Gold Gloves—Part III: MLB 1B in Puerto Rico Winter Ball (Natives and Imports)

Vic Power

This is Part III in a series on Gold Gloves (GG) earned by MLB players who played pro ball during the winter months in the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League. Ten MLB first basemen (1B) who once played in Puerto Rico have 52 Rawlings Gold Gloves (GG) between them: 33 American League (AL) and 19 National League (NL). This covers 1957-to-2018. In 1957, GG were awarded to nine total MLB players by position. From 1958-on, separate AL-NL recipients received this award. Gil Hodges—1957 Brooklyn Dodgers—won the first GG at 1B.

The most GG won by a 1B is 11 by Keith Hernández, all in the NL with St. Louis and the New York Mets. He played with the 1975-76 Ponce Lions, in Puerto Rico. But Víctor (Vic) Pellot Power, a native of Arecibo, became the first MLB 1B to win a GG while still active in winter ball. Power won seven straight GG with the 1958-to-1961 Cleveland Indians, 1962-to-1964 Minnesota Twins/1964 Los Angeles Angels, all in the AL. Power’s entire Puerto Rico pro career was spent with the Caguas Criollos, 1947-48-to-1960-61; then, briefly, 1966-to-1968.

Power had the tools/skill set to play for the 1952 or 1953 New York Yankees, but the Yankees kept him in the minors; traded him to the Kansas City A’s, December 16, 1953, in a multi-player deal. Power was the first Puerto Rican to play for the A’s, in 1954. Bill Skowron, a rookie for the 1954 New York Yankees, played against Power in Puerto Rico, 1950-51, when his Ponce Lions, managed by Rogers Hornsby, faced Caguas, led by player-manager Luis R. Olmo. In 1961, Skowron told The Saturday Evening Post: “Power plays 15 feet farther back than me or anybody else and takes the throw on the dead run. He can do it because his reflexes are so great and because he’s got the best glove hand in baseball.”

One of Power’s distinctions was being the first of four AL players to hit a leadoff and walk-off homer in the same game! On May 7, 1957, his first and tenth inning homers for Kansas City came off Baltimore’s RHP Hal Brown. Darrin Erstad (DH) did this for the Anaheim Angels, June 25, 2000 (first/11th innings); RF Reed Johnson accomplished the feat for Toronto, June 15, 2003 (first and 10th innings); and 2B Ian Kinsler had first-and-12th inning HR for Texas, July 19, 2009. Power was the first MLB player to do this in the 20th century. LF Billy Hamilton of the 1893 Philadelphia Phillies registered a first/10th inning HR, May 17, 1893. The other NL leadoff and walk-off HR was by Arizona’s Chris Young, August 7, 2010, first/10th innings.

Power struck out 247 times in 6,046 MLB AB, hitting .284, .315 OBP, .411 SLG, .725 OPS. A 6x AL All-Star (including two All-Star games in 1959-and-1960), his only MLB pennant race was the final month of the 1964 NL season, with the Phillies. Gene Mauch, the Phillies manager, was Power’s teammate with the 1952-53 Caguas Criollos in Puerto Rico. Per Luis R. Olmo, Caguas star OF, Mauch had a lot of respect for Vic Power’s talent and ability, and probably recommended Philadelphia acquire Power for the 1964 stretch run.

With Caguas, Power hit .296 with 55 HR, 489 RBIs—980 hits/3,305 AB—in 14 full and two partial seasons. He won two league batting titles, .358 in 1955-56; and .347 in 1959-60, as Caguas player-manager. Power’s second batting crown included a batting chase with San Juan’s Roberto Clemente (.330); and Ponce’s Wito Conde (.336). Power tied Orlando Cepeda for the league HR title with 13 in 1957-58; played on seven league champion teams and in eight Caribbean Series events. He holds the all-time Phase I Caribbean Series record (February 1949-to-February 1960 events) with 50 hits, ahead of Luis “Camaleón” García of Venezuela (43); and Panamá’s Héctor López, with 31. Power’s BA in these events was .292 (50 hits/171 AB). In Phase II of this event, 1970 to the present, Luis Polonia of the Dominican Republic had 94 hits/312 AB (.301) and countryman Miguel Tejada produced 85 hits/270 AB (.315), to rank one-two in Phase II total hits.

