Henry Cotto: Caguas Criollos, Cubs, Yankees, Mariners, Marlins, and Yomiuri Giants (Part III)

Henry Cotto was born in the Bronx on January 5, 1961, but his family moved back to Puerto Rico (PR) when he was three months old. Pedrín Zorrilla, legendary Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) owner of the Santurce Crabbers, 1939-1956, signed Cotto and Carmelo Martínez to contracts with the Chicago Cubs. Part II ended with the Caguas Criollos, under replacement manager Ramón Avilés, winning the 1987 Caribbean Series (CS) in Hermosillo, Mexico. Part III concludes with the 1988-1993 Seattle Mariners, 1993 Florida Marlins, a Japan Series title with the 1994 Yomiuri Giants, and a summary of his minor-league coaching and managing career.

On December 22, 1987, the Yankees traded Cotto and LHP Steve Trout to the Seattle Mariners for Lee Guetterman, Clay Parker, and Wade Taylor. During his 1987-88 PRWL season with Caguas, Cotto posted a .277 BA with 12 SB. On January 6, 1988, in the PRWL All-Star Game, his solo HR gave the Metro squad a 1-0 over the Island team, comprised of Arecibo, Ponce, and Mayagüez players. Kevin Kennedy managed the Metro ballclub, with players from Caguas, San Juan, and Santurce. Coincidentally, Ramón Avilés was at the helm of the Island team.

Five and One-Half Seasons with Seattle and Cotto’s Trade to the Florida Marlins

Seventy-four percent of Cotto’s big-league AB (1,612/2,178) were with Seattle. He is the answer to a trivia question: Who was Seattle’s center-fielder before the arrival of Ken Griffey Jr.? Once Griffey Jr. arrived, Cotto played more left field, pinch-ran, pinch-hit, and gave Griffey Jr. an occasional rest. Ken Griffey Sr. was also Cotto’s teammate with the Yankees and Mariners. In May 1985, Cotto was using a Q-tip on the Yankees bench when Griffey Sr. accidentally bumped into him, resulting in a punctured eardrum. Cotto’s best Seattle season was in 1991, with a .305/.347/.463 slash line in 66 games. In 1992, he had nine hits in 18 pinch-hit AB. The author interviewed him before a 1992 game in Baltimore. Cotto, serious and soft-spoken, gave credit to Pedrín Zorrilla for signing him with the Cubs organization and proud of his PRWL career, including five CS events reinforcing San Juan (1985), Mayagüez (1986, 1988, 1989), and a special one (1987) with Caguas. Other Mariners the author interviewed or conversed with included Edgar Martínez, Kevin Mitchell, Pete O’Brien, Lance Parrish, Harold Reynolds, and Omar Vizquel. Mitchell made fun of the author’s shoes. Martínez remembered his January 1992 interview with the author. O’Brien’s 17 doubles for 1982-83 Caguas led the PRWL. Parrish spoke highly of 1978-79 with Mayagüez catching Jack Morris. Reynolds alluded to 1985-86 playing second base for Mayagüez. Vizquel, from Venezuela, idolized shortstops Luis Aparicio and David Concepción.

       Upper Deck #207, 1990. Photo credit: www.ebay.com.

Cotto led the 1992 Mariners with 23 SB, and was CS twice for a 92 percent success rate! His 23 steals of the team’s 100 SB surpassed 15 SB by Reynolds and Vizquel, 14 by Edgar Martínez, and ten by Griffey Jr. Bill Plummer managed Seattle to a 64-98 record. Martínez won the 1992 AL batting crown (.343 BA) and repeated in 1995 (.356 BA). On June 27, 1993, Cotto and Jeff Darwin were swapped to the Florida Marlins for Dave Magadan. Cotto’s final big-league skipper with the expansion Marlins was Rene Lachemann, who led the 1977-78 Mayagüez Indios to the PRWL and 1978 CS titles. Table I includes Cotto’s Major League hitting statistics.

Table I: Henry Cotto Major League Hitting Stats, 1984-1993


Source: Baseball-Reference.

Cotto, Dan Gladden, and Hideki Matsui Propel Yomiuri Giants to 1994 Pennant

Baltimore signed Cotto on February 3, 1994, but, instead, he played one season with the Yomiuri Giants (70-60), winners of the Japan Central League and the Japan Series. Fifty-eight-year-old Shigeo Nagashima managed the 1994 Giants to the pennant and subsequent Japan Series title. Yomiuri’s position player imports, or “gaijin” were left-fielder Dan Gladden (formerly with 1983-84 Mayagüez) and center-fielder Cotto. Twenty-year-old right-fielder Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui made his presence felt with a team-leading 20 homers, followed by Cotto (18), Gladden (15), Hiromitsu Ochiai (15), and Tatsunori Hara (14), per Table II.

Table II: Yomiuri Giants 1994 Hitting Statistics (Players with 100+ AB and Others)

Shinichi MurataC12033029821201041.249.331.376.707
Hiromitsu Ochiai1B129447531251901568.280.393.415.808
Daisuke Motoki2B90218266160425.280.347.362.710
Kaoru Okazaki3B1113273584150645.257.320.358.678
Masahiro KawaiSS13047369143184033.302.376.357.733
Dan GladdenLF98374461001901537.267.319.439.758
Henry CottoCF10738345961601852.251.281.433.715
Hideki MatsuiRF130503701482342066.294.368.475.843
Hiromoto OkuboC62119143520918,294.346.538.884
Kazu Shinozuka2B57147223550213.238.285.313.598
Koichi Ogata2B11317422404407.
Tatsunori HaraIF672002658411436.290.364.530.894
S. YoshimuraOF81160142860323.
Others (22)  465459193633.196 .267 
Totals 1304320516111615816122497.258.326.387.713

Source: Baseball-Reference.

