2, 2.86 ERA) helped AC qualify for the semis. Umbricht (2-0) won AC’s only semi-final games versus EO, whose staff posted a 0.79 ERA. ChiChí Olivo (2-0, 1.00), Art Mahaffey (1-1, 0.00) and Jim O’Toole (0-1, 1.42) shut down AC. Escogido overwhelmed EO in the finals: a .385/.448/.557 slash line and 1.005 OPS. Lions regulars hit .300 or better for AVG: Matty Alou (.591), Norm Sherry (.450), Curt Roberts (.414), Ricardo Joseph (.370), Felipe Alou (.346), Frank Howard (.333), Ozzie Virgil Sr. (.308) and Carl Warwick (.300). Stan Williams, a Dodgers prospect, went 3-0 for Escogido. The LA Dodgers and SF Giants sent prospects to Escogido, including Frank Howard. “On off-days, Felipe Alou took me fishing and we caught lobsters,” recalled Howard. “I played two seasons with Caguas [1960-62]; you learned to hit in old Sixto Escobar [Stadium] when you faced Bob Gibson, Juan Pizarro, Bob Bolin, Tite Arroyo. Every young player should play two-to-three years of winter league baseball to refine their skills.” Howard had a prodigious appetite—he ate 12 scrambled eggs for breakfast, in his Ciudad Trujillo hotel.

Frank Howard in Escogido dugout, 1959-60. Photo Credit: Diario Libre.com.

Contribution by AC Players and Others to Pittsburgh’s 1960 World Series Triumph

Virgil Trucks, RHP, won a 1958 ring with the Yankees. He was a World Series batting-practice pitcher for two title teams: 1958 Yankees and 1960 Pirates. Trucks, in a 2010 interview, told the author “he shared some tips with Pirates hitters and pitchers about Yankees batters and hurlers, before-and-during the 1960 World Series,” adding, “Stengel used me as a batting-practice pitcher in the 1958 World Series, after leaving me off their [Yankees] series roster.” Trucks’s return to the major leagues, at 43, in 1960 was the result of a canceled barnstorming tour showcasing him and Satchel Paige, per Trucks’s SABR Bio: “Paige had a barnstorming tour all set up. Just he and I were going to be the ones who pitched on the tour. We had a busload of young ballplayers from Cuba. We opened the season out in Kansas and went south until we got to Mexico.” Trucks and Paige were not paid as promised, Paige quit, and the Castro revolution in Cuba forced the players to return home. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/virgil-trucks/  That led to Trucks joining the 1960 Pirates, to throw batting practice. He remained with Pittsburgh through 1963.

Former or future AC players/managers on Pittsburgh’s 1960 roster, AC seasons in parenthesis:

  • C Danny Kravitz (1956-57)
  • C Bob Oldis (1959-60)
  • 1B Dick Stuart (1956-58, 1959-60)
  • 1B/PH—R.C. Stevens (1956-57)
  • 2B Bill Mazeroski (1955-57)
  • 3B Don Hoak (AC 1961-62 MGR; canceled first month due to unrest)
  • UT IF Gene Baker (AC 1963-64 MGR)
  • LF/1B Bob Skinner (1955-56)
  • RHP Bennie Daniels (1956-57, 1958-59) 
  • RHP Earl Francis (1964-65)
  • LHP Joe Gibbon (1958-59)
  • RHP Jim Umbricht (1959-60)

Pittsburgh LHP Diómedes “Guayubín” Olivo starred for Licey, versus AC, throughout the 1950s and until 1963-64. Many other members of the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates had winter ball experience, 1950s-early 1970s:

  • OF Roberto Clemente (Santurce 1952-56; Caguas, 1956-58; San Juan, 1959-62; ’63-’65; ’67-’68; ’69-1971; player-MGR, 1964-65, 1970-71)
  • OF Bill Virdon (Havana, 1954-55); San Juan MGR (1971-72)
  • OF Joe Christopher (San Juan, 1955-57; Mayagüez; 1957-64; Caguas, 1967-68; Ponce, 1968-69)
  • OF Román Mejías (Almendares, 1954-56; Havana, 1956-58, Cienfuegos, 1959-60)
  • OF Gino Cimoli (Cienfuegos, 1952-53)
  • 1B Glenn “Rocky” Nelson (Almendares Scorpions, 1953-56, 1957-59)
  • OF/1B Bob Skinner (Magallanes Navigators, 1954-55)
  • SS Gene Baker (San Juan, 1952-53)
  • RHP Roy Face (Caguas Criollos, 1952-53)
  • RHP Clem “La Vaina” Labine (Magallanes, 1950-51)
  • RHP Tom Cheney (Havana Lions,1959-60; Ponce Lions, 1960-61)
  • RHP Earl Francis (Ponce, 1959-60)
  • LHP Joe Gibbon (Ponce, 1960-61)
  • LHP Al Jackson (Ponce, 1960-61)
  • RHP George Witt (Ponce, 1960-61)
  • RHP Don Gross (EO, 1956-57; Licey, 1957-58)
  • LHP Harvey “El Conejo” Haddix (San Juan, 1952-53)
  • LHP Vinegar “Vinagre” Bend Mizell (Havana, 1955-56)

Mizell (1955-56) and Guayubín Olivo (1960-61) still hold single-season strikeout records for Cuba’s Winter League and LIDOM, respectively. Satchel Paige, who pitched for 1937 Ciudad Trujillo versus AC and EO, has Puerto Rico’s single-season strikeout record. Scott Pitoniak’s “Paige in History”, National Baseball Hall of Fame Spring 2021 issue of Memories and Dreams, had these quotes: Joe DiMaggio said “Paige was the best and fastest pitcher he ever faced;” and Hack Wilson—who drove in an all-time, major league, single-season best 191 runs for the 1930 Chicago Cubs, with 56 HR—claimed: “Satchel made baseballs look as small as marbles.”

Bo Belinsky (Venezuela) and José Leyva (Mexico Pacific League) have these records, per Table I. Belinsky once dated Hollywood movie star Mamie Van Doren (1962-64). He reinforced 1961-62 Caracas Lions in the February 6-14, 1962 Inter-American Series, at Sixto Escobar Stadium.

Mizell was born in Leakesville, Mississippi. He impressed a St. Cardinals scout at a Biloxi, Mississippi, tryout. The author spent part of 1976 as an oil-gas field roustabout for Phillips 66, in Chatom, Alabama (Washington County). Vinegar Bend, Alabama, is in Washington County—20 miles east of Leakesville. During a 1982 business trip to Washington, D.C., the author saw Mizell give a speech. Mizell had a high-level government post in the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Reagan years. He used humor effectively and was a person of faith, who never drank, smoked, or used foul language. Mizell and Olivo—two of five pitchers in Table I—hurled for the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Table I. Single-season Strikeout Records in Five (5) Winter Leagues

PitcherLeagueTeamSeasonW-LERAIPK’s
Satchel PaigePuerto RicoGuayama Witches1939-4019-31.93205208
Vinegar Bend MizellCubaHavana Lions1955-5612-92.16179206
José “Pepe” LeyvaMexico PacificOstioneros de Guaymas1966-6711-132.24193203
Guayubín OlivoLIDOMLicey Tigers1960-6110-61.58142.1160
Bo BelinskyVenezuelaLicoreros de Pampero1961-6213-52.13156156

http://beisboldelosbarrios.com/index.php/grata-charla-con-pepe-leyva/      https://www.albat.com/beismex/Cinco-pitchers-mas-ponchadores-en-una-temporada-de-LMP-20200708-0020.html

1960 World Series Highlights and Ending

Pittsburgh was outscored by the New York Yankees, 55-27, and outhit 91-60, but won four close games by a net seven runs (24-17), with the Yankees prevailing three times, by a composite 38-3 margin. Bobby Richardson was MVP. (Votes had to be in by the eighth inning, when the Yankees had a 7-4 lead in Game Seven, October 13, 1960.) All games started at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET), except Game Four—2:00 p.m. ET. Perhaps Haddix’s 5-2 win in Game Five, with a Face save, at Yankee Stadium (October 10, 1960), was one key to victory. Otherwise, Whitey Ford’s second series SHO (Game Six), on October 12, would have ended it.

