The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is usually one of the heaviest traveled weeks in the U.S. This week, I have found myself on the island of Puerto Rico. As I have mentioned many times in the past, in my articles, one of the biggest sports on this island is baseball. Currently, there are over 100 major leaguers from this island and there are baseball fields everywhere that you can look.
While I was here (by the way, it is raining so I have some time to do some research and write), I started to look at the Puerto Rican baseball history. The Puerto Rican Baseball League started in 1938 as a semi-professional league. The original league had six teams and the season was played in two halves. The two half-winners played each other for the season championship. There have been many famous players that are from Puerto Rico and to date there have been 234 players from Puerto Rico that have played in the major leagues. Some of the most known players are Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Edgar Martinez, Bernie Williams and Mike Lowell.
For this week, I have decided to go through the history of baseball in Puerto Rico and give to you important dates and events in baseball history here. I offer to you, The Big Orange Guy’s Top 5 Baseball Events in Puerto Rico.
#1 – January 11, 1898, the first organized baseball game is played in Puerto Rico. This game, played in Santurce was played between the Borinquen team and the Almendares team, with Borinquen winning 3-0. The first nine inning game was played on January 30 of that same year, with Borinquen once again winning 9-3.
#2 – April 15, 1942, Hiram Bithorn became the first Puerto Rican born baseball player to debut in the major leagues. In 1942, Bithorn had a record of 9-14 and in 1943 his record improved to 18-12 with seven shutouts for the Chicago Cubs. Bithorn was drafted and served in the military and never regained his form upon his return to the United States. Tragically, he was murdered in 1951 and to honor him and his accomplishments, Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan is named to honor the first major leaguer.
#3 – 1954, Ruben Gomez of the New York Giants becomes the first Puerto Rican born player to be part of a World Series winner. He was also the first Puerto Rican born player to pitch in a World Series game. Gomez played for 10 seasons, with a 76-86 record and a 4.09 ERA. He finished in the Top 10 in ERA and wins, two times each during his major league career.
#4 – 1973, Roberto Clemente was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame. He became the first Puerto Rican born baseball player elected to the Hall of Fame. After his death, he was elected following a special election. Clemente played his entire career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was selected to twelve all-star games. He was a NL MVP and was part of the 1960 World Series winners. Clemente had 3,000 hits at the time of his passing and still holds the record for most career assists by a right-fielder (276). When the special election was held for Clemente, it was the first time that the five year waiting period for players had been waived.
#5 – April 1, 2001, the first Major League baseball regular season game was held at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in from of 19,891 fans. The Blue Jays won the game 8-1 over the Texas Rangers. This was the push behind the 2003 and 2004 home games of the Montreal Expos, playing 22 home games each year in Puerto Rico.
It looks like the rain has stopped outside. I want to go spend some time at the pool enjoying the weather. Seeing that I have finished my Top 5, have a great week everyone. Please travel safe if you must before next week and please have a safe New Years. None of us want to lose any of you.
Happy New Year and see you on the other side.
Tags: Big Orange Guy's Top 5, Big Orange Guys Top Five, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays