Major League Managers with 27 World Series Titles connected to Puerto Rico’s Winter League (Part V)

Nineteen Major League managers who once played or managed in the Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) or barnstormed in Puerto Rico led their big league teams to a combined 27 World Series crowns,  from José Méndez, who led the 1924 Kansas City Monarchs to the first Negro World Series (aka 1924 Colored World Series) title, to Bruce Bochy, who managed the San Francisco Giants to 2010, 2012, and 2014 titles, plus the 2023 Texas Rangers to their first World Series title. Part IV highlighted the exploits of Ralph Houk and Earl Weaver, who won three World Series between them and experienced success as PRWL skippers. Part V covers Sparky Anderson, winner of three more World Series—1975 and 1976 Cincinnati Reds, plus 1984 Detroit Tigers.

Sparky Anderson’s Early Years

Anderson (February 22, 1934-November 4, 2010) was born in Bridgewater, South Dakota. His family relocated to Southern California in 1942. He primarily played second base in American Legion ball and high school. Sparky (this blog will use his first name moving forward) served as a batboy for the University of Southern California Trojans, helping legendary coach Rod Dedeaux. Sparky spent his first few years pro ball in the Brooklyn Dodgers system. Coincidentally, the 1955 Ft. Worth Cats had Sparky and outfielder Dick Williams, who managed against Sparky in the 1972 and 1984 World Series. Cindy Thomson wrote Sparky’s SABR bio. Sparky was a Pacific Coast League (PCL) fan who recalled watching Carlos Bernier play for the 1952 Hollywood Stars.

Sparky with 1956-57 Escogido Lions

Escogido won their second straight Dominican Winter League (LIDOM) title in 1956-57. Sparky was their regular second baseman and played home games at Trujillo Stadium, named after Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, who ruled that country from 1930 to 1961. It opened on October 23, 1955, and was renamed Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal. The stadium is shared by arch-rivals Escogido and the Licey Tigers. The 1956-57 standings were Licey (35-17), Escogido (31-21), Águilas Cibaeñas (29-23), and Estrellas Orientales (EO) at 10-44. Escogido swept AC, three games to none, in the semis before topping Licey, five games to two, in the finals. Some significant league prospects plied their trade that winter, including EO’s Roger Maris (.286/.412/.518 slash line and .930 OPS in 17 games); his teammate Curt Flood (.231 BA); Licey’s Clete Boyer and Jim Coates; AC’s Julián Javier, Danny Kravitz, etc. Sparky’s Escogido teammates included: Steve Bilko (1B), Ozzie Virgil Sr. (3B), Andre Rodgers (SS), outfielder Felipe Alou, pitchers Pete Burnside, Rudy Hernández, Jim Brosnan, Stan Williams, and George (Jorge) «Garabato» Sackie. Bilko joined Escogido late in the season after his release from the PRWL Ponce Lions. Sparky’s regular season hitting figures were 45 games, 163 AB, 26 runs, 39 hits, five doubles, a triple, one homer, 15 RBIs, two steals, 33 walks, and 17 strikeouts. His slash line was .239/.367/.301, with a .668 OPS.

The 1959 Phillies

Sparky’s only big-league season was with the 1959 Philadelphia Phillies, who finished last (64-90) in the eight-team National League (NL). The team posted the worst league hitting stats: .242/.312/.373 slash line and .686 OPS. Sparky had a .218 BA with no homers and 34 RBIs in 152 games. He stole six bases and was caught nine times. Two teammates and himself made it to Cooperstown—Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts. Pitcher Rubén Gómez and catcher Valmy Thomas, long-time PRWL stars with the Santurce Crabbers, were Sparky’s Phillies teammates in addition to Panamanian hurler Humberto Robinson, utility infielder Chico Fernández from Cuba, and Cuban pitcher (albeit for one game) Freddy Rodríguez. «Sparky was a hard worker and a good guy (buena gente),» said Rubén Gómez. «A decade later, I pitched against his San Juan team in the PRWL.»