Power’s mentor in Puerto Rico was Caguas player-manager Quincy Trouppe, who managed the rookie 1B in 1947-48. Power recalled: “Trouppe was my manager, teammate and father. He brought me to the Provincial League in Canada, where I played with ballplayers who had jumped to the Mexican League—Max Lanier, Sal Maglie.”  Trouppe juggled his 1947-48 Caguas line-up to get the most out of his players, including a platoon system with veteran Perucho Cepeda and rookie Power at 1B. In addition to Trouppe’s influence, Power benefitted from observing the skills and work ethic displayed by Caguas teammates with Negro Leagues experience, including   2B Piper Davis, SS Sammy Bankhead, OF Tetelo Vargas and pitcher Chet Brewer.

Power made unusual moves when he managed Caguas, such as the use of Frank Howard as a relief pitcher. Power benched himself for a pinch-hitter when he sent up Herminio Cortés to hit against Cuba’s Camilo Pascual in one Caribbean Series contest. “With Caguas I managed everyone from Félix Mantilla and Tommy Davis (1959-60) to Willie Montañez and Eliseo Rodríguez, to Don Mattingly and Henry Cotto (mid-1980s). I truly liked working with the ballplayers who were on their way up to the majors, and did all I could to help them get there.”

The versatile Power played 1B, 2B and 3B in his Caribbean Series career, versus Cuba, Panamá and Venezuela, between 1950 and 1960. His best series (1958) for Caguas came in the event won by Marianao (Cuba), hitting .458, with a .583 SLG and series-leading eight RBIs. Power (3B) and CF Roberto Clemente were named to the 1958 series All-Star team. Four years earlier, his Caguas team won the 1954 series hosted by Puerto Rico. Power hit .348 to earn 1B All-Star laurels. In February 1953, he reinforced the undefeated 6-0 Santurce Crabbers in Cuba, a team which scored 50 runs in six games, with a .367 BA and .575 team SLG. Power, at 3B, hit .385 (10-for-26) and scored six runs. Willard Brown was series MVP, .417 BA, 1.042 SLG, eight runs, four homers and 13 RBIs. Jim Gilliam (.545 BA, .864 SLG), Bob Thurman (.474 BA, .684 SLG) and player-manager Buster Clarkson (.467 BA) all had an outstanding series.

Power was voted to the 2004 Caribbean Series Hall of Fame, the year before he passed away. He was a member of the 1991 class of the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, the first year honorees were chosen. Willard Brown, Bob Thurman, Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and Rubén Gómez were among the 10 inductees in that October 20, 1991 ceremony. 

Bill White and Pedrin Zorrilla

Bill White was a teammate of Rubén Gómez, Clemente and Cepeda with the 1955-56 and 1956-57 Santurce Crabbers; Gómez’s teammate with the 1956 New York Giants; and Cepeda’s 1958 teammate in San Francisco. Cepeda had fond memories of White as a teammate when we conversed by phone: “Bill was there [Puerto Rico] with his advice and goodwill. He was a gentleman.” Orlando was just 18 at the time when Bill White reinforced Santurce. The Crabbers were 25-11 halfway through 1955-56, but still finished first at 43-29, before losing to Caguas in the finals. White scored the winning run in game two of the finals, after Tom Lasorda walked him, followed by singles by Clemente and Allie Clark. Steve Ridzik, the winning pitcher in that 1-0 win, noted: “It was always tough winning in the [Puerto Rico] winter league. You couldn’t just walk in there and win. You had to earn it.”

Bill Rigney, the 1956 New York Giants skipper, was not happy with the 1956 NL pitching of Ridzik or Al Worthington, who had pitched well for the 1955-56 Crabbers. This resulted in the Giants sending their top prospects to Escogido in the Dominican Republic; among them were Pete Burnside, Bob Lennon and Willie Kirkland. Less seasoned prospects like Willie McCovey signed with Vanytor in the Colombian Winter League. But it was Bill White’s friendship with Santurce owner Pedrín Zorrilla which resulted in White returning to Santurce. White only played a portion of the winter season, since he was called to the States for induction into the U.S. Army.

