Remembering Pedro “Speedy” González, first Dominican player with New York Yankees, Part III

Pedro González

Part two ended with Speedy’s 1965-66 winter season with the San Juan Senators, and Table I, as one of 11 Licey players to have their uniform number retired. Part III will cover his final two seasons with Cleveland (1966/1967); winter ball with Licey, Escogido and Estrellas Orientales (1966-67 through 1972-73); 1972-74 summer seasons as player-manager, Mexican (Summer)  League, 1972-74; and, managing in the U.S. Minors and Dominican Winter League aka “Liga Dominicana” (LIDOM).

Mario Emilio Guerrero

Mario Emilio Guerrero, long-time sportswriter, historian, and past staff member for LIDOM teams, developed a friendship with Speedy, 1986-87 season, when Speedy managed the “Green” team,” (Estrellas Orientales); Mario Emilio was their Communications Director. (Escogido Lions are the “Red” team); Licey Tigers, the “Blue” team; Águilas Cibaeñas, “Yellow” team.) “I conversed with Pedro (Speedy) before every game,” recalled Mario Emilio. “Then, after he left the managing post, we frequently sat in the grandstands, to converse, after my broadcasting duties for the Green team were done. I benefited from his baseball knowledge, advice, and wisdom, which greatly helped me in my broadcast role as commentator.” These conversations took at Tetelo Vargas Stadium, in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. (Speedy was born in this city, on December 12, 1937.)

The 6’0” and 176 lb. Speedy was a fan favorite with the Licey Tigers, the oldest franchise—dating to its founding in 1907—in the Dominican Republic. Speedy was called El Gran Capitán (The Great Captain), and El Gran Capitán Azul (The Great Blue Captain).As noted in Part I, he was the first Dominican to play for the New York Yankees, via his April 11, 1963 AL debut. Yankee teammate Clete Boyer was Speedy’s 1957-58 teammate with Licey. Roger Maris, another Yankee teammate of Speedy, played for the Green team, against Licey, 1957-58. Speedy was also the first Dominican to play  for Cleveland.

Tony Piña Campora Remembers El Gran Capitán

Tony Piña Campora

The author quoted  Tony Piña Campora, in Part II, as follows:  “Pedro González was a great 2B. His defensive skills were very good, with one of the best double play turns; range on both sides was superb; he had a strong arm. Offensively, he could hit it to the gaps in right-and-left center, with an occasional HR. He was at his best in the clutch, and had above average speed as well as strong base-running instincts. Summarizing, he was a complete athlete when it came to baseball, and one of the best ball players I have ever seen.”

Speedy’s Highlights with 1965-67 Cleveland Indians and 1963 Topps Rookie Card

Luis Tiant recalled “there were few” Caribbean/Latin American teammates when he pitched for Cleveland, mid-to-late 1960s. Tiant remembered catcher José Azcue, from Cuba, Tiant’s home Island. There was CF Vic Davalillo, a Venezuelan; utility IF Chico Salmón from Panamá; and, Speedy, from the Dominican Republic. Speedy played 110 games for Cleveland in 1966, with a .233 AVG, and eight SB—tied for third on the team with Davalillo, behind 10 SB by Chuck Hinton and Salmón. Cleveland finished fifth in the AL, at 81-81 despite the slugging by Rocky Colavito and Fred Whitfield, and pitching by Sam McDowell, Gary Bell, Sonny Siebert, Tiant, Steve Hargan, among others.

Topps Rookie card

By 1967, Speedy was relegated to a utility role, with 189 AB in 80 games, a  .228 AVG, and four SB. He was the first Dominican to play for Cleveland, once he joined the Tribe, after his May 10, 1965 trade to the Indians for 1B Ray Barker. The second Dominican to play for Cleveland was OF José Vidal, from Batey Lechuga-La Romana. Vidal was with Cleveland, 1966-68. IF Gustavo Gil from Venezuela, joined  Azcue, Tiant, Davalillo, and Speedy with Cleveland, in 1967. Speedy’s complete MLB stats are at: https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/gonzape01.shtml The author, a 1966 Little League 2B for Malta Corona, Santurce, Puerto Rico, recalled that Speedy wore #24 for Cleveland, same number worn by San Francisco’s Willie Mays, and Tony Pérez for Cincinnati.

Speedy’s only major league suspension came on September 20, 1965, after Detroit’s RHP Larry Sherry intentionally threw “brushback” pitches; Speedy charged the mound, with his bat, and threw two punches at Sherry. “The first pitch was close,” Speedy said after the game. “[Sherry] looked at me and called me a dirty name. Then the next pitch was close again. One pitch is all right. Sometimes one pitch can get away. But not two. There were fastballs here — at my face.” Speedy was also hit with a $500 fine by AL President Joe Cronin. The “harsh punishment” was protested by Cleveland president Gabe Paul and field manager Birdie Tebbetts.

On a more pleasant note,  Speedy’s 1963  Topps rookie card is one of the most valuable in the entire 1963 Topps set. He is one of four players listed on #537 as part of the “1963 Rookie Stars,” along with Ken McMullen of the Dodgers, Al Weis of the White Sox… and Pete Rose of the Reds.

Licey, 1966-70

Speedy’s final four seasons with Licey included a .326 AVG in 1966-67, with 12 SB, his highest single-season LIDOM total. The 1966-67 Licey Tigers used 32 players throughout the season, including imports such as 1B Barker and RHP Pat Dobson. They had promising Natives like IF Teodoro (Ted) Martínez, and veterans, namely RHP Jorge “Garabato” Sackie, who once pitched for the legendary 1954-55 Santurce Crabbers, who won the February 1955 Caribbean Series, with a constellation of stars (Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Bob Thurman, Rubén Gómez…).

In 1967-68, Speedy slumped to a .235 AVG, the winter he turned 30. Thirty-four players wore the blue and white Licey uniform, including up-and-coming local talent, e.g., Pedro Borbón and César “El Chief” Gerónimo; veterans Elvio Jiménez and Garabato Sackie; and, Imports such as Mike “Hawaiian Punch” Lum, Bobby Tolan, and Mike Torrez. Speedy’s .225 AVG in 1968-69 was sub-par for him. Don Hoak managed Licey to a 19-31 record. Hoak played winter ball in Puerto Rico with the 1948-49 Aguadilla Sharks, and in the LIDOM, mid-1950s. He earned a 1960 World Series ring with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hoak might have been surprised when Tony Oliva joined Licey for part of 1968-69. The “faithful” vividly recall his 1963-64 Final Series heroics versus the Águilas Cibaeñas, including running past Vern Benson’s stop sign to win Game Four.

Licey rebounded in 1969-70 to win 30 of 50 regular season games, plus the Finals (five games-to-one) to represent the LIDOM in their first Caribbean Series, hosted by Caracas. Speedy’s .364 AVG in the finals propelled Licey to a three-team series between Venezuela’s Magallanes Navigators, Puerto Rico’s Ponce Lions, and Licey. This was the only Caribbean Series with three teams. They played four games against each other. Magallanes (7-1) won it, followed by Ponce (4-4), and Licey (1-7). Licey’s Caribbean Series team had a “different look” than their 1969-70 regular season squad. For example, Al Hrabosky, Tom Hilgendorf, Torrez, and Ted Simmons were with Licey during portions of the regular season, but not in the February 5-10, 1970 Caribbean Series. Reggie Cleveland was the ONLY Import on Licey’s 1970 Caribbean Series roster.

César Cedeño, age 19, from Estrellas Orientales, reinforced Licey, as did fellow Green team OF Rico Carty. OF Matty Alou and catcher Federico Velásquez, from Escogido, reinforced Licey.

Manny Mota, Speedy’s long-time Licey teammate, had replaced manager Fred Hatfield in the regular season. “It was a disappointing [1970] Caribbean Series,” related Mota to the author, “but, the following year, we won the [1971] Caribbean Series, for the first time, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at Bithorn…where I played for San Juan, 1962-63. We had a gathering at the Presidential Palace, before flying to Puerto Rico.”

Circling back to Caracas, Magallanes dominated behind veteran Cuban hurlers Orlando Peña and Aurelio Monteagudo; talented catcher Ray Fosse; and “criollos” (native players) Gonzalo Márquez (1B), César Tovar (CF), and 2B-SS Gustavo Gil-Jesús Aristimuño. All seven were named to the Series All-Star Team, plus  Licey’s Cedeño (LF), Ponce’s 3B Tony Pérez, and RF Luis “Torito” Meléndez—who invited the author to follow him on Facebook, January 29, 2021—with Ponce. Speedy went six-for-25 in this event, for Licey.

LHP Paul Doyle, who won a series game for Jim Fregosi’s Ponce club, recalled tight security at the host hotel. “We had a police escort from the airport to the hotel,” said Doyle. “A bodyguard who looked just like singer Tom Jones protected us at the hotel.” Fregosi, after a September 15, 1991 Philadelphia Phillies-Pittsburgh Pirates game, told the author: “It was an honor managing in that [Caribbean] Series—we finished second. Yuyo González was a great owner in Ponce; he owned a dealership…”

U.S. Minors, 1968-71

Speedy’s first four summers, post-Cleveland, 1967, included:

  • 101 games for 1968 Class AAA Tulsa Drillers, St. Louis affiliate, Pacific Coast League (PCL); .244 AVG and 17 SB
  • 120 games, 1969 Class AAA Portland Beavers, PCL; .309 AVG and 30 SB
  • 80 games, 1970 Class AAA Wichita Aeros, American Association; .271 AVG and seven SB; teammate of Chris Chambliss and Luis Isaac (catcher from Puerto Rico)
  • Combined 84 games, Charleston (West Virginia) Charlies, International League; Aeros, and Jacksonville Suns, Dixie Association; six HR for Jacksonville (Class AA), in 182 AB.

Escogido Lions and Estrellas Orientales, 1970-73

Speedy spent 1970-71 with his hometown Estrellas Orientales, in San Pedro de Macoris. His manager was Charlie Lau, a former catcher and better-known MLB hitting coach. Tommy Lasorda managed the Escogido Lions that (1970-71) season. Speedy responded with a .300 AVG for Lau, with 65 hits in 217 AB, and eight SB. His Green team was eliminated in the semi-finals, while his former team, Licey, copped the league crown, and February 1971 Caribbean Series at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. Five of these “Blue team” members later spoke with the author on that memorable season—player-manager Manny Mota, catcher Bob Montgomery, 1B Jim Beauchamp, 3B Carmen Fanzone, and RHP Chris Zachary. This can be a separate blog. Licey’s 1970-71 2B was Ted Martínez, who played in seven Caribbean Series, and replaced Speedy, 1970-71, at 2B for Licey.

In 1971-72, Speedy had a .269 AVG for Estrellas Orientales in 33 games, under skipper Hub Kittle, a baseball “lifer.” Speedy was acquired by the “Red team” (Escogido), latter part of the season, and he was superb in 11 games: .417/.451/.563 slash line, and a

1.014 OPS. Sijo Linares and Frank Genovese managed Escogido. Speedy’s 20 hits/48 AB for Escogido was ironic, since they were Licey’s arch-rivals, and shared the same stadium in Santo Domingo. Speedy’s final LIDOM season was 1972-73, with his beloved “Green team” in San Pedro de Macoris. His .220 AVG in the regular season was followed by one hit in two AB for Kittle’s club, in the semi-finals.

Speedy’s career Dominican Winter League Stats are summarized here:     https://www.licey.com/tristeza-en-el-licey-por-la-partida-del-gran-capitan-pedro-gonzalez/

  • 644 games, 320 runs, 2,519 AB, 320 runs, 684 hits, 86 doubles, 27 triples, 22 HR, 213 RBI, 73 SB, .272 AVG, .311 OBP, .353 SLG, and 102 OPS+.

Mario Emilio furnished Speedy’s LIDOM post-season stats:

  • 23 semi-final games, 21-for-85, one HR, 10 RBI, two SB.
  • 23 final series games, 22-for-78, one HR, eight RBI, four SB.
  • Post season AVG of .264, and 100 OPS+.

