Edmundo (Sandy) Amorós’s Stellar Professional Baseball Career (Part II)

Part I ended with an overview of the 1954 Montreal Royals, where Amorós played half a season before his promotion to Brooklyn. Part II focuses on Amorós’s baseball career from 1955-1957, in Brooklyn, the Cuban Winter League with Havana (1954-56) and Almendares (1956-58), and the big-league bonus rule, 1953-57. Part III will conclude with 1958-59 Montreal; 1960 Los Angeles Dodgers and Detroit Tigers; 1958-1961 seasons with Almendares; minor league seasons with Denver (1961), and 1962 Mexico City Reds; plus part of his retirement life in Cuba, the Bronx, and Florida.

Major League Bonus Rule: 1953-57

Al Campanis, in Cuba, signed Amorós to a $1,000 bonus the year (1952) before the «bonus rule» of 1953-57 went into effect. The “new” rule required players who signed a baseball contract for more than $4,000 to remain on the major league roster for two full seasons. These were bonus babies—young men of about 18 or 19, who might have a lot of “potential.” Three eventually reached Cooperstown—Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, and Sandy Koufax—and are listed in Table I, with Amorós, and Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, among others. Clemente’s case is intriguing since Brooklyn did not put him on their 1954 roster, and thereby did not protect him. Hank Aaron, signed in 1952, was not affected by the new rule. Ditto for 1950 signee Bill Skowron. In a separate matter, 17-year-old Amorós got to see Jackie Robinson—who received a $3,500 signing bonus in 1945—practice and play 1947 spring training games in Havana, when Branch Rickey arranged for the Dodgers to do so. Amorós idolized Robinson and was his Brooklyn teammate in 1952 and 1954-56.

Table I: Signing Bonus Between 1940-1965 for  Selected Major Leaguers

Hank AaronBSN1952$10,000Tim McCarverSLC1959$75,000
Sandy AmorósBLK19521,000Willie McCoveyNYG1955500
Dan BankheadBLK194715,000Gil McDougaldNYY19481,000
Johnny BenchCIN19656,000Sam McDowellCLE195975,000
Yogi BerraNYY1943500Mickey MantleNYY19491,500
Jim BunningDET19504,000Roger MarisCLE19535,000
Bert CampanerisKCA1961500Willie MaysNYG19504,000
Orlando CepedaNYG1955500Julio NavarroNYG1955500
Gino CimoliBLK194915,000Phil NiekroMLW1958250
Roberto ClementeBLK195410,000José A. PagánNYG1955500
Tommy DavisBLK19564,000Jim PalmerBAL196375,000
Don DrysdaleBLK19544,000Robin RobertsPHI194825,000
Carl ErskineBLK19465,000Frank RobinsonCIN19533,500
Rollie FingersKCA196413,000Jackie RobinsonBLK19453,500
Whitey FordNYY19477,500Nolan RyanNYM196512,000
Joe GibbonPIT19571,000Pantalones SantiagoCLE19481,000
Bob GibsonSLC19571,000Ron SantoCHC195920,000
Rubén GómezNYG19535,000Tom SeaverNYM196540,000
Billy HunterBLK19482,000George ShubaBLK1944150
Dick HallPIT195125,000Bill SkowronNYY195022,000
Ferguson JenkinsPHI19626,500Warren SpahnBSN1940140
Al KalineDET195335,000Willie StargellPIT19581,500
Harmon KillebrewWAS195430,000Dick WilliamsBLK19471,200
Ralph KinerPIT19413,000Maury WillsBLK1951500
Sandy KoufaxBLK195414,000Carl YastrzemskiBOS1958100,000
Don LarsenSLB1947850Don ZimmerBLK19492,000

Source: https://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/baseball_signing_bonus.shtml

What IF Amorós and Clemente were Brooklyn 1955-57 Teammates?

In spring training 1955, Amorós was coming off his fourth straight Cuban Winter League season hitting over .300. Clemente—not protected by Brooklyn—was selected by Pittsburgh, first overall pick, on November 22, 1954 Rule 5 Draft. Herman Franks was Clemente’s skipper with the 1954-55 and 1955-56 Santurce Crabbers in Puerto Rico’s Winter League (PRWL). Santurce (47-25) in 1954-55 featured center-fielder Willie Mays (.395 BA, 12 HR, 33 RBIs, and 10 SB); left-fielder Clemente (.347, 6, 37); and, right-fielder Bob Thurman (.322, 14, 60). Franks wrote the Foreword for the author’s 1999 book on the Santurce Crabbers (1939-1999) and mentioned:

“Clemente belonged to the Brooklyn Dodgers and was with Montreal that (1954) season and at the end of the season he was eligible for the major league draft. The New York Giants, whom I coached for in 1954, didn’t have a chance to draft him as we had won the pennant and World Series (WS). Branch Rickey of Pittsburgh came to Puerto Rico looking for ballplayers. [Santurce owner] Pedrín [Zorrilla] and I told him to draft Clemente and you know his story at Pittsburgh. If I had to pick a ballplayer outside of Willie Mays, it would be Roberto.”

Jackie Robinson came into play, per research done by Stew Thornley, who corresponded via e-mail with former Dodgers executive Buzzie Bavasi on June 3, 2005. Brooklyn’s Board brought in Jackie Robinson to get his opinion on whether to add Clemente to [1954] Brooklyn and who to drop. Robinson stated: “If I were the GM [general manager], I would not bring Clemente to the club and send Shuba or any other white player down. If I did this, I would be setting our program back five years.” https://remezcla.com/sports/the-racist-history-behind-roberto-clementes-transition-from-the-dodgers-to-the-pirates/

Amorós never was Clemente’s Brooklyn teammate. They may have platooned, in left field, 1955 and 1956, had the Dodgers protected Clemente. In 1955, Walter Alston used Junior Gilliam for 40 games in left and 99 games at second base, and Jackie Robinson for 10 games in left (84 games at third base). Don Zimmer, MVP, February 1955 Caribbean Series with Santurce, played 62 Brooklyn games at second, eight at third, and 21 at short. Shuba played 44 games in 1955, with 36 pinch-hitting appearances. He went 14-for-51, a .275 BA. In 1954, the Youngstown, Ohio native had a dismal .154/.240/.323 slash line, and .563 OPS in 65 at-bats, but Jackie Robinson vouched for Shuba—the first player to publicly shake Robinson’s hand after the latter’s first (April 18, 1946) homer with Class-AAA Montreal—as the “most popular player in the clubhouse.” A commemorative statue of Shuba shaking Robinson’s hand was unveiled in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2021, 75 years after this moment.

Statue of Jackie Robinson (L) being greeted by George Shuba (R) at home plate.

Photo credit: https://www.cleveland.com/

Money Matters

Shuba’s 1954 salary was $13,000, and $11,500 in his final (1955) Brooklyn season. Amorós made $8,000 in 1955. Clemente’s 1954 Montreal salary was $5,000, the same amount he would have made in Brooklyn. He earned $6,000 as a 1955 Pittsburgh rookie. Roy Campanella was the highest-paid Dodger in 1955, at $42,000, followed by Robinson and Duke Snider, who made $35,000 each.

1955 Brooklyn Dodgers

Brooklyn (98-55-1) led the NL in virtually every offensive category: 857 runs, 230 doubles, 201 homers, 800 RBIs, 674 walks, .271/.356/.448 slash line, and .804 OPS. Campanella won his third NL MVP Award. He was one of seven Dodgers with double-digit homers (32), trailing Duke Snider’s 42. The five most frequent pinch-hitters were: Shuba (36x), pitcher Don Newcombe (23x), Frank Kellert (18x), Jackie Robinson (13x), and Amorós (10x), the shortest Dodger (5-7). Amorós played 102 games in left, 10 in center, five in right, and was in three contests as a pinch-runner. Table II has the team’s hitting stats.

Table II: Brooklyn Dodgers 1955 Hitting Stats

Roy Campanella331234468114220132107.318.395.583.978
Gil Hodges311505467515824527102.289.377.500.877
Junior Gilliam26147538110134208740.249.341.355.696
Jackie Robinson36105317518162846.256.378.363.740
Pee Wee Reese36145553991562941061.282.371.403.774
Sandy Amorós2511938859961671051.247.347.402.749
Duke Snider2814853812616634642136.309.418.6281.046
Carl Furillo33140523831642432695.314.371.520.891
Don Zimmer248828039671011550.239.289.443.731
Don Hoak27942795067133519.240.350.362.712
Don Newcombe2957117184291723.359.395.6321.028
Rube Walker294810362650213.252.342.359.701
Frank Kellert303980122642419.325.385.575.960
George Shuba3044518142018.275.422.373.794
Dixie Howell3516422114005.262.273.357.630
Others (17)#  3923856101525.143 .212 
Total (AVG age)301545193857140623044201800.271.356.448.804

#Three position players and 14 pitchers. Source: Baseball-Reference.