The author spoke with Ralph Terry in 2010, when working on a separate project—Jack Reed’s SABR bio. Terry was more comfortable talking about Game Seven, 1962 World Series, when he became Series MVP. He defeated San Francisco 1-0, after Richardson caught Willie McCovey’s line drive with two outs, and runners in scoring position, but Terry told the author what he repeatedly stated to other writers:  “I don’t know what that pitch to Mazeroski was. All I know is that it was the wrong one.”  https://bleacherreport.com/articles/490011-50-years-ago-today-bill-mazeroski-shocked-the-world. Terry opined the Yankees were a better team than Pittsburgh; that Roger Maris should be enshrined in Cooperstown; and noted he played for the Baxter Springs (Kansas) Whiz Kids—same amateur team that Mickey Mantle played for. Tom Greenwade scouted both Mantle and him (Terry) there. Baxter Springs is about 12 miles from Joplin, Missouri, and 10 miles from Commerce, Oklahoma—Mantle’s birthplace.

In 2013, the author contacted LHP Bobby Shantz, who pitched well in long relief for New York, Game Seven, before a bad bounce on an eighth-inning grounder to SS Tony Kubek, cost them a double play. Shantz, at 5’6,” 139 lbs., was the smallest player in big-league history to win an MVP Award (1952 Philadelphia A’s). Shantz was disappointed the Pirates bounced back with five runs, to take a 9-7 lead, going into the ninth. “This [Game Seven] was my last game as a Yankee,” said Shantz. “I’m from [Pottstown] Pennsylvania, so it would have been nice to go home with a World Series win.” (On December 16, 1960, Pittsburgh acquired Shantz from the expansion Washington Senators, giving up Harry Bright, Benny Daniels and R.C. Stevens.)

Mazeroski’s walkoff HR, off Terry, gave Pittsburgh a 10-9 win, on October 13, 1960. Dennis Lewallyn was a second-grader in Pensacola, Florida, who idolized Mantle, Maris and the entire Yankee ballclub. “I ran home from school to catch [part of] the game,” recalled Lewallyn. “That [Mazeroski] HR beat the Yankees; it broke my heart.” Many years later, Lewallyn got to play a round of golf with Mazeroski in a Sandestin-Ft. Walton Beach, Florida Golf event. Lewallyn told this story to Mazeroski, who replied: “You (Lewallyn) are one of 10,000 people who told me their hearts were broken…”

Haddix, who won Game Seven, in relief, despite allowing two Yankee runs in the ninth, noted Pittsburgh was a team “of destiny,” when conversing with the author in 1992 about his winter with San Juan (1952-53), 12 perfect innings for Pittsburgh (versus Milwaukee in 1959), his later role as a pitching coach, etc. Haddix was “not intimidated by the powerful Yankee lineup.” Conversely, rookie Joe Gibbon gave up a mammoth three-run HR to Mantle, after striking out Maris, in the seventh inning of Game Two, a 16-3 New York win. It may have been the longest World Series HR hit at Forbes Field. Gibbon recalled that Pittsburgh manager Danny Murtaugh did not have a curfew in place—1960—but “this changed from 1961-64 when we weren’t winning as much.” Gibbon mentioned he wanted to pay for several beers Don Hoak had at a Milwaukee bar, but that Hoak “tore my five-dollar bill in half and paid for them himself.”

Joe Gibbon, Pittsburgh Pirates. Photo Credit: baseball.fandom.com.

LIDOM 1960-61, Ponce Lions and 1961-63 Upheaval in the Dominican Republic

Only Criollos (native players) participated in 1960-61. There was a lot of uncertainty in the country; it intensified after President Trujillo’s assassination, May 30, 1961. AC were 23-24, second place, under skipper Vicente Scarpatte. Julián Javier (.360 AVG) was AC’s best hitter, playing 31 games, with 120 plate appearances—not enough to qualify for the batting title. AC swept third-place Licey (23-25) in the semis, three games-to-none, but lost to Escogido in the finals, five games-to-two. These Lions featured series MVP Juan Marichal (2-0, 1.64 ERA, 17 strikeouts in 22 innings); Danilo Rivas (2-0, 2.81, 14 strikeouts in 16 innings); and George “Garabato” Sackey (1-1, 2.53, eight strikeouts in 17 innings). Felipe (.381 AVG) and Jesús (.370 AVG) Alou came through for Escogido, too, managed by José St. Claire, aka Pepe Lucas.