Mexican League, 1972-74

Many  Caribbean players end their playing careers in the Mexican League. Speedy was a player-manager in three summer seasons with 1972 and 1973 Tampico Alijadores (Longshoremen),  and 1974 Chihuahua Dorados (Gold Miners). He had the good fortune of managing and playing alongside 1B Héctor Espino, the “Babe Ruth” of Mexico, with Tampico. The 1972 Alijadores were 86-51, 1.5 games behind first-place Saltillo, in the North Division. Speedy had a .324//.401/.451 slash line, in 81 games, with 12 SB. Espino’s slash line was .356/.481/.670, with 37 HR and 101 RBI.

The 1973 Tampico team won 74 and lost 56, under Speedy. Speedy recruited Dominicans José Vidal and Tomás Silverio to play for Tampico. Both produced in 1973: Vidal had a .307/.411/.524 slash line; Silverio’s was .350/.445/.525. Speedy’s .279 AVG was in 97 games. Tampico won five of nine post-season games, first two rounds (3-1 W-L versus Unión Laguna, and 2-3 W-L against Saltillo). Espino nearly won the Triple Crown: .377, 22-107, but Saltillo’s Romel Canada had 26 round-trippers. Eduardo Bauta (23-5 with Poza Rica Petroleros) recalled the extensive travel in the Mexican League. “There were 16 teams [in four divisions],” said Bauta. “We had veteran pitchers including myself, LHP George Brunet, and Dominican LHP Danilo Rivas [all age 38]. Brunet and I drank [beer] together. Later, during the [February] 1974 Caribbean Series, in Hermosillo, I roomed with Héctor Espino [Series MVP]. We drank a lot…I got drunk before each game, but pitched well for Obregón against Licey and Caguas and was an All-Star.”

Speedy was contracted to manage Chihuaha (64-71) in 1974. He only had eight AB, before devoting himself to managing. Two of the league’s top hurlers were LHP Juan “Terín” Pizarro, with a league-leading 1.57 ERA for Córdoba Cafeteros (Coffee Growers), and RHP Aurelio Monteagudo (12-0) with the Puebla Pericos. “That [1974] season in Mexico opened some eyes among major-league teams,” noted Pizarro. “The Pittsburgh Pirates signed me that summer, and I helped them win the NL East.”

Speedy’s minor-league stats, including Mexico, are at:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=gonzal005ped

Speedy’s Managing and Scouting Career (partial)

Speedy became the FIRST Dominican to manage a U.S. minor-league team in 1976, replacing  Chuck Goggin as Braves skipper, with Bradenton (Florida), short-season Gulf Coast League. From 1976-to-1988 he managed this Braves affiliate. Brett Butler, Ron Gant, Tom Glavine, and Rafael Ramírez were a few players he managed with this farm team. His best managing season (PCT) for these Braves was 1980, with a 37-25 record.

The author visited the Dominican Republic in November 1983, when Speedy managed the Azucareros del Este, now called Toros del Este. He attended a Licey versus Caimanes del Sur game, in Santo Domingo, but never met Speedy that week. (Caimanes were based in San

Cristóbal, General Trujillo’s hometown, but dropped out of LIDOM for financial reasons, late 1980s.)  Speedy managed the 1986-87 Estrellas Orientales, as noted in the second paragraph.

Speedy was a “kind and giving person,” donating baseball bats, gloves, and equipment to kids with limited economic resources. “American parents want their children to become doctors or lawyers to get rich,” he said in a 1986 interview. “But here the way to get rich is to be a baseball player. The parents see Pedro Guerrero’s car or Joaquin Andujar’s house and say, ‘That’s for my son. That’s the way out,’” per https://ripbaseball.com/2021/01/15/obituary-pedro-gonzalez-1937-2021/

Pabellón de la Fama del Deporte Dominicano (Dominican Republic Sports Hall of Fame)

In 1982, Speedy was inducted into his country’s Sports Hall of Fame—a well-deserved honor.

Table I depicts Speedy’s 1960-61 LIDOM 37 RBI, tops in the league, within the context of RBI leaders from 1951-54 (summer league), and 1955-56 through 1972-73, Speedy’s last LIDOM season. He was 13 years old when Pepe Lucas was RBI king with Escogio in 1951; and age 35 when his Estrellas Orientales teammate Adrian Garrett drove in a league-leading 42 runs.