“I had wedding plans that [1956-57] winter and Pedrín offered us his Manatí beach house for our honeymoon,” said White. “The Army called me…Pedrín’s love of all persons, regardless of race or origin, made me appreciate him even more…and he was one of the most important persons in my life.” Willard Brown was activated on Santurce’s roster after White returned to the States. With Santurce, White hit .308, 14 HR and 49 RBIs, combining power with hitting for average.

Bill White’s seven straight NL GG were from 1960-to-1965 with St. Louis, and 1966 for the Phillies. The Giants had a logjam at 1B by 1958/1959 with Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey. White was traded by San Francisco with Ray Jablonski to St. Louis for Sam Jones and Don Choate, March 25, 1959. White, an 8x NL All-Star and 1x World Series champ in 1964, had 202 HR and 870 RBIs in his NL career, with a .286 BA, .351 OBP, .455 SLG and .806 OPS.

George Scott played two seasons for Santurce, 1968-69 and 1969-70, under manager Frank Robinson. Scott slumped with the 1968 Boston Red Sox. Scott’s first winter with Santurce resulted in a .295 BA, and a league-leading 13 HR and 46 RBIs, for the 49-20, first-place Crabbers. Scott’s 44 runs scored tied teammate Elrod Hendricks for second place, behind the 49 runs by Ponce’s Sandy Alomar, Sr. Santurce was upset by arch-rival San Juan in a seven-game semi-final series. Scott’s 1969-70 season was also productive–.289 BA, 10 HR, 32 RBIs. Scott hit a key HR versus Mayagüez’s Pat Dobson in a semi-final game win, January 22, 1970.  One week later, Scott cracked a long HR off Ponce’s Vern Geishert at the Lions Den, in a 3-0 shutout by Santurce’s Fred Beene, game two of the finals. Ponce won this series in six games. Scott’s two-year ledger with Santurce was a nice .292 BA, 23 HR and 78 RBIs.

Scott’s MLB awards included eight GG, three with Boston in 1967, 1968 and 1971; plus five with the Milwaukee Brewers, 1972-to-1976. The 3x AL All-Star tied Reggie Jackson for the 1975 AL HR title with 36. His 109 RBIs in 1975 led the AL. Scott ended his 14-year MLB career with the 1979 New York Yankees. His MLB totals were .268 BA, .333 OBP, .435 SLG and .767 OPS. Scott, a native of Greenville, Mississippi, had 271 HR and 1,418 RBIs.

Mike Jorgensen won his GG in 1973 with the Montreal Expos. He played 1B for the 1970-71 San Juan Senators, managed by Roberto Clemente. Jorgensen, a New York Mets prospect, led the team with 12 homers (in 166 AB), ahead of seven hit by José M. Morales and six by RF Ken Singleton, another Mets prospect. Jorgensen had 29 RBIs, second on the club to Singleton’s 38. And Jorgensen hit .243 for the 37-30 Senators, who finished second, one game ahead of 37-32 Santurce, managed by Frank Robinson. They faced off in an epic semi-final series, won by Santurce in six games. The Crabbers were led by RF Reggie Jackson, who paced the league with 20 homers, well ahead of Bob Oliver’s 15 for Caguas and Jorgensen’s 12.

The pivotal game five of this semi-final series came January 25, 1971, with the teams tied at two games apiece. LHP Juan Pizarro started for Santurce. Clemente penciled his name into the lineup card. Manny Sanguillén (catcher-1B), Singleton and Clemente were San Juan’s toughest hitters to get out, whereas Santurce countered with Don Baylor, Tony (or Tany) Pérez and Reggie Jackson. With Santurce leading 1-0 in the top of the fourth, Clemente and Sanguillén singled, putting runners on first and third. Singleton hit a fly to RF which Jackson snared. Reggie let loose with his best throw of the season to nail Clemente at home plate and keep San Juan from a big rally. Santurce won the game, 2-1. Jorgensen went one for nine in this series. Clemente could and would sit Jorgensen against tough lefties like Pizarro and Mike Kekich.

Mike Jorgensen was 1B on the 1970-71 Sporting News Puerto Rico League All-Star Baseball Team, per the January 30, 1971 issue of The Sporting News. Rawlings congratulated this select squad—catcher Héctor Valle, Mayagüez; Jorgensen, 2B Félix Millán, Caguas; 3B Quique Rivera, Ponce; SS Milton Ramírez, Santurce; LF Bob Oliver, Caguas; CF Angel Mangual, Arecibo; RF José Cruz, Ponce; RHP Mike Wegener, Caguas, LHP Ken Brett, San Juan. Jorgensen’s 17-year MLB career culminated with the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals, which lost the World Series to Kansas City. Jorgensen’s lifetime MLB BA was .243, identical to his 1970-71 BA for San Juan! His MLB slash line was .243/.347/.373/.720, with 95 HR and 426 RBIs. He managed St. Louis for 96 games (42-54 W-L) in 1995, after the Cardinals fired Joe Torre.

Chris Chambliss was 1971 AL Rookie of the Year with Cleveland. Two years later, the Indians sent Chambliss to Puerto Rico, for additional hitting and fielding experience. Chambliss enjoyed playing for Jim “Junior” Gilliam, his San Juan manager. He had gotten married at the end of the 1973 season, so his stint in Puerto Rico served as his honeymoon. Chambliss knew San Juan teammates Rusty Torres, Tom Hilgendorf and Charlie Spikes from the Cleveland Indians. A three-year MLB veteran at the time, Chambliss found the transition to Puerto Rico winter ball to be fairly smooth. He hammered the ball on the field and relaxed in the tourist section of San Juan during his free time. Chambliss had 74 hits in 204 AB to finish at .3627, behind Santurce’s George Hendrick at .3632 (81-for-223). It was the closest batting race in league history. Twenty-eight earlier, Ponce’s Fernando Díaz Pedroso hit .3684 to Monte Irvin’s .3677, for San Juan.

Cleveland traded Chambliss to the New York Yankees early in the 1974 season. The 1976 All-Star earned his 1978 GG and back-to-back World Series titles as a player, 1977-78; plus four rings as a Yankee hitting coach, 1996-to-2000. His 17-year MLB slash line: .279/.334/.415/.749, with 185 HR/972 RBIs. My conversation with Chambliss was in Moosic, Pennsylvania, when he was managing the 1992 Richmond Braves. He had success managing the class AA Greenville (South Carolina) Braves in 1991, 88-56, .611 win PCT. His 1992 Richmond club went 73-71, and then he managed the 1992-93 San Juan ball club in Puerto Rico, until he was replaced as skipper by Luis “Torito” Meléndez, during that winter season. Chambliss managed nearly 1,000 minor league games, posting a 506-490 W-L record. Chambliss is sincere and soft-spoken.

Jim Spencer’s best MLB season was a .288/.367/.593/.960 slash line for the 1979 New York Yankees, with 23 HR and 53 RBIs. He was a teammate of Chris Chambliss, in 1978 and 1979.

Spencer’s first GG was with the 1970 California Angels; a second came with the 1977 Chicago White Sox. His 15-year MLB career showed a .250/.307/.387/.694 slash line, 146 HR and 599 RBIs. He was a 1973 All-Star with Texas.