Magallanes Navigators (1964-65)

Sparky did not experience success in Venezuela’s Winter League (LVBP). His 1964-65 Magallanes Navigators, a storied franchise who—a decade earlier—finished second to the 1954-55 Santurce Crabbers in the 1955 Caribbean Series—got off to a bad start and he was fired a month into the season. Per Sparky: «I managed Magallanes in Venezuela, but it was tough. Their native players were just young kids [with several exceptions], and the other clubs had the star native players. Magallanes fired me 30 days into the season, and I have to say I was very happy to leave.» The Caracas Lions featured switch-hitting Pete Rose at second base, César Tovar, among others. Rose posted a .351 BA. Sparky’s two best hitters were native Luis «Camaleón» García (.394 BA) and Tommy Helms (.393 BA). Tony Pérez, who played for Sparky with the 1970-1976 Cincinnati Reds, nearly played for 1964-65 Caracas, started his PRWL career with the 1964-65 Santurce Crabbers, managed by Preston Gómez.

San Juan Senators (1968-69)

Sparky Anderson is the fifth in the seating row.

Preston Gómez asked Sparky to manage the 1968-69 San Juan Senators. The 1969 San Diego Padres, one of two NL expansion teams and the Montreal Expos, hired him as their skipper. Sparky recalled: «Preston asked me to manage San Juan since he could not do so. I was one of Preston’s [1969] San Diego coaches and agreed to terms with San Juan’s owner (Mario «Mayito» Nevarez.) Sparky led his Senators to a playoff berth, finishing fourth. Table I includes the 1968-69 PRWL regular season standings.

Table I: 1968-69 PRWL Standings

Santurce Crabbers49-20#.710 
Ponce Lions43-25.6325.5
Caguas Criollos37-33.58312.5
San Juan Senators36-34.51413.5
Mayagüez Indios23-45.33825.5
Arecibo Wolves19-50.27530

#Most wins in Santurce history. Sources: Jorge Colón Delgado and José Crescioni Benítez.

Santurce, managed by 33-year-old rookie skipper Frank Robinson, dominated the regular season with three of the top five BA: second baseman Julio Gotay, second (.303); catcher Elrod Hendricks, third (.302); center fielder Paul Blair, fourth (.301). Caguas’s Félix Millán led the loop at .317. Santurce’s George Scott had the most RBIs (46) followed by Hendricks (35). Scott (13), Hendricks (12), and Crabbers’ Dave May (10) were the top three HR hitters. Santurce’s four-man rotation was superb: Rubén Gómez (9-1, 2.05 ERA), Juan «Terín» Pizarro (8-5, 1.93), Wally Bunker (8-4, 2.06), and Jim Palmer (5-0, 2.79). The Crabbers were heavily favored to trounce arch-rival San Juan in the semi-finals. Sparky remembered: «Santurce was loaded. They had the best club: Scott, Gotay, [Leo] Cárdenas, [Joe] Foy, Hendricks, Blair, Palmer, Pizarro, and Gómez. Puerto Rico helped me to be around that many big leaguers at that time. All the clubs had at least six or seven big leaguers, and I think it was very helpful that I got to know them. We had Tony Taylor, José Cardenal, Jim Beauchamp, [Mike] Kekich, [Mike] Cuéllar, Orlando Peña. José Morales was a good hitter.»

Evidence of Santurce’s talent was that four Crabbers (Blair, Cárdenas, May, and Scott) started for the Imports in the January 1, 1969 PRWL All-Star Game. Bunker, Foy, and reliever Al Severinsen were selected for this team. Four others (Gómez, Hendricks, Félix Juan Maldonado, and Pizarro) played for the Native Stars.

Table II summarizes San Juan’s 1968-69 regular season pitching statistics; Table III includes non-pitchers hitting stats.

