Luis St. Claire (Güigüí Lucas): 2022 Caribbean Series Hall of Famer

On Wednesday, February 2, 2022, Luis St. Claire—also known as (aka) Güigüí Lucas—was inducted in the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame, in Santo Domingo, with countrymen Tony Batista, David “Big Papi” Ortiz, and Juan Bautista Sánchez Peralta, aka Juanchy. (Sánchez Peralta, 1956-2021, was an Águilas Cibaeñas majority shareholder and business executive.)  Sportswriters and historians voted in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. (Colombia and Panamá participate in the Caribbean Series, but their media does not have a vote.) Lucas, a Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native, played at 5”10” and 170 pounds. One nickname was ‘El Americano’ due to his size, excellent physical condition, and “long” home runs. http://www.pabellondelafama.do/exaltados/luis-guigui-saint-claire-cabello/

This blog focuses on Lucas’ Winter League catching career in his native Dominican Republic, with the Caguas Criollos in Puerto Rico; Venezuela’s Winter League; Mexico [Summer] League; five Caribbean Series events; and Amateur World Series in Cuba. The impetus behind this “late” recognition was in Luichy Sánchez Peralta’s January 31, 2016, article in the Listín Diario. https://listindiario.com/el-deporte/2016/01/31/405948/gigi-lucas-un-inmortal-olvidado It chronicled St. Claire’s exceptional catching in 25 Caribbean Series games, February 1950-1952, 1954, and 1955. Luichy advocated for St. Claire’s 2022 Caribbean Series Hall of Fame Induction, with Juan Francisco Puello Herrera, founder of this Hall, in 1996 and, Commissioner, Caribbean Baseball Confederation. Güigüí was born in Santo Domingo, on June 21, 1917.

Amateur and Semi-Pro Baseball

St. Claire represented his country in the Amateur World Series multiple times, including 1941-1944. In 1942, his Dominican Republic team (9-3) trailed Cuba by one game, with Venezuela (7-5), third, followed by Mexico and the U.S. The Dominican squad bested Cuba, two of their three games, thanks to St. Claire’s overall play, including two homers off Conrado “Connie” Marrero in one game, per this excellent Tony Piña Campora article: https://www.entornointeligente.com/04/12/2021/luis-saint-claire-3  The September 26-October 20, 1942 event hosted by Havana, featured another catcher—Cuba’s Andrés Fleitas—named MVP, with a .405 batting average. Six years earlier, St. Claire, at age 19, debuted with the 1936 Escogido Lions, preceding a 1937 three-team pro tournament featuring Satchel Paige, Joshua Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and other Negro Leaguers. Tetelo Vargas and Horacio “Rabbit” Martínez were the only Dominican pro players in that 1937 event.

Tony Piña Campora wrote that St. Claire became known as Güigüí Lucas, since his father’s name was Lucas Saint Claire. And his two brothers (Pepe and Papito) were talented ballplayers, too. Pepe Lucas played first base for the Santurce Crabbers (1949-55). Güigüí caught for the Caguas Criollos, 1949-54, 1956. Rubén Gómez was impressed with Pepe and Güigüí Lucas. “I recommended Pepe to Pedrín Zorrilla, Santurce owner, prior to the 1949-50 [Puerto Rico] season,” recalled Gómez. “Caguas signed Güigüí thanks to Luis Rodríguez Olmo.”

Home Run off Satchel Paige Circa 1940

Mario Emilio Guerrero Krantz, via Facebook Messenger, January 30, 2022, noted that:

  • “Güigüí Lucas was the first Dominican player to homer at Tetelo Vargas Stadium, in San Pedro de Macorís, and the first Dominican to hit a home run off Satchel Paige, when Paige hurled for the Guayama (Puerto Rico) Witches, in a 1940 barnstorming game at San Pedro de Macorís.

Venezuela

St. Claire played four pro seasons in Venezuela, 1946-1949, with the Patriotas de Venezuela (PDV), followed by the 1954-55 Magallanes Navigators. He played against Roy Campanella in 1946. On December 5, 2021, Tony Piña Campora, via a direct tweet, stated: “Roy Campanella once claimed that Güigüí was the best [defensive] catcher he had ever seen.”

Table I comprises St. Claire’s hitting stats in Venezuela. Campanella, who caught for the Sabios de Vargas (SDV), is in Table II.

Table I: Luis St. Claire regular season stats, Venezuela (PDV/Magallanes)

SeasonGABRH2B3BHRRBIAVGSLG
194632114173162220.272.412
1946-4731115143951010.339.400
1947-4833121263890312.314.463
1948-492999232762414.273.495
1954-5536128114070121.313.391
Total (5)161577911753351077.303.430

Source: https://pelotabinaria.com.ve/beisbol/mostrar.php?ID=sainlui001

Table II: Roy Campanella regular season stats, Venezuela (SDV)

SeasonGABRH2B3BHRRBIAVGSLG
19461253111932213.358.604
1947-48401343145121521.336.552
Total (2)521874264153734.342.567

Source: https://pelotabinaria.com.ve/beisbol/mostrar.php?ID=camproy001

Mexico

St. Claire made his presence felt in Mexico between 1947-1950, 1952, and 1954. Those summer seasons included Veracruz and Puebla (1947), Monterrey (1948-1950), Jalisco (1952), and Mexico Red Devils (1954). Luis R. Olmo, Güigüí’s teammate with the 1947 Veracruz Azules (Blues), noted: “Güigüí was jovial, but he could catch and had baseball smarts. I did not hesitate to bring him to Caguas [1949-50] when I returned to the Puerto Rico Winter League as Caguas’ player-manager.” (Olmo batted .301 with 14 homers and 72 RBIs for Veracruz.) Rory Costello’s SABR bio of Olmo is at https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/luis-olmo/

The 1948 Monterrey Industriales (50-35) and 1949 Monterrey Sultanas (52-33) won back-to-back league titles with Güigüí catching and Cuban native Lázaro Salazar as manager. Alelandro “Patón” Carrasquel was Monterrey’s 1948 ace, and former big-leaguer with the Washington Senators. Veracruz’s Ray Dandridge (.360) led the 1948 league in batting average. Table III contains Güigüí’s Mexican League hitting stats.

Table III: Luis St. Claire regular season stats, Mexican League (Five Teams)

SeasonGABRH2B3BHRRBIAVGSLG
194767156223671019.231.288
1948903123180155341.256.365
194973276368792243.315.384
1950279771931016.196.247
195273270358391038.307.348
1954532092969172737.330.531
Total (6)3831,320160374601212194.283.374

Source: Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano. Editor Pedro Treto Cisneros, Undécima Edición, 2011.

Puerto Rico

Güigüí played as a Native in Puerto Rico from 1949-50 through 1953-54. His Caguas Criollos were 218-161, .575 PCT, (1949-1954) those seasons. Caguas won the 1949-50 and 1953-54 league regular season and post-season crowns. The 1950-51 edition (57-20, .740 PCT) won the most regular-season games in the league and team history, with Güigüí posting a .311 batting average! “Güigüi was the glue on our Caguas teams in the early 1950s,” affirmed Vic Power. “He had a knack for calling pitches and got along with all his teammates.”

Santurce’s Pepe Lucas hit the walk-off homer off Caguas hurler Mike Clark in Game Seven, 1950-51 finals, to give the Crabbers their first league title. It must have felt strange for Güigüí to witness—behind-the-plate—his brother’s historic February 17, 1951 “Shot Heard Around the Caribbean.” Earlier that season, Güigüí caught Caguas teammate Roberto Vargas, last three innings, December 26, 1950, League All-Star Game, against the “Imports,” a 5-1 win for the Natives. Mayagüez’s Lew Burdette started for the Imports, but Mike Clark took the loss in relief. Clark (14-6), Vargas (10-1), and Dominican Manolo Cáceres (12-1) were the Criollos top starters, with a composite 36-8 W-L regular-season record.

Hank Aaron, Jim Rivera, and Tetelo Vargas, Caguas’ 1953-54 outfield, played vital roles in the Criollos (46-34) first-place finish and final series win over Mayagüez. On January 13, 1954, manager Mickey Owen activated himself for the stretch run; Caguas went 15-2 over their next 17 regular-season games. “Brooks Lawrence was the best pitcher on our staff; he could start or relieve,” said Owen. “He was the reason I went back to catching. Lawrence moved the ball around the plate with a sliding curve and a big curveball, and Güigüí Lucas felt uncomfortable catching certain pitches. Güigüí was a character—he carried his money and even a paycheck in his back pocket. He had played in lots of places where money was taken from locker rooms.”

When Güigüí last played for Caguas (1956-57), he caught Sandy Koufax, when the future legend  hurled the first two months of the season for them. Table IV has Güigüí’s Caguas hitting stats.

