Luis “Tite” Arroyo: Puerto Rico Winter League and Caribbean Series Hall of Famer, and 1961 New York Yankees Ace Reliever (Part I)

Part I covers Arroyo representing Team Puerto Rico, the 1946 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games; his first nine Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) seasons with the Ponce Lions, 1946-47 to 1954-55; three Caribbean Series events (1950, 1952, and 1954); his 1952 and 1953 summer seasons with the Escogido Lions, Dominican Republic; 1955 selection as a National League (NL) All-Star—first Puerto Rican named to the NL All-Star Team; plus his ranking among all-time New York Yankees relievers.  Part II picks up with 10 San Juan Senators seasons and post-seasons: 1955-56 to 1964-65; reinforcing 1958-59 Águilas Cibaeñas, Dominican Winter League (LIDOM) playoffs and Santurce, 1959 Caribbean Series; managing Ponce (1965-68), Caguas (1968-69), Mexico’s 1967 & 1968 Reynosa Broncs, and 1978 Poza Rica Petroleros. Arroyo’s work as a PRWL GM is in Part II, plus his enshrinement in various Hall of Fames.

Luis Arroyo

In 1952, lefty Luis “Tite” Arroyo was, albeit briefly, a teammate of LHP Joe Page, Escogido Lions, Dominican Republic Professional Baseball [Summer] League (LIDOM).  Five years earlier, a 20-year-old Arroyo, born in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, on February 18, 1947, met 29-year-old Page before a February 24, 1947 spring training game at Sixto Escobar Stadium, between Arroyo’s Ponce Lions and Page’s New York Yankees.  Ponce won 12-8, fueled by a three-run homer by Fernando Díaz Pedroso off Page, who retroactively—saved 76 games for the Bronx Bombers, 1946-1950, 8th best in team history.  His “old” team record of 27 saves in 1949 was eclipsed by Arroyo’s 29 for the 1961 Yankees.  Table I includes the top single-season saves leaders for the Yankees, 1927-1969, for hurlers with 10+ saves.  The “Save” became an official big-league statistic, in 1969, per research by Jerome Holtzman.  It was retroactively tabulated for pitchers pre-1969.  Table II comprises the Yankees’ Top 25 career saves leaders. Arroyo and Ryne Duren are #14.

Table I: 10+ Single-Season Saves, NY Yankees, 1927-1969

Tite Arroyo196129
Joe Page194927
Johnny Sain195426
Johnny Murphy193919
Bob Grim195719
Ryne Duren195819
Marshall Bridges196218
Hal Reniff196318
Pedro Ramos196518
Dooley Womack196718
Joe Page1947/194817/16
Johnny Murphy194115
Ryne Duren195914
Wilcy Moore192713
Joe Page195013
Allie Reynolds195313
Pedro Ramos196613
Jim Konstanty195512
Pete Mikkelsen196412
Johnny Murphy1938, 194211
Tom Morgan1955, 195611
Bobby Shantz196011
Steve Hamilton196811
Jack Aker196911
Johnny Murphy193710
Jim Turner194510
Lindy McDaniel196810



Arroyo: Amateur Pitcher to PRWL Ponce Lions, 1947-1955

Arroyo spent much of December 1946 in Barranquilla, Colombia, with Team Puerto Rico, V CAC Games. Arroyo pitched for the Tallaboa Athletics, Puerto Rico’s Class AA, Amateur League, in the mid-1940s.  The host country won Gold in baseball; the Dominican Republic got Silver, and Cuba, earned Bronze, with eight teams competing.  Hence, he was called “El Zurdo de Tallaboa” (Lefty of Tallaboa), per Freddie Thon Jr. Rory Costello’s superb Arroyo SABR bio is at Tallaboa is a barrio of Peñuelas, a municipality in southern Puerto Rico where Arroyo was born and raised.

