For many decades, it has been reported that Puerto Rico baseball icon Saturnino “Nino” Escalera (1929-2021), was ejected once in his distinguished 17-season Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) playing career. However, the author requested, and received, PRWL pitching stats of LHP George Brunet, Sunday night, July 4, 2021, via e-mail, from colleague Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian, Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League (PRPBL). The author is working on Brunet’s pitching throughout the Caribbean/Mexico for beisbol101.com.
In researching Brunet’s 1960-61 PRWL season, in The Sporting News of January 11, 1961, the author made a discovery, which confirmed Escalera’s first ejection came in a December 28, 1960 contest between his San Juan Senators, and Brunet’s Caguas Criollos. San Juan skipper Luman Harris sent Escalera—normally starting first baseman—to pinch-hit. Nino, a left-handed hitter—ripped a double to right-center. He aggressively rounded second, when Caguas RF Frank “El Condominio” [The Condominium) Howard rifled a throw into second, which caught Nino off-guard. Third-base umpire Bob Burns made the “out” call. (PRWL umpiring crews had three umps then—home plate, 1B, and 3B.) Nino and Senators coach Félix “Fellé” Delgado vehemently protested, to no avail. Both were ejected.
“The Gentleman at First Base,” was thumbed out a second time—January 23, 1962, tie-breaker game at Sixto Escobar Stadium, for fourth-place, between San Juan and Arecibo. Roberto Clemente grounded into a second-inning double-play off RHP Claude Raymond, who relieved Phil Niekro. Germán Rivera, Arecibo’s shortstop, recalled: “Roberto bounced one up the middle on a 3-2 pitch. There was a close play at 1B and umpire Mel Steiner called him [Clemente] out. Nino and [San Juan manager] Napoleón Reyes came up to Steiner and there were punches thrown.”
Per Nino Escalera, as told to the author: “I was willing to go back on the field when Steiner sarcastically told Reyes, our Cuban manager, to go back to Cuba. I told Reyes he should not take this and then it happened…”
Nevertheless, two ejections in 17 years are amazing. Nino’s PRWL profile can be accessed at https://beisbol101.com/saturnino-nino-escalera/.
On a personal note, the author visited Nino at his Puerto Rico home, in 1991. They conversed about his remarkable baseball career, including the 1949 Bristol Owls, with teammates Carlos Bernier and Rubén Gómez; PRWL; and, his legacy as the 1954 Cincinnati Reds’ first Black player.
Many thanks to Nino Escalera, Germán Rivera and Jorge Colón Delgado.