Table II: San Juan Senators 1968-69 Pitching Records

Darrell Brandon7-79658333.64
Orlando Peña4-78748201.97
James Gillman5-48433252.90
Mike Cuéllar5-46451152.52
Mike Kekich4-66242214.33
Mon Hernández4-05228101.57
Ramón L. Jusino2-34119154.43
Joe Moeller1-2342093.18
Danny Frisella2-02513151.80
Jesús Hernáiz1-013951.42
Robert Scott1-014963.77
Fred Wenz0-1131363.55

Source: Roberto Inclán, San Juan Senators Baseball Club, October 12, 1983.

Table III: San Juan Senators 1968-69 Hitting Records#

Frank Fernández13929529.209
José L. Calero20953431.254
Tony Taylor17644012.250
Francisco Librán1182905.246
Luis Alvarado2024408.218
Samuel Parrilla192491032.255
José Cardenal15739622.248
Jim Beauchamp19959223.296
José M. Morales11245418.402
Miguel Santos1082629.241
José “Polilla” Ortiz1011803.178
Ken Henderson9224210.261
Clarence Jones7918418.228
José “Coco” Laboy7819210.244
Orlando McFarlane31901.290
Angel Luis Alcaraz26500.192
Mako Oliveras22600.273
José A. Cotto22401.182
Hal McRae13100.077

#Excludes pitchers and reflects partial hitting stats. 

Source: Roberto Inclán, San Juan Senators Baseball Club, October 12, 1983.

Hal McRae broke his leg sliding into home in an early-season game. «It was unfortunate,» said McRae. Jim Beauchamp used that winter to fine-tune his swing and get more playing time before spring training. Mike Cuéllar was looking forward to his first [1969] season with the Baltimore Orioles after pitching for the 1968 Houston Astros. «I got into form toward the end of the season,» stated Cuéllar. «It was interesting pitching for Sparky since I later [1970] pitched against his Cincinnati team in the 1970 World Series.»

Sparky smiled [March 1993] when recalling San Juan upsetting Santurce in seven games. «Cardenal hit two homers off Palmer in Game Seven to give us the win,» said Sparky. «Cuéllar was all business and won twice for us.» The final score was 12-2, in front of 21,014 lunatics, at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, seating capacity of 19,500. Bunker relieved Palmer in the fourth.

Ponce, with Rocky Bridges at the helm, swept San Juan in the finals. The Lions won their first title in 22 years, propelled by Joe Christopher (.615 BA), Sandy Alomar Sr. (.412 BA), Jay Johnstone (.400 BA), and Chago Rosario (.385 BA). Ponce outscored the Senators, 20-4; had a .275 team BA; and a 1.00 team ERA, with 33 strikeouts to eight walks. Bridges was a California Angels coach at the time. Sandy Alomar Sr., Johnstone, and reliever Ken Tatum were with the Angels. Bridges complimented Carlos Manuel Santiago, his coach, for being «an effective communicator who related well to Ponce’s young players and veterans.» Santiago once played in the Negro Leagues; was a Korean War veteran; and was perfectly bilingual—English-Spanish.

Twenty-two-year-old utility infielder Mako Oliveras recalled the 1968-69 regular season game when Tony Taylor «faked» an ankle injury reaching first on an infield hit. Taylor asked to be removed from the game, and Sparky summoned Mako to pinch-run. He [Mako] remained in the game. «As a PRWL player, I had plenty of role models, beginning with Sparky,» said Oliveras. «Frank Verdi, José Pagán, Doc Edwards, and Art Howe were other managers and Pagán exerted the most influence on me.»

Reserve outfielder José «Polilla» Ortiz also had kind words for Sparky. «I liked playing for Sparky, Frank Verdi (Ponce), and Frank Robinson (Santurce),» noted Polilla, whose nickname means termite. «They all knew how to handle the players and get the most out of them.»

Sparky’s Three World Series Crowns

The 1975 World Series, won by Cincinnati over Boston in seven games, is still considered a real «Classic.» The Reds swept the Yankees in the 1976 Fall Classic. Sparky’s eight regulars, except for second baseman Joe Morgan, played winter ball in the PRWL, LIDOM, or LVBP.