Table I: LIDOM RBI leaders, 1951 through 1972-73

PlayerTeamSeasonRBI
Pepe LucasEscogido1951#38
Alonzo PerryLicey1952#38
Alonzo PerryLicey1953#53
Bob ThurmanEscogido1954#34
Willie KirklandEscogido1955-5637
Osvaldo VirgilEscogido1956-5732
Dick StuartÁguilas Cibaeñas1957-5833
Felipe AlouEscogido1958-5943
Frank HowardEscogido1959-6046
Speedy GonzálezLicey1960-6137
Willie StargellÁguilas Cibaeñas1963-6440
Ricardo CartyEstrellas Orientales1964-6533
Bob RobertsonÁguilas Cibaeñas1966-6736
Hal KingEstrellas Orientales1967-6839
Winston LlenasÁguilas Cibaeñas1968-6931
Byron Browne & Leron LeeLicey1969-7033
Jim BeauchampLicey1970-7151
Kurt BevacquaLicey1971-7248
Adrian GarrettEstrellas Orientales1972-7342

# Summer seasons. Most of 1961-62 cancelled; 1962-63 and 1965-66 suspended.

Table II is reprinted from Part II.

Table II: Eleven Uniform Numbers retired by Licey Tigers (also shown in Part II)

PlayerPlace of BirthNumberPosition and Licey Highlights
Pedro “Speedy” GonzálezSan Pedro de Macoris22B: three triples, one game. Dec. 16, 1960; league leader in triples (10) and RBI (37), 1960-61. El Gran Capitán Azul. A fan favorite. Played in Licey’s (and country’s) first Caribbean Series: Feb. 1970.
Alonzo Thomas PerryBirmingham, Alabama51B: 2x HR champ (summer) 1952 and 1953 with 11; 1954 batting champ (.326 AVG); 1957-58 batting champ (.332 AVG).
Manny MotaSanto Domingo7OF: player-mgr, 1970-71. First DR Caribbean Series championship (series batting champ, .500 AVG).
Diómedes “Guayubin” OlivoGuayubín9P: two wins, 1963-64 finals; no-hitter versus Escogido, May 29, 1954. Most LIDOM wins (86); 2nd LIDOM ERA (2.11) behind Escogido’s Juan Marichal (1.87).
Alcibíades ColónSanta Cruz de Mao11OF: Leadoff hitter and table-setter for 1951-54 summer pro team. 2nd in 1953 with .338 AVG, to Tetelo Vargas’s .355 AVG. Cannon arm.
Elvio “El Mulito” JiménezSan Pedro de Macoris11OF: Led league, 67 hits, 1963-64; on 1958-59, 1963-64, 1970-71 league champs.
Luis “Grillo C” BáezSanto Domingo15OF: 1939-41 (amateur) and 1951-57 (pro) Licey. Younger brother of Grillo A and Grillo B. Hit 2nd in 1951 line-up for Fellé Delgado.
Rafael LandestoyBaní172B-SS: 5x LIDOM champ: 1976-77, 1979-80; 1982-85.
Olmedo “El Chelito” SuárezBonao202B-UT: regular 2B for Fellé Delgado, 1951; .336 AVG, 1953; Speedy’s back-up, 1958-1964.
Pedro MartínezManoguayabo45P: 38 K, 38.2 innings, 3.03 ERA, 1991-96. Debut: Dec. 2, 1991, Tetelo Vargas Stadium, versus Estrellas Orientales: 2 IP, 3 K.
César “El Chief” GerónimoEl Seibo80OF: Co-MVP (Tony Peña), 1982-83; batting champ (.341 AVG), 41 RBI. In 18 seasons, .282 AVG, 254 RBI: most-ever for Licey.

Source: https://www.diariolibre.com/deportes/beisbol/los-numeros-retirados-por-los-equipos-en-la-pelota-invernal-dominicana-LD23138388

With special thanks and appreciation to Mario Emilio Guerrero, and Tony Piña Campora, for recollections of Speedy, his ability, regular/post-season stats, plus 1970 Caribbean Series.  Thanks to Eduardo Bauta, Paul Doyle, Jim Fregosi, Al Hrabosky, Manny Mota, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant, and Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian, Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League.

Deja un comentario

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada.

error: Este contenido está protegido
Ir arriba