Spencer was 31 years old and a 1978 World Series champ with the Yankees when he joined the 1978-79 Caguas Criollos toward the end of that season. Eddie Murray was Caguas’s regular 1B.  Spencer went eight for 34 in nine regular season games with Caguas–.234, one HR, six RBIs, for a slash line of .234/.333/.412/.745. Spencer played six games at 1B in the Criollos semi-final series win over Ponce, going two for 16, with two RBIs. When Eddie Murray returned to the States, Spencer played seven games at 1B in the finals versus Mayagüez, hitting .280 with three doubles and two RBIs. The Criollos won the series after a game seven win by Dennis Martínez over Jack Morris, and hosted the 1979 Caribbean Series at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

Spencer/most of his Caguas teammates had a sub-par 1979 Caribbean Series, one dominated by Venezuela’s Magallanes Navigators (5-1 record). Caguas at 2-4 finished third, behind the Navigators and Aguilas Cibaeñas from the Dominican Republic (4-2), but ahead of the 1-5 Mayos de Navojoa from Mexico. Spencer went two for 16 in this series. The only series All-Stars for Caguas were DH Tony Pérez, a Santurce reinforcement, and LHP Sheldon Burnside, a Mayagüez reinforcement. It is customary for Caribbean Series teams to be heavily reinforced.

Eddie Murray experienced success with Caguas in 1976-77, after his 1976 Charlotte (class AA) and Rochester (class AAA) combined season–.289, 23 HR, 86 RBIs. Murray played in 54 of Caguas’s 60 games, with a .313/.421/.497/.918 slash line. His eight homers and 33 RBIs were the equivalent of 24 and 99, respectively, playing 162 games. The 1976-77 Criollos had a team slash line of .307/.416/.434./.850. The .307 team BA is the highest in league history. Six of the league’s top seven BA were Caguas hitters: Sixto Lezcano (.366), José Cruz (.338) and Julio Cesar González (.337) at one-two-three. Tony Scott (.322) Félix Millán (.322) and Murray (.313) were five-six-seven. DH José M. Morales hit .303, following his 1976 NL season with Montreal, when he set a then MLB record of 25 pinch-hits in a season. Caguas had three of the top five run producers; the top two run scorers (Cruz and Scott); and the top base stealer (Scott’s 25). The 40-20 Criollos were first by two games over Ponce, and won nine of 12 league post-season games.

Doc Edwards, Murray’s 1976-77 manager, played winter ball in Venezuela and Puerto Rico. He spoke fairly good Spanish, but pep talks were not a top priority for talented hitters and pitchers such as Dennis Martínez, Scott McGregor, Mike Krukow, Eduardo Rodríguez and Mike Cuéllar. Caguas hit .335 as a team (72 hits/215 AB) in six semi-final series games versus Santurce. Murray drove in five and hit .240; then, hit .238 with three RBIs in six final series games against Bayamón. Caguas scored 55 runs in the finals, a .341/.420/.541/.961 slash line. Three Criollos, 2B Millán (.458); 3B Kurt Bevacqua (.417) and OF Sixto Lezcano (.417) hit over .400 in the league finals. Murray’s winter with Caguas helped him win 1977 AL Rookie of the Year honors.

Caguas underperformed in the February 1977 Caribbean Series held in Santo Domingo, finishing last at 1-5,  behind host Licey Tigers (6-0), Magallanes (3-3) and Mexico’s Mazatlán Deer (2-4). Caguas hit .253 overall with five HR. They were outscored, 33-19. Félix Millán was the only Caguas player on the All-Star team. Licey’s Rico Carty was series MVP with five HR/10 RBIs.

Murray returned to Caguas in 1977-78, playing 27 games, 103 AB, 29 runs, 38 hits, seven doubles, six homers and 25 RBIs; slash line.369/.451/.612/1.063. Murray’s semi-finals stats versus Mayagüez: three hits/20 AB, one HR, two RBIs. The Indios bested Caguas; won the finals and February 1978 Caribbean Series. Murray’s 1978-79 Caguas campaign: 21 games, 83 AB, 15 runs, 21 hits, three doubles, four HR, 20 RBIs, 11 walks-to-10 strikeouts and.253/.337/.434/.771 slash line. Caguas ousted Ponce in their semi-final series. Murray went eight for 22, a .364 BA, one HR, seven RBIs. His career regular season stats for Caguas: 102 games, 349 AB, 79 runs, 110 hits, 16 doubles, 18 HR, 78 RBIs, 54 strikeouts, 60 walks, slash line of .315/.411/.516/.927.