Ponce was 20-10 in the first-half, behind 21-9 Caguas Criollos, but made the finals by winning the second-half (18-12), to finish 38-22.  Ponce came-from-behind to defeat Caguas, four games-to-three, in the finals, after losing Games 1-3.  Their skipper was George Scales, who played in the Negro Leagues; with 1927-1929 Almendares, Cuban Winter League; 1937 Dominican Republic Tourney; and in Puerto Rico barnstorming contests.  Martiniano García, Ponce Lions owner, gave Arroyo a $500 bonus in January 1947. 

Arroyo pitched 15 innings for 1946-47 Ponce, with a 0-2 mark and 4.20 ERA.  He observed and learned from their four-man rotation of José Guillermo “Pantalones” Santiago (8-2, 3.09 ERA), Tomás “Planchardón” Quiñones (9-4, 2.43 ERA), Juan Guilbe (8-4, 2.58 ERA), and Johnny Wright (8-5, 1.50 ERA), a collective 33-15, .688 PCT.  Their best hitters were Cuban 2B Fernando Díaz Pedroso (.348 BA, 12 HR, 35 RBI), 3B Howard Easterling—from Mt. Olive, Mississippi—(.343, 9 HR, 30 RBI), and RF legend Francisco Coimbre (.333, 1 HR, 33 RBI).

Raymond Brown joined Ponce as their pitching coach the month Arroyo signed his Lions’ contract; provided guidance and mentoring to the rookie.  Brown got the 12-8 win over the Yankees, on February 24, 1947, with relief help from Pantalones Santiago.  During a 1990s trip to Puerto Rico, the author met Arroyo at his Peñuelas home.  We covered his PRWL, minor-league, and big-league career, Caribbean Series games, managing, scouting, and role as a Ponce GM.  Here are several excerpts from our conversation.

  • “It was special traveling with my [1946-47] Ponce team to face the [1947] Yankees at Sixto Escobar.  I met some players, including Yogi Berra—the only member of that team, except for Ralph Houk, with the 1960-1963 Yankees…Joe Page gave up Pedroso’s three-run homer…but New York went on to win the [AL] pennant and [1947] World Series.”
  • “Rogers Hornsby, my 1950-51 Ponce manager, and Houk, with the 1961-1963 Yankees, were night and day.  The way Hornsby was running the [Ponce] ballclub, I could tell he wasn’t going to be a success managing again in the big leagues.  He sent nobody to the mound…just walked in front of the dugout and said, ‘You’re in and you’re out.”

Hornsby managed 1950 Beaumont Roughnecks, a Yankees affiliate in the AA Texas League.  He earned $10,000 for three months managing Ponce but departed with a week left in the season to tend to his Hot Springs, Arkansas, Baseball School and attend National League’s (NL) 75th-anniversary celebrations.  Benny Huffman, Hornsby’s Ponce coach, took over managing reins.  Ponce (43-35) made the playoffs, and Huffman got a contract for 1951-52.  Huffman and Hornsby lived in the Torres Apartments, where they rode bicycles to/from Ponce’s Paquito Montaner Stadium.  Clint Courtney, Yankees prospect with 1950 Beaumont, caught Arroyo in 1950-51.  Bill Skowron, another Yankees prospect, was Ponce’s 1950-51 3B.  Skowron liked Arroyo, a future (1960-1962) Yankees teammate.  Table III lists Arroyo’s Ponce managers.

Table III: Ponce Managers, 1946-47 to 1954-55

1947-50George Scales#154-126.550
1950-51Rogers Hornsby43-35.551
1951-52Benny Buffman34-36.486
1952-54Joe Buzas75-77.493
1954-55Joe Schultz26-46.361
TotalNine(9) seasons332-320.524

#Scales led Ponce to five PRWL titles, 1941-42 to 1944-45, and 1946-47.

Source: Enciclopedia Béisbol Ponce Leones, 1938-1987, Rafael Costas.

Arroyo’s best Ponce campaigns were 1949-50 and 1950-51.  In 1949-50: 11-5, 1.82 ERA, 90 K’s; third in wins behind Santurce’s Rubén Gómez (14) and Caguas’ Cecil Kaiser (13); second, ERA, to Kaiser’s 1.67; third in K’s to Caguas’ Dan Bankhead (131) and teammate Pantalones (96).  In 1950-51: 13-8, one win shy of Caguas’ Mike Clark (14-6). Arroyo’s 2.48 ERA—second to Caguas’ Manolo Caceres’ 2.24—and his 94 K’s, third-best, after Aguadilla’s Petey Wojey (116) and Pantalones’ 111. Arroyo’s complete PRWL, minor-league and big-league stats are at:

1950 Caribbean Series

Luis R. Olmo, 1949-50 Caguas player-manager, got Arroyo to reinforce the Criollos in the four-team, round-robin series at Escobar Stadium, February 21-27, 1950.  Caguas tied Panamá’s Carta Vieja Yankees, 4-2 records, but lost the tie-breaker, 9-3, when Chet Brewer outpitched Dan Bankhead. Almendares, Cuba’s entry, was 3-3; Magallanes from Venezuela finished 1-5.  Arroyo posted a 2-0 mark, allowing eight hits and three earned runs in 15.2 innings.  He fanned 10, walked 8, and had a 1.72 ERA and 0.70 WHIP.  On February 23, Arroyo defeated Magallanes Navigators, 2-1, on Wilmer Fields’ walk-off two-run HR.  Three nights later, he pitched 6.2 frames against Magallanes, winning 3-2, with relief help from Rubén Gómez.  Wayne Blackburn, Carta Vieja’s manager, praised Arroyo’s pitching savvy/tenacity.  Blackburn managed against Arroyo 15 years later (1965-66) when his Mayagüez Indians faced Ponce.

Arroyo faces Rafaelito Ortiz

Arroyo started Game 3, 1950-51 semi-finals, February 6, 1951, versus Santurce’s Rafaelito Ortiz, “El Mago de las Magas.” Ortiz was from barrio Magas, Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, nine miles southwest of Peñuelas. Santurce won Game 3 in Ponce, to reach the finals.  Arroyo took the loss.  Domingo “McDuffie” Sevilla won in relief.  Coincidentally, Arroyo and Ortiz were inducted into the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992!  George Scales, 1950-51 Santurce skipper, was enshrined in this Hall of Fame—in 1996.

1952 Caribbean Series

San Juan, managed by Freddie Thon, Sr., was 1951-52 PRWL champions.  They added eight players for the February 1952 round-robin event in Panamá: Arroyo and Pantalones; Caguas’s Luis R. Olmo, Vic Power, Chichí Olivo, GuiGui Lucas, and Roberto Vargas; Santurce’s Buster Clarkson.  Arroyo pitched two-thirds of an inning for 0-5-1 Senators, who tied Havana Reds, in the opener, with Cot Deal’s two-run HR the key blow for San Juan.  Havana’s Tommy Fine no-hit Venezuela’s Cervecería Caracas, the only no-hitter in Caribbean Series history, on February 21.  (Fine replaced Hoyt Wilhelm, who left Havana by season’s end.) Deal pitched an 11-inning CG, in a 3-2 loss to Cervecería Caracas, won by José “Carrao” Bracho and saved by Emilio “El Indio” Cueche. Havana (5-0-1) bested Carta Vieja and Venezuela’s entry, both 3-3.  Wilmer Fields hit two HR; drove in eight for Cervecería Caracas.

Detour to 1952 and 1953 Escogido Lions

Arroyo went on a two-year “sabbatical” from the St. Louis Cardinals organization to pitch in the summer LIDOM.  Escogido’s 1952 club finished third (31-25) of four teams, led by three skippers: Martín Dihigo (15-9), Dick Seay (0-2), and Fellé Delgado (16-14).  Johnny Wright and Arroyo started 32 of Escogido’s 56 games, per Table IV.  Arroyo’s 8-9 ledger was misleading; he led the loop in K and WHIP.  Teammates Johnny Davis, Barney Brown, and Dan Bankhead were ex-Negro Leaguers.  Willard Brown was Escogido’s best hitter: .304/.379/.492 slash line and .871 OPS.  He drilled nine homers and drove in 29.  José St. Claire (Pepe Lucas) had a .251 AVG with five homers and 28 RBI.  Brown and Lucas combined for 14 of Escogido’s 19 HR!  Howard Easterling batted .296, and catcher Valmy Thomas batted .240.