Pittsburgh sent Cal Ermer to manage 1960-61 Ponce Lions, a team with Cheney, Gibbon and Pirates prospects Al Jackson, Alvin McBean, Donn Clendenon, R.C. Stevens and Elmo Plaskett. Ponce (29-35) tied Santurce for fourth-place, out of the playoff picture. “Pittsburgh moved me to [manage] Ponce in 1960-61 after I had one year in the Dominican Republic,” said Ermer. “Joe Gibbon and Tom Cheney didn’t want to stay in Puerto Rico. They were just off the [1960] World Series win.” Gibbon’s winning share of $8,400 was $900 more than his $7,500 salary with Pittsburgh for the entire 1960 season. He was 2-0, 0.56 ERA in 16 innings, with Ponce, before departing. Cheney stayed longer, with a 3-3 mark, in 53 innings. Pittsburgh had a strong link to Ponce via Pirates scout Francisco “Pancho” Coímbre, a legendary hitter for Ponce, the New York Cubans, among other teams. Satchel Paige once remarked that “Coímbre was the toughest out for me…”

Don Hoak spent time in Puerto Rico (1960-61 off-season), giving baseball clinics. AC hired him as their 1961-62 manager, but political instability put a stop to it and resulted in 1962-63 cancellation. Dick Hughes, with Licey (1961-62), recalled upheaval and explosions from his room in the Embajador Hotel. There would be no winter ball in LIDOM until 1963-64, the winter Hughes returned to Licey, to play for his favorite skipper, Vern Benson, a father figure to him. (Benson managed Hughes at Tulsa (1960) and Portland (1961); and managed  1961-62 Santurce Crabbers to the Inter-American Series title.) Benson traveled to the Dominican Republic that (1961-62) winter and convinced Julián Javier to join Santurce for part of that season.

LIDOM 1963-64

Steve Blass and Willie Stargell wore the AC uniform all winter and helped the “Mamey team” post a 39-19 record, for the most regular season wins in franchise history. Their regular season stats are in Table II, along with Orlando McFarlane, Elmo Plaskett, as well as pitchers Troy Giles, Sam Jones and Bob Veale. AC had a league-leading 1.92 ERA and 1.13 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). Blass completed five of his 12 starts. The author met him in Pittsburgh at SABR’s 48th Annual Conference, June 20-24, 2018. Blass noted his 1963-64 LIDOM season was: “Extremely helpful,” adding: “that winter in Santiago proved I was ready for the big leagues. When spring training [1964] arrived, there was no doubt I would make it.”

Steve Blass, Pittsburgh Pirates. Photo credit: https://tseshop.com/collections/steve-blass

Table II: AC-Pittsburgh Pirates Connection, 1959-64 (1961-62 suspended; 1962-63 canceled)

Player or MGRPOSSeason(s)AC Highlights
Bob OldisC1959-60169 AB, .237 AVG, 14 RBI.
Orlando McFarlaneC1963-64.295 AVG, 10 HR, 33 RBI.
Dick Stuart1B1959-60149 AB, .221 AVG, five HR, 18 RBI.
Elmo PlaskettOF1963-64..301 AVG, one HR, 30 RBI. Finals: .345 AVG.
Willie StargellLF1963-64.314 AVG, 8 HR, 40 RBI; .314/.390/.569 slash line; .959 OPS. Finals: 14H/31AB, .452 AVG.
Steve BlassRHP1963-649-2, 1.47 ERA, 92 innings, 69 strikeouts, 28 walks.
Troy Giles^RHP1963-648-4, 1.64 ERA, 98.2 innings, 50 strikeouts, 17 walks.
Al JacksonLHP1959-608-6, 2.78 ERA, seven CG.
Sam Jones^^RHP1963-644-1, 1.60 ERA, 33.2 innings, 33 strikeouts, 13 walks.
Jim UmbrichtRHP1959-607-6, 2.47 ERA, 100 strikeouts in 124 innings.
Bob VealeLHP1963-644-0, 1.37 ERA, 46 innings, 44 strikeouts, 20 walks.
Cal Ermer#MGR1959-6031-28 W-L; lost semi-finals versus EO, 3G to 2G.
Don Hoak##MGR1961-62## Season was suspended its first month.
Gene BakerMGR1963-6439-19 W-L; lost finals versus Licey, 5G to 3G.

Giles pitched in Pirates minor-league system, 1961-65. ^^ Sam Jones pitched for 1964-67 Columbus Jets. # Ermer managed 1959 and 1960 Columbus Jets.