Murray’s three GG came with Baltimore, 1982-to-1984. The 8x All-Star was a 3x Silver Slugger winner and a 1983 World Series champ. He led the AL in HR (four-way tie) and RBIs in 1981. His slash line: .287/.359/.476/.836, with 504 HR and 1,917 RBIs. Murray’s 3,255 career MLB hits put him 13th, behind 3,283 hits by Willie Mays. Murray, Mays, Hank Aaron, Alex Rodríguez and Rafael Palmeiro are the only five players in MLB history with 3,000+ hits and 500+ HR. The only one in this group who never played in Puerto Rico was Alex Rodríguez.

Keith Hernández played less than a half-season with the 1975-76 Ponce Lions, managed by Ken Boyer. The Lions failed to make the post-season, finishing fifth with, 26-34. Ken Boyer lamented the fact that so many of his imported pitchers had gone home. “We also lost catcher Marc Hill and first baseman Keith Hernández,” said Boyer. “We had a couple of games booted away and in a 60-game schedule, you can’t afford to give away anything. A bad start can kill you too.” Hernández’s 24 games for Ponce resulted in a .232 BA, zero HR and seven RBIs. The one positive was his 21 walks-to-18 strikeouts. Ponce’s top import was RF Ellis Valentine, .296 BA, two HR and 36 RBIs. The league’s best 1B was Dan Driessen, the batting champ (.331) with nine HR with 39 RBIs, in twice as many AB for Bayamón (166) as Keith Hernández’s 82.

Keith Hernández played on two World Series champs (1982 Cardinals and 1986) Mets; won his 11 straight GG from 1978-to-1988; served as the first team captain of the New York Mets, 1987-to-1989; won a 1979 NL batting crown along with a co-MVP award shared with Willie Stargell. The 5x All-Star and 2x Silver Slugger winner led the NL in runs scored twice; doubles, walks and OBP once each. His slash line: .296/.384/.436/.821, with 162 HR and 1,071 RBIs.

Rafael Palmeiro, an OF for Mississippi State University (1983-to-1985), formed a dynamic one-two punch with 1B Will Clark, Palmeiro signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1985. The Cubs sent him to Puerto Rico to play 1B for the 1986-87 San Juan Metros, managed by Mako Oliveras. I caught up with Palmeiro in spring training 1992, when he was with the Texas Rangers, along with Puerto Rico League stars such as Juan González, Iván Rodríguez and Dickie Thon. Texas coach Orlando Gómez introduced me to Palmeiro, who was playing catch on the field. Palmeiro liked playing for Mako Oliveras as San Juan’s 1986-87 1B. “It was a strong league which prepared me for the majors,” Palmeiro affirmed. “The level was between AAA and the majors.”

Palmeiro played in 35 regular season and 10 round-robin series games in Puerto Rico. In the regular season, he hit .238, four homers and 21 RBIs. His 29 hits included six doubles. A 13-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio was excellent. Palmeiro’s slash line: .238/.358/.385/.743. The round-robin series featured Caguas (8-4), Ponce (7-5), San Juan (5-7) and Mayagüez (4-8). Just the top two teams advanced to the finals. Palmeiro hit .242 in this series, eight for 33, with one HR and four RBIs. The competition was tough with hitters Bobby Bonilla and Paul O’Neill (Mayagüez), Ellis Burks and Roberto Alomar (Caguas), and Skeeter Barnes and Iván Calderón (Ponce). David Cone, Ponce’s best pitcher, would later reinforce Caguas in the February 1987 Caribbean Series.

Palmeiro’s three GG came with Baltimore in 1997-98; Texas in 1999. The 4x All-Star and 2x Silver Slugger winner had an MLB slash line: .288/.371/.515/.885, with 3,020 hits, 569 HR and 1,835 RBIs. He played in 32 games for Cleburne, a 2018 Independent League team, drilling six homers; driving in 22 runs; and posting a slash line of .308/.431/.495/.926, at age 53.

