Escalera, a Santurce native, had a fruitful Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League (PRPBL) career—16 seasons with San Juan and one with Caguas.
He led the league in triples three times: 1950-51 (10), 1952-53 (8), and 1959-60 (7), a record he shares with Bob Thurman; and, is one of four players to connect 10 triples in a Puerto Rico season. (The others are Luis Rodríguez Olmo, Quincy Trouppe and Luis “Canena” Márquez.) And he was the top base stealer in 1956-57 (15). Lifetime, he tied Luis “Canena” Márquez for runs; fourth in doubles (155), tied with Víctor Pellot (Vic Power); and seventh in total bases (1,409). Moreover, he is one of six players with 1,000+ career league hits. His League legacy included managing the Caguas Criollos to the 1967-68 title.
Known as “The Gentleman at First Base,” he was thumbed out of a game just once. In 2013, Escalera earned designation as one of the 75 best Puerto Rico Professional League players of all time.
In the Majors, he was the first Black player to play for the Cincinnati Reds (Redlegs), in 1954, and later scouted for the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants.
“We deeply lament the passing of one of our League’s best players. He was magnificent on-and-off the field. On behalf of our Board of Directors, administrative staff, and franchisees, we share the sorrow facing the Escalera family,” noted Juan A. Flores Galarza, PRPBL President.
Funeral details were pending at the time of this press release.
Nino Escalera’s player profile can be accessed at https://beisbol101.com/saturnino-nino-escalera/, the platform developed by Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian, PRPBL.
On a personal note, the author expresses his condolences to Nino Escalera’s family. He visited Nino at his Puerto Rico home, in 1991. They conversed about his remarkable baseball career, including pinch-hitting for Andy Seminick, at Milwaukee’s County Stadium, April 17, 1954. Nino singled. The next Reds hitter was Charles (Chuck) Harmon, who pinch-hit for pitcher Corky Valentine. Coincidentally, Harmon played for the 1953-54 Ponce Lions, PRPBL; Valentine pitched for Mayagüez, same PRPBL winter season. Nino was inducted in the PRPBL Hall of Fame in 1992.