  • Catcher Johnny Bench, .323, five homers, and 27 RBIs for 1967-68 San Juan Senators; tied Santurce’s Tony Pérez with 20 doubles for league lead.
  • First baseman Tony Pérez, PRWL, and Caribbean Series Hall of Famer. In 10 Santurce seasons, posted a .303 BA, with 65 HR and 319 RBIs. Had a .400 BA in four Caribbean Series for Puerto Rico.
  • Third baseman Pete Rose, .351 BA for 1964-65 Caracas Lions. Went 10-for-22, .455 BA, in the LVBP finals. Played in the 1965 Inter-American Series in Caracas.
  • Shortstop David Concepción, long career with the Aragua Tigers, LVBP. Represented Venezuela in five Caribbean Series events, with a .294 BA in 30 games and five SB.
  • Left-fielder George Foster, .280/.373/.400 slash line, and .773 OPS in three LIDOM seasons, one with AC and two with EO. LIDOM post-season: .333/.375/.686 slash line, and 1.061 OPS.
  • Center-fielder César «The Chief» Gerónimo, LIDOM 1982-83 batting champ (.341 BA). Licey retired his #80; and played on three Caribbean Series championships (1971, 1973, and 1980).
  • Right-fielder Ken Griffey Sr., 1974-75 PRWL batting champ (.357 BA); .342 career BA with Bayamón, three seasons. Batting champ (.500 BA), 1975 Caribbean Series with Bayamón.
  • 1976 DH Dan Driessen, .315 BA, 22 HR, and 99 RBIs, three Bayamón seasons.

Luis R. Mayoral covered the 1984 World Series between Detroit and San Diego, with the Tigers claiming the title, four games to one. Sparky got some revenge versus Dick Williams, the Padres skipper, since Williams led Oakland to the 1972 Fall Classic crown over Cincinnati, four games to three. Mayoral was the 1984-85 San Juan Metros GM, the team’s new nickname under owner Ernesto Díaz González. (San Juan became Bayamón Cowboys, 1974-75 to 1982-83; moved back to Bithorn Stadium, 1983-84, as San Juan Senators.) Mayoral invited Sparky to return to Puerto Rico for a November 1984 Old-Timers Game, preceding a San Juan Metros home contest at Bithorn.

«At the conclusion of the 1984 World Series, I double-checked with Sparky to verify if he still could come to the Island for the Old-Timers Game commitment,» recalled Mayoral. «Sparky responded: ‘Don’t worry, Luis, I look forward to the trip and will be there.’ ”

Sparky was hosted by Mayoral and spent five nights at the latter’s apartment in the Condado section of San Juan, in the same area he (Sparky) lived during the 1968-69 PRWL seasons with his spouse and children. Sparky, listed at 5’9” and 170 pounds during his playing days, played second base for San Juan Old-Timers against a Santurce Old-Timers squad. I was a fan at that November 1984 game at Bithorn Stadium and can attest to the warmth and appreciation Puerto Rico’s baseball fans felt toward Sparky Anderson.


In December 1984, Mayoral, at the behest of San Juan Metros team owner Ernesto Díaz González, fired Metros skipper Orlando Peña, one of Sparky’s top 1968-69 San Juan Senators starters. The PRWL’s focus, then, was to win, and not simply develop players. Mako Oliveras, Metros’s third-base coach, was promoted to manager and led them to a fourth-place (30-29) finish and post-season wins over Mayagüez in the semi-finals and Santurce, four games to three, in the finals.  

With gratitude to Sparky Anderson, Jim Beauchamp, Rocky Bridges, Rafael Costas, Miguel Cuéllar, Rubén Gómez, Hal McRae, José Manuel Morales, Luis R. Mayoral, Mako Oliveras, José “Polilla” Ortiz, and Tony Taylor. Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo placements.

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