Table IV: Escogido Lions 1952 Pitching Stats

Johnny Wright221810310-51451203369332.051.10
Tite Arroyo*26141128-9141.28528101551.780.99*
Johnny Davis65303-240.235101792.211.08
Barney Brown54313-129.223723102.121.11
Adolfo Torres44001-2291648111.240.93
Wilfredo Salas54212-226.2271014113.371.42
E. Reynoso51002-023.2254241.521.23
Dan Bankhead33000-2171241262.121.06
Joe Page1   1-0441002.251.00

*Arroyo led the league in strikeouts and WHIP.  Source: winterballdata subscription.

Arroyo’s Screwball

There are different versions of when Arroyo first used his screwball “out” pitch.  Rubén Gómez pitched for 1952 the Licey Tigers against Arroyo and alerted the author that he helped Arroyo (in 1952) and [later] Mike Cuéllar (1964 Jacksonville Suns) “develop the screwball.” (Licey-Escogido were, and are arch-rivals.) Yogi Berra, in 1961, told a UPI reporter: “The screwball works two ways for Luis.  For one thing, it’s a difficult pitch to hit.  And, for another, the hitter seems to be always looking for it, enabling Luis to fool them with his fast one or his other curve.” Arroyo “refined” his screwball in the 1950s.  By 1960, he used it most of the time.

Arroyo was an Escogido 1953 workhorse: 145.1 IP, 2.85 ERA, and 1.31 WHIP.  His 6-6 W-L epitomized a lack of support from the 26-28 Lions.  The 145.1 IP translates to 436 innings over a 162-game season!  Roberto Vargas—10-8, 2.82 ERA, 147 IP, was their other workhorse.  Johnny Wright, 4-9, 1.64 ERA, pitched 13 games and 82.1 frames.  Bob Thurman—who holds PRWL’s career standard of 120 HR—pitched five games for Escogido with a 1-1 ledger, 3.19 ERA, in 31 innings.  Thurman led Escogido with 7 HR, in 104 AB, with a .269/.356/.519 slash line, and .875 OPS.  “I enjoyed being Luis’ Escogido teammate,” affirmed Thurman.  “He was not easy to hit, so it was nice to avoid him—he was truly bilingual (Spanish-English).” Escogido skipper Monchile Concepción, was a long-time Santurce coach and 1958-59 Santurce manager.  Monchile, 11-12 at Escogido’s helm, was one of three Lions’ 1953 skippers.

1954 Caribbean Series

Mickey Owen, Caguas’ 1953-54 player-manager, ensured that Arroyo reinforced the Criollos in the February 18-23, 1954, Caribbean Series at Escobar Stadium.  Owen caught the first five games, and Güi Güi Lucas (real name Luis St. Claire) saw Caguas’ sixth and final contest.  Jack Sanford, another Ponce hurler, joined Caguas, Rubén Gómez from Santurce, and Mayagüez’s Corky Valentine.  Ponce (39-41) did not qualify for the PRWL playoffs, so Arroyo and Sanford were well-rested.  (Ponce’s five-man, regular season rotation included Steve Ridzik, Sanford, Arroyo, Pantalones Santiago, and Karl Spooner.) Owen and Caguas’ management secured the Mayagüez OF trio of Carlos Bernier, Canena Márquez, and Bill Howerton as reinforcements since Caguas RF Hank Aaron returned to the States after the league finals, and 47-year-old LF Tetelo Vargas was deemed “replaceable.”