Table III: Brooklyn Dodgers 1955 Pitching Stats

Don Newcombe2920-534311710233.2222143383.201.113
Carl Erskine2811-83129721194.218584643.791.279
Johnny Podres229-102724520159.1160114573.951.362
Billy Loes2510-4221960012811685463.591.266
Clem Labine2813-56081011144.112167553.241.219
Karl Spooner248-6291421298.27978413.651.216
Ed Roebuck235-64700012849633244.711.429
Roger Craig255-3211030290.28148432.781.368
Russ Meyer316-21811210738626315.421.603
Don Bessent248-124210363.15129212.701.137
Sandy Koufax192-212522041.23330283.021.464
Jim Hughes320-224000642.24120194.221.406
Joe Black311-06000015.115952.931.304
Chuck Templeton230-1400004.253511.572.143
Tommy Lasorda270-041000454613.502.750
Total (AVG age)26.298-5515415446937137812967734833.681.291

Source: Baseball-Reference. 

Amorós’s 1955 WS Game Seven Catch

October 4, 1955, in the Yankees’ home sixth, Game Seven of the WS, Yogi Berra lined a shot down the left-field line with two on and no outs. Amorós raced over from left-center to catch the liner; and promptly threw a bullet to Reese, who relayed it to Hodges, doubling Gil McDougald off first. It catapulted Brooklyn to their first WS crown.

Amorós Slugs 16 Homers in 1956 and Faces Don Larsen in the Fall Classic

In 1956, Amorós drilled 16 homers in 292 at-bats, one every 18.25 at-bats, with a .260/.385/.517 slash line and .902 OPS. He pinch-hit a team-highest 27x, followed by Randy Jackson (22x), Dale Mitchell (17x), Don Newcombe (14x), and Jackie Robinson (13x). Amorós’s .385 OBP surpassed Robinson’s .382. Carl Furillo (RF) and Duke Snider (CF) were everyday regulars. Alston plus eight 1956 Dodgers players made it to Cooperstown, including Campanella, rookie Don Drysdale, Hodges, Koufax, Reese, Robinson, Snider, and Dick Williams.

On October 8, 1956, Amorós batted sixth in Game Five of the Fall Classic, facing Don Larsen at Yankee Stadium. In the second, he popped a short fly over Billy Martin’s head but the second baseman back-pedaled and made a nice catch. Three innings later, Hodges hit a liner to deep left-center caught by Mickey Mantle. Amorós then drilled a 1-1 pitch into the lower deck down the right-field line but umpire Ed Runge called it foul. This was the closest call that Larsen faced in his 97-pitch perfect game. Amorós’s third at-bat, in the eighth, resulted in a fairly long fly to right-center, caught by Mantle. Furillo and Campanella were retired in the ninth before pinch-hitter Mitchell, batting for Sal Maglie, struck out.

Amorós’s playing time decreased in 1957 but he posted a fine .399 OBP. His 39 pinch-hit appearances were second to teammate Elmer Valo. Gino Cimoli emerged as the regular left fielder but also played in center and right. Don Drysdale (17-9, 2.69 ERA) was the staff ace for third-place (84-70) Brooklyn. Spot starter Koufax (5-4, 3.88 ERA) had pitched 64.2 innings for 1956-57 PRWL Caguas-Rio Piedras with 76 strikeouts and 54 walks. Table IV includes Amorós’s 1955-57 regular season and WS hitting stats.

Table IV: Sandy Amorós Brooklyn Hitting Statistics, 1955-57


Source: Baseball-Reference.

Four Winters in Cuba, 1954-55 Through 1957-58

Cuba’s fans enjoyed and appreciated Amorós. All four teams played at Havana’s Gran Stadium. Ken Boyer and Bill Virdon were Amorós’s 1954-55 teammates due to Havana’s working agreement with St. Louis. In 1955-56, Jackie Brandt patrolled center next to Amorós in left. “Sandy was a great teammate and fan favorite,” said Brandt. “I remember the betting that went on during games.” Havana’s best pitcher, 25-year-old Vinegar Bend Mizell, was born in Leakesville, Mississippi, and called “Vinagre” by fans. Mizell (12-9, 2.16 ERA) fanned 206 in 179 innings, second-highest total in Caribbean Winter League history. Satchel Paige (19-3, 1.93 ERA) fanned 208 in 205 innings for the PRWL 1939-40 Guayama Witches. Amorós slumped in 1956-57 with Almendares, whose pitchers included rookie Miguel Cuéllar and Orlando Peña. Bobby Bragan managed 1957-58 Almendares (39-36) to a second-place finish. Peña and Cuéllar were part of a four-man rotation with Dick Brodowski and Billy O’Dell. Almendares third baseman Tony Taylor had a .311 BA. Table V has Amorós’s Havana and Almendares’ regular season hitting stats, 1954-55 through 1957-58.

Table V: Sandy Amorós Hitting Statistics, Cuban Winter League, 1954-58


ALM: Almendares. HAV: Havana. Source: Jorge S. Figueredo, Cuban Baseball:

A Statistical History, 1878-1961, McFarland, 2003.

Thanks to Al Campanis, Jackie Brandt, Rory Costello, Herman Franks, and Stew Thornley. Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo placements.

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