Table IV: Luis St. Claire regular season stats, Caguas Criollos

SeasonABRH2B3BHRRBIAVGSLG
1949-50260426473142.246.308
1950-512573480102132.311.377
1951-522361453110022.225.271
1952-53203114230013.207.222
1953-5415613385008.244.276
1956-5714241001.286.357
Total (6)1,1261162813752118.250.297

Source: Jorge Colón Delgado, EXCEL file, January 30, 2022.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Lu%C3%ADs_Saint-Claire; https://thegaltimes.com/louis-saint-claire/10399/

Five Caribbean Series for Güigüí

Lucas reinforced Santurce (1951) and San Juan Senators (1952) in addition to his 1950 and 1954 series with Caguas and 1955 event with Magallanes. Santurce (1951) and Caguas (1954) emerged as Caribbean Series champs. Güigüí’s Caribbean Series highlights follow.

February 21-27, 1950, San Juan, PR

Caguas (4-3 W-L) lost a tie-breaker to Panamá’s Carta Vieja Yankees (5-2) at Sixto Escobar Stadium, on February 27. Güigüí caught all seven games, starting six, including three CG:

  • Dan Bankhead’s 1-0 SHO of Almendares (Cuba) and Connie Marrero, February 21.
  • Luis Arroyo’s 2-1 win over Magallanes (Venezuela) and Terris McDuffie, February 23.
  • Wilmer Fields’ 6-1 victory over Almendares, February 24.

Güigüí drove in Willard Brown with a Sac Fly in the 1-0 Opening Night win over Cuba (February 21). He had four hits in 22 at-bats. Sportswriter Rafael V. Peña wrote: “Even though he (Lucas) went 4-for-22, he was selected to the Series All-Star Team, as the best catcher.” Güigüí and teammate Tetelo Vargas were the first two Dominicans to play in a Caribbean Series.

http://acdny.blogspot.com/2015/01/guigui-lucas-en-series-del-caribe.html The February 25 game versus Carta Vieja featured a battery of Dan Bankhead and Luis “King Kong” Villodas. Güigüí replaced Villodas in the sixth inning.

February 22-26, 1951, Caracas, VZA

Santurce (5-1) outdistanced Havana Reds (4-2), Magallanes (2-4), and Spur Cola (1-5), helped by Olmo’s MVP performance (.417 AVG, 3 HR, 9 RBIs). Güigüí caught all 52 innings for the Crabbers, managed by George Scales. (Olmo, SS Stan Breard and 1B George Crowe were Caguas’ other position players who reinforced Santurce, a typical Caribbean Series practice.) Ponce’s José “Pantalones” Santiago hurled two CG (February 22 and 25); Rubén Gómez had one—seven-inning contest, versus Spur Cola, on February 26. Santiago bested Havana’s Hoyt Wilhelm, February 22, and Magallanes’ Clem Labine, three days later. Olmo cracked two homers in the final game; Willard Brown (CF) and Buster Clarkson (3B) also homered. Jim Gilliam (2B) and Bob Thurman (RF) were Santurce’s other regulars. Güigüí, named to the Series All-Star Team, went 5-for-25; scored six; drove in one. Table V summarizes Santurce’s pitching.   

Table V: Santurce’s Pitching, 1951 Series

PitcherGGSCGSavW-LIPHERKBBERA
Pantalones Santiago222 2-0181556152.60
Rubén Gómez32112-013102441.39
Roberto Vargas210  6.271151.35
Luis Rafael Cabrera1   1-0441222.25
Bill Powell1    3.130110.00
Domingo Sevilla1    200130.00
Mike Clark210 0-15872312.60
Totals 6315-152471617332.77

Don Q BaseBall Cues, 1950-51, Serrallés Distillery, Ponce, Puerto Rico.

February 20-25, 1952, Panamá City, Panamá

The San Juan Senators finished last, 0-5-1. Güigüí caught two CG: 11-inning effort by Cot Deal, February 23, versus Cervecería Caracas, followed by Roberto Vargas’ 8-innings against Havana Reds, “home team” for that February 24 game. (Both were 3-2 losses.) In five games, Güigüí had three hits in 16 at-bats, with one RBI. Freddie Thon Sr. managed San Juan. His son, Freddie Jr., via Facebook Messenger, January 30, 2022, stated: “The one thing I do remember was Güigüi being the BEST I ever saw at faking a throw being on the way when about to tag a runner at home.”