The Criollos (4-2) outpaced Cuba’s Almendares Scorpions (3-3); Panamá’s Carta Vieja Yankees (3-3), and Venezuela’s Pastora Milkers (2-4). Arroyo relieved Sanford in Game 1, a 4-1 loss to Carta Vieja. Gómez’s Game 2 CG was a 3-2 win over Pastora, in Luis Aparicio’s first Caribbean Series game. Brooks Lawrence handled Almendares, 3-1, Game 3, as Rance Pless cracked a two-run homer after Howerton tied the score in the home sixth.  Billy Howerton Jr. was there, as an 8-year-old, with his mother.  He told the author (in-person, Scranton, Pennsylvania) that: “The fans torched newspapers and anything they could get their hands on.  It was like a huge bonfire.  After the game, I remember my father being interviewed for several radio stations.  He received gift certificates.” Howerton, Sr. noted: “I had been released by Cuba’s Marianao team early that season.  But I could always hit.” Pless’s two-run HR, per sportswriter Rafael Pont Flores resulted in “hankies, coats, and ties [were] waved in the air by these happy lunatics.  Pless took his time rounding the bases.  A priest waved his hankie—if that wasn’t a blessing.”

In Game 4, on February 21, Arroyo pitched three scoreless frames in relief of Sanford to win over Carta Vieja.  Caguas scored three, 11th, for a 6-3 victory.  Owen’s double drove in the winning run.  Corky Valentine’s CG 7-1 win over Pastora the next evening clinched the series win.  Caguas’ Game 6 was a 4-2 loss to Almendares.  Hard-luck starter Chichí Olivo gave up four unearned runs in the top of the first but nothing else through eight innings.  Arroyo pitched a scoreless ninth. Jim Rivera, Caguas CF, .450 BA, was Series MVP. Table V lists Caguas’ pitching stats.

Table V: Caguas Criollos 1954 Caribbean Series Pitching Stats

Tite Arroyo3001-07.120430.000.68
Rubén Gómez1111-0952942.001.00
Brooks Lawrence1111-0961651.001.22
Corky Valentine1111-0951351.001.11
Jack Sanford2200-113.1136854.161,35
Chichí Olivo2100-18.170720.001.08

Source: Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, Jorge S. Figueredo, McFarland, 2003.

1955 AL-NL All-Star Game                      

Leo Durocher selected Arroyo for the 1955 NL All-Star Team.  Arroyo—10-3, 2.44 ERA, at All-Star Break—was the first Puerto Rico-born ballplayer selected by the NL.  (Vic Power was the first AL All-Star from Puerto Rico, same game.) Arroyo warmed up in the bullpen when Stan Musial, his St. Louis teammate, hit a walk-off HR off Frank Sullivan, 12th at Milwaukee County Stadium, July 12, 1955.  Attendance: 45,643; game time: 3 hours, 17 minutes.  Cooperstown Inductees included:

  • NL—Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Musial, Robin Roberts, Red Schoendienst, and Duke Snider.
  • AL—Larry Doby, Whitey Ford, Nellie Fox, Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and Early Wynn.

Winter ball experience for [Cooperstown] 1955 All-Stars:

  • Aaron (Caguas: 1953-54); Campanella (Caguas: 1939-1941, Santurce: 1944-45; San Juan: 1945-46; Sabios de Vargas: 1946, 1947-48, Venezuela); Mays (Santurce: 1954-55); Doby (San Juan: 1946-47); Ford (Mazatlán: 1948-49, Mexico); Wynn (Havana: 1939-40).

Special thanks to Tite Arroyo for his time/insights. Thanks to Wayne Blackburn, Rory Costello, Cot Deal, Héctor Díaz Salichs, Rubén Gómez, Bill Howerton Sr. and Jr., Benny Huffman, Mickey Owen, Tony Piña Campora, José “Palillo” Santiago, José “Pantalones” Santiago, Bill Skowron, Freddie Thon, Jr., and Bob Thurman. Jorge Colón Delgado, the Official Historian of the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League and Coordinator Puerto Rico Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, did editing-photo placements.

1 comentario en “<strong>Luis “Tite” Arroyo: Puerto Rico Winter League and Caribbean Series Hall of Famer, and 1961 New York Yankees Ace Reliever (Part I)</strong>”

  1. Que maravillosa carrera la de Tite Arroyo! Tuve el placer de conocer a Tite durante la temporada invernal de beisbol de Puerto Rico del 1961. Un fiel y veroz competidor. Que En Paz Descanses.
    Arturo Lopez

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