Twenty-year old 3B Winston “Chilote” Llenas became an AC regular and impressed everyone with his play. Llenas later played in the majors for the California Angels. Ricardo Joseph, 1B-3B, came over from Escogido, and produced for AC. Native stars on other clubs included Rico Carty, EO: .303 AVG, six HR and 30 RBI; the Alou brothers with second-place Escogido, who surpassed the .300 AVG (Felipe–.333, Matty–.329 and Jesús–.314); third-place Licey, with OF Manny Mota: .379 AVG, one HR, 25 RBI, and OF Elvio Jiménez: .306, two HR, 21 RBI. Ed

Bauta (7-5, 2.94 ERA) pitched well for last-place EO. The Cuban native played as an Import.

Winston “Chilote” Llenas

For the semi-finals, Licey transformed itself with new players—Tony Oliva (RF), Phil Gagliano (SS), Miguel de la Hoz (3B) and Ray Barker (1B). Barker and Oliva played for Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Wolves; de la Hoz was Santurce’s 3B. John Boozer (Arecibo) and Fred Talbot (Caguas) reinforced Licey, who bested Escogido, three-games-to two. Santurce’s Rubén Gómez reinforced Escogido, managed by his close friend, Pepe Lucas. Rubén took Juan Marichal’s roster spot. (SF did not allow Marichal, 7-4, 1.36 ERA, in the regular season, to pitch in the post-season.) Rubén (1-2, 4.15 ERA), future Cooperstown Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry (1-1, 2.53 ERA), plus Danilo Rivas and Phil Ortega pitched for Escogido.

“I alerted [then, Santurce owner] Pedrín Zorrilla, back in 1950, to sign Pepe Lucas, after seeing him play in a Dominican Republic series,” recalled Rubén. “He was short of Escogido pitchers for the 1963-64 playoffs, so I said yes.”

AC were favored for the finals. They added Arecibo 2B Octavio “Cookie” Rojas and Ponce OF Walter Bond, second to Oliva in Puerto Rico’s batting race (.365-Oliva; .349-Bond). Licey added catcher Jackie Moore, OF Félix Juan Maldonado (from Santurce), and RHP Alan Koch, coming off his post-season with Mayagüez. AC took the first three at home, January 25-27, 1964, behind the pitching of Blass, Giles and Ben Johnson. Game Four (plus Five-through-Seven) took place in Santo Domingo, the capital no longer called Ciudad Trujillo. Oliva ran through a Benson stop sign, from 3B coaching box, to score the winning run, January 28, 1964—a 7-6 Licey win. Stargell’s throw from LF was “off the mark.” Licey then recorded three straight wins at home, before closing out the series in Santiago, February 1.

Blass (1-1), Giles (1-1) and Johnson (1-1) started two games each. César Imbert and Julio Navarro (0-1) also started one game apiece. Navarro, a reinforcement from the Caguas Criollos, pitched eight strong innings in his loss, allowing two earned runs, for a 2.25 ERA. AC’s team ERA was 2.58 in their eight final series contests. Sam Jones (0-1) lost his only decision in relief, in his one series appearance. The 38-year veteran had starred in the Negro Leagues; Panamá’s Winter League, 1948-49; San Juan, 1951-52; and, 1954-55 Santurce Crabbers, winners of the 1955 Caribbean Series, in Caracas, Venezuela.    

Sam Jones

Bob Veale’s departure back to his home in Birmingham, Alabama, pre-1963-64 post-season, was a serious loss for AC. Veale would record a NL-leading 250 strikeouts, for the 1964 Pittsburgh Pirates.

With special thanks and appreciation to Luis R. Mayoral, for thoughts on his friendship and time with Howie Haak; to Luichy Sánchez and Mario Emilio Guerrero, for LIDOM insights; to Dennis Lewallyn and Ralph Terry, for memories on Mazeroski’s 1960 World Series HR. Thanks to Eduardo Bauta, Steve Blass, Cal Ermer, Rubén Gómez, Joe Gibbon, Harvey Haddix, Frank Howard, Dick Hughes, Julio Navarro, Bob Oldis, Bobby Shantz and Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian, Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League.

Deja un comentario

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada.

error: Este contenido está protegido
Ir arriba