Don Mattingly played LF, plus 1B, for the 1983 New York Yankees. The Yankees wanted Mattingly to take over 1B on a full-time basis in 1984, and felt a season of Puerto Rico winter ball with the Caguas Criollos—managed by Vic Power, one of the best-fielding 1B ever—would be beneficial to the 22-year old Mattingly. Power worked with Mattingly on his fielding; developed a good rapport with him; tried to help his pupil win the batting title. “Randy Ready of Mayagüez was challenging Mattingly for the batting title,” recalled Power. “We were up against a tough [Mayagüez] lefty, and I suggested that he take the night off. If Mattingly goes hitless, he falls behind Ready. But Mattingly told me he wanted to play and went three-for-four.”

Randy Ready mentioned [our 2017 conversation] that he joked with Mattingly before this game, stating “I’m going to catch you.” In the end, the top five hitters in BA were Mattingly (.368), Ready (.361), Arecibo’s Candy Maldonado (.346), Santurce’s Jerry Willard (.338) and San Juan’s Tony Gwynn (.327). Gwynn and I had a June 6, 1998 conversation at The Ballpark in Arlington, on the Puerto Rico Winter League. What most impressed me was Gwynn’s enthusiasm. He recalled his 1983-84 San Juan club had a great hitting line-up with Dickie Thon, Luis Aguayo, Carmelo Martínez, Kevin McReynolds, Ismael Oquendo et al. Gwynn spoke about him winning his first [1984] NL batting title after the 1983-84 winter season, and of Mattingly also winning the 1984 AL batting crown, after Mattingly’s fine season with Caguas. Per Gwynn:

The Padres sent me down there [Puerto Rico] to work on pulling the ball. And it’s so funny, because I’m an ‘inside-out’ hitter and Mattingly was an ‘inside-out’ hitter. And the next year [1984], we were in the big leagues winning batting titles…he pulled the ball and I pulled the ball a lot better than I did that winter in winter ball, and so, yeah, I think that was very instrumental…not only were you working on your game, working at your

craft…having success in Puerto Rico gave you the kind of confidence you needed here to do what you do. The teams were so good down there that Sandy Alomar, Jr., Carlos Baerga, Luis López, Benito Santiago—they didn’t get a chance to play because the teams were so stacked. But it gave you enough confidence that you could do it up here.

Mattingly’s 52 games with Caguas were productive, a .368/.419/.500/.919 stash line. His 75 hits, in 204 AB, included 13 doubles, one triple and four HR. Mattingly scored 34 runs; drove in 32; drew 20 walks-to-13 strikeouts; and stole one base. His MLB peak seasons were 1984-to-1989, five GG, 1985-to-1989, six straight All-Star games; 3x Silver Slugger; 1984 batting title/1985 MVP. He received four more GG, 1991-to-1994, and retired after the 1995 AL season. From 1984-87, his elite-peak slash line was .337/.381/.560/.941, with an average of 30 HR and 121 RBIs per season. His AL career slash line was 307/.358/.471/.830, with 222 HR and 1,099 RBIs.

Vic Power never played 1B for the New York Yankees, but Power’s positive attitude and approach to the game helped Don Mattingly hone his 1B skills with Caguas. I spoke with Vic Power [in Ponce] after his October 20, 1991 induction into the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball Hall of Fame. He followed Mattingly’s MLB career and was proud of Mattingly for serving as captain of the 1991 New York Yankees. Mattingly served as captain until his 1995 retirement.

Ten 1B who performed in Puerto Rico with 52 GG—41.9 percent of 124 GG awarded to 1B—include a Cooperstown Hall of Famer (Murray); 11 combined World Series titles: six-Chambliss, two-Keith Hernández, and one each: Murray, Jim Spencer and Bill White.  Combined, they made 42 All-Star teams; received 10 Silver Sluggers and two MVP awards; and won two batting titles. Five of the 10 GG recipients—Keith Hernández (11), Don Mattingly (9), George Scott (8), Vic Power (7) and Bill White (7)—still hold the TOP FIVE places for all-time GG received by a MLB 1B.

With special thanks to Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian, Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League. Jorge contributed valuable Puerto Rico Winter League statistics. My nickname for Jorge is “La Autoridad” (The Authority).

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