Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Great Puerto Rican Athletes

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Due to the overwhelming response and popularity of her four-part series of the Life and Times of Puerto Rico debating of Statehood and becoming No. 51, I feel a certain obligation to complete Gladys Echevarria's (Puerto Rican Pistol) Mission and talk about the Best Athletes that have represented this island.

But there is no way that I couldn't write this blog without two humorous points.

First of all, my mother is anything but a history buff when she wanted to know if Gladys needed papers to be in this country; have no fear ma, she's legal.

Second, when Gladys and I played tennis for the first time, she admitted after spending more time outside of the court chasing the balls she hit over the fence, that this isn't her sport. While I certainly didn't expect to be hitting tennis balls with legend Chris Evert, a few nice volley's would have been nice. But to her credit, week two was better and there hasn't been a week three yet. I would find out in later weeks that archery and swimming were not her bag, but she definitely is looking to make amends playing baseball.

With that said, Puerto Rico's Baseball's history has a tremendous amount of exposure for the island.

Before the Montreal Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals, they played some of their home games in Puerto Rico.

The Baseball Hall of Fame is now the proud home of a pair of legends.

Here is my list of players and I encourage feedback if I've omitted some of the most notables.

1) Roberto Clemente---There will never be a player bigger then him. I have always believed that his No. 21 uniform should be retired by MLB because of his off the field humanitarian efforts that saw him get killed in an aviation accident in 1972 at the age of 38. He played all of his 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, led them to two World Series titles, had 3000 hits, was a 15-time All-Star, won 12-Gold Gloves, is the first Latin Player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and due to his tragic death bypassed the five-year waiting period to be elected. There is a stadium complex named after him in Puerto Rico.

2) Roberto Alomar--- was elected to the Hall of Fame in his second year of eligibility with 90% of the votes. The 43-year old is a lifetime .300 hitter, compiled 2,724 hits, 474 stolen bases, is a 12-time All-Star, has 10 Gold Gloves and is a two-time World Series Champion for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993. Need I say more.

3) Bernie Williams---played his entire career with the New York Yankees and amassed 2,336 hits. While he may never get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the 42-year old will get his plaque into Yankee Stadium's Monument Park. He played there from 1991-2006 and is a five-time All-Star and led the Bronx Bombers to four World Series titles. He was invited to play for Puerto Rico in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

4) Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez---is a 39-year old Future Hall of Famer and also played on the 2009 World Baseball Classic team with Williams. He is a lifetime .297 hitter, has 311 home runs, is a 14-time All-Star, has won 13 Gold Gloves and as of May 25, 2011 has amassed 2,832 hits. The current Washington National has won a World Series with the Florida Marlins and also appeared in the Fall Classic with the Detroit Tigers. On June 17, 2009, Rodriguez set the MLB record by catching his 2,227 game and passed Carlton Fisk.

5) Carlos Beltran---is one of the most exciting players and at 34-years old is still going strong with the New York Mets in his 14th season. The right fielder has a lifetime .282 average with 288 homers, 289 stolen bases, is a five-time All-Star, has won three Gold Gloves and won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1999 with the Kansas City Royals.

6) Carlos Delgado---holds the All-Time Home Run and RBI records among Puerto Rican Players with 473 and 1,512 respectively. The retired 38-year-old first baseman left the major leagues with 2,035 games played, a .280 average and 2,038 hits.

7) Alex Rios---of the Chicago White Sox played in the 2006 World Baseball Classic as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Compared to the other players in this story, time will tell if the center fielder ever achieves the incredible success that they all have. But at 30-years old and now in his eighth season, thus far he's a two-time All-Star that has played in 1,050 games, has amassed 1,107 hits, 109 home runs, 505 RBI, has 155 stolen bases and is a .278 hitter. Rios has a combination of power and speed.

8) Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodriguez---is the most colorful character of these Puerto Rican athletes and instead of swinging a bat, he swings a golf club. The 75-year old is the first Puerto Rican to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He has 38 Pro Wins, including eight on the PGA Tour and 22 on the Senior PGA Tour. His best finish at a major tournament was at the 1981 U.S. Open when he finished tied for sixth place.

9) Hector "Macho" Camacho---was not only known for his mouth but also his hands. Now 49-years old, he competed in 87 fights, won 79, lost five and had three draws. He held the following titles: WBC Super Featherweight, WBC Lightweight, and on two occasions the WBO Light Welterweight. My most vivid memories of Camacho was when he was featured on CBS with legendary announcers Tim Ryan and the late Gil Clancy calling his fights.

10) Felix "Tito" Trinidad---is considered is one of the best fighters in Puerto Rico's history. In 2000, he was named Ring Magazines Fighter of the Year. During his career, the 38-year-old fought 45 times, won 42, 35 came by knockout and had three losses. He held the following championships: IBF Welterweight Title, WBC Welterweight, WBA Super Welterweight, IBF Junior Middleweight and WBA Middleweight Championship. Now that's versatility!

This is an interesting group of athletes and as I did the research for this, it's safe to say that while Golf and Boxing have always been American Favorites, The USA and Puerto Rico can both say that Baseball is their common Pastime as well.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/.

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