When Güigüí caught Vargas on February 24, his 17th straight Caribbean Series game at catcher, 16 as a starter. The 17 straight remain a Caribbean Series Record for Phase I (1949-1960) and Phase II (1970-2022). Alberto Castillo started 16 straight at catcher for the Dominican Republic, 2000-2002, one short of Güigüí’s 17 consecutive Caribbean Series contests.

February 18-23, 1954, San Juan, PR

With a 4-1 record, Caguas clinched the 1954 series going into their February 23 game versus Almendares. Mickey Owen gave Güigüí the start at catcher and Chichí Olivo the ball, as the starter—the FIRST Dominican battery in Caribbean Series history. Güigüí went 0-for-3 against Almendares, whereas Olivo gave up four unearned runs to finish with an 0.00 ERA in his one start and one relief appearance. Almendares won, 4-2, to finish with a 3-3  record, tied with Carta Vieja. Pastora, from Venezuela, was fourth, at 2-4, but featured the Caribbean Series debut of Luis Aparicio Montiel, Venezuela’s only Cooperstown Inductee (1984). Caguas’ four wins were split among Luis Arroyo, Rubén Gómez, Brooks Lawrence and Corky Valentine.

February 10-15, 1955, Caracas, VZA    

Güigüí was 38 when he caught all six games for second-place Magallanes (4-2), who trailed Santurce (5-1). His five hits in 18 at-bats, five runs, and five RBIs, were supplemented by catching five CG. Güigüí spent quality time with two Santurce players—brother Pepe Lucas and pitcher George “Garabato” Sackey. Here is a Magallanes Navigators game-by-game summary:

  • February 10—José “Carrao” Bracho blanked Carta Vieja, 9-0.
  • February 11—Emilio “El Indio” Cueche lost, 1-0, to Almendares’ Joe Hatten.
  • February 12—Ramón Monzant gave up a two-run homer to Santurce’s Willie Mays, with Roberto Clemente on first, in the bottom of the 11th, in the Crabbers’ 4-2 victory; Sam Jones was the winning pitcher. Mays broke an 0-for-12 slump with that walk-off homer.
  • February 13—Lefty reliever Bill Kennedy pitched 5.1 frames, in relief of an injured Bracho, in a 6-1 win over Carta Vieja.
  • February 14—Cueche avenged his earlier loss to Almendares, with a 6-4 victory.
  • February 15—Joe Margoneri beat Santurce, 7-2, despite another homer by Willie Mays.

In 25 Caribbean Series games, Güigüí had 17 hits in 84 at-bats, .202 AVG, with 14 runs, 17 RBIs, a double, a Sac fly, and .214 SLG. He caught 13 CG in 24 Caribbean Series starts.

Post-Script

Güigüí caught six games for the 1956-57 Escogido Lions (26-21), LIDOM, at age 39, with five hits in 17 at-bats, a .294 AVG, one double, a run scored, and two RBIs. They won the semi-finals and finals, with Felipe Alou, Ozzie Virgil Sr., Steve Bilko, and second baseman Sparky Anderson! Lefty Pete Burnside was Escogido’s top pitcher. He had pitched batting practice for Santurce, 1955 Caribbean Series, and was impressed by Güigüi’s poise-catching ability. Sparky Anderson enjoyed playing 2B for the 1956-57 Escogido Lions, but managing the 1964-65 Magallanes Navigators “was tough.” Anderson recalled he was fired. “Their native players were young kids, and the other teams had the star native players. Magallanes fired me 30 days into the season….”

Güigüí and his brother Pepe were both inducted into the Dominican Republic Sports Hall of Fame in 1974. Per Mario Emilio Guerrero Krantz, the Dominican press named Güigüí as the “BEST Dominican Catcher in 1945 and 1972 [polls].”

Special thanks to Tony Piña Campora, for Güigüí’s Caribbean Series stats and sharing a Roy Campanella quote. To Luichy Sánchez, to get Güigüí inducted in the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame. To Mario Emilio Guerrero Krantz, for fascinating history linking Güigüí with Tetelo Vargas and Satchel Paige. Freddie Thon Jr. shared a Güigüí-related observation. Sparky Anderson, Pete Burnside, Rubén Gómez, Luis R. Olmo, Mickey Owen and Vic Power relayed first-hand views on Güigüí.  Jorge Colón Delgado furnished Güigüí’s Caguas hitting stats. He did the editing and photo layout.

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