The 1994 Japan Series—Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) Championship Series

The 1994 Japan Series generated more interest due to the Major League Baseball strike that canceled the 1994 Fall Classic. Yomiuri faced the Seibu Lions, who won the Pacific League pennant for the eighth time in this series. It was the first Japan Series in 30 years to have night games, albeit on weeknights. Chicago-area Regional Sports Networks, with Ken Harrelson as the lead broadcaster, did the games in English on a week-delay basis. This generated additional interest from big-league teams and was instrumental in Hideo Nomo negotiating and signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, plus future agreements with other Japanese players. Yomiuri won it, four games to two. Cotto homered in Games Five and Six.

1October 22Seibu Lions – 11, Yomiuri Giants – 0Tokyo Dome2:5746,177
2October 23Seibu Lions – 0, Yomiuri Giants – 1Tokyo Dome2:2546,342
3October 25Yomiuri Giants – 2, Seibu Lions – 1Seibu Lions Stadium3:2031,838
4October 26Yomiuri Giants – 5, Seibu Lions – 6Seibu Lions Stadium4:1231,883
5October 27Yomiuri Giants – 9, Seibu Lions – 3Seibu Lions Stadium3:4031,872
6October 29Seibu Lions – 1, Yomiuri Giants – 3Tokyo Dome2:5346,307

Game 1

Saturday, October 22, 1994, Tokyo Dome, Bunkyo, Tokyo
WP: Hisanobu Watanabe (1-0)    LP: Masumi Kuwata (0-1)
Homers: SEI: Kazuhiro Kiyohara (1), Norio Tanabe (1) 

Game 2[

Sunday, October 23, 1994, Tokyo Dome, Bunkyo, Tokyo
WP: Hiromi Makihara (1-0)   LP: Kimiyasu Kudoh (0-1)

Game 3

Tuesday, October 25, 1994,  Seibu Lions Stadium, Tokorozawa, Saitama
WP: Hiroshi Ishinge (1-0)   LP: Takehiro Ishii  (0–1)   SV: Masumi Kuwata (1)

Game 4

Wednesday, October 26, 1994, Seibu Lions Stadium, Tokorozawa, Saitama
WP: Takehiro Ishii (1-0)    LP: Masao Kida (0–1)
Homers: YOM: Hideki Matsui (1), Hiromoto Okubo (1)  SEI: Kuzuhiro Kiyohara (2)

Game 5

Thursday, October 27, 1994, Seibu Lions Stadium, Tokorozawa, Saitama
WP: Masumi Kuwata (1-1)  LP: Kento Sugiyama (0-1) Homers: YOM: Sadaaki Yoshimura (1), Koichi Ogata (1), Henry Cotto (1)
SEI: Kuzuhiro Kiyohara 2 (4)

Game 6

Saturday, October 29, 1994, Tokyo Dome, Bunkyo, Tokyo
WP: Hiromi Makihara (2-0)   LP: Kimiyasu Kudoh (0-2)  Homers:YOM: Henry Cotto (2)

Nagashima’s 17-season playing career with Yomiuri featured nine straight Japan Series titles between 1965 and 1973. His 1958-1974 slash line was .305/.379/.540, with a .919 OPS. He hit 444 homers and knocked in 1,522 runs. His 15-year managing record with the Giants was 1,037-889 (.537 PCT) in 1975-1980 and 1993-2001. He won three Japan Series titles as manager, including in 2000 when Yomiuri (78-57) defeated Fukuoka Daiei Hawks—managed by Sadaharu Oh—four games to two. That Series MVP was Hideki Matsui. Coincidentally, Oh and Nagashima were long-time Yomiuri Giants teammates.

Cotto’s Coaching and Managing Experience

Cotto’s coaching stints in Seattle’s minor-league system, 1996-2007, included:

  • 1996 Port City Roosters
  • 1997 Tacoma Rainiers
  • 1998 Orlando Rays
  • 1999-2000 New Haven Ravens
  • 2001 Tacoma Rainiers
  • 2003-05 Inland Empire 66ers
  • 2006 San Antonio Missions
  • 2007 Everett AquaSox.

In 2002, he was Seattle’s base running coordinator. Ditto with the 2010 and 2011 San Francisco Giants, the 2010 World Series winners. From 2015-17, he managed the Arizona League (AZL) Giants. His 2015 team went 31-25, preceding a 28-27 mark in 2016. The 2017 AZL Giants were 34-22 under Cotto and Héctor Borg. Perhaps Cotto, now 63 years old, will receive future consideration for induction into the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball Hall of Fame. He played his entire career with Caguas and was 1984-85 PRWL MVP.

Special thanks to Henry Cotto. Thanks to Edgar Martínez, Kevin Mitchell, Pete O’Brien, Lance Parrish, Harold Reynolds, and Omar Vizquel. Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo layout.

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