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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cuban Baseball Histories: The Seventies (First Part)

Por Fidel Orihuela

By the decade of the seventies, Cuba was already a Baseball potency, with an overwhelming domain in most of the amateur tournaments celebrated in the world. The successes were based mainly in a very strong national tournament, in which the strength was not merely in four teams but it was expanded to several ones, to the point in which nine teams could reach the top and only Azucareros was able to repeat its crown. This decade was the cradle of exceptional Cuban players like Rogelio Garcia, Pedro Jose Rodriguez, Braudilio Vinent or Lourdes Gourriel, which marked an era with the National selection.

1970: Henequeneros climbed to the top of the podium thanks to the magic of the “Three Musketeers”. Wilfredo Sanchez, Rigoberto Rosique and Felix Isasi marveled because of their offensive that drove their rivals crazy. Speed, contact hitting ability and being well-timed when it was necessary distinguished the trio of players. Wilfredo stood out particularly in 1970, with the second of his five batting titles and his hits leadership (98), runs scored (46) and stolen bases (34). A year before he had set the records for hits (140) and triples (13), the last one still in effect.

1971: Although Azucareros finished first in a competition that had only the difference of one game, the team from Havana was the one that won 20 consecutive games in the National Series. Managed by Pedro Chavez, only two years after his retirement, the ones from the capital city chained a series of 20 wins, a streak that allowed them to fight for the first place until their last breath. The record did not last for long. The next season Mineros team would win for 27 consecutive times, an absolute record in Cuban baseball that is still in vigour.

1972: In the first decade of the National Series four pitchers achieved an ERA of less than one, but one of them got it twice. That was the case of the player from Havana Ihosvani Gallegos, who in the year of 1972 throw 72 innings and one third with only 3 earned runs, with a 0.37 ERA. In 1967 Gallegos had ended with a 0.80 ERA, which makes of him, along with the pitcher from Las Villas Jose Riveira, the only ones that have lead twice the ERA of the championship with less than one.

1973: Not even in the seasons with 99 games had a player hit 20 home runs in the National Series, a mark that was broken by the great slugger from Havana Armando Capiro. Acknowledged by his elegant posture in the batter’s box and his cannon arm from the outfields, the giant from Santiago de las Vegas hit 22 homers with 74 RBI, enough to be named the MVP of the season. Only four years later, on May 16, 1977, Capiro became the first player to hit 100 home runs in the National Series.

1974: For the second consecutive year, Braudilio Vinent was the leader in complete games, a leadership that nowadays does not have the same relevance, because only a few pitchers now go the route. But it was quite different 40 years before, when the relievers did not have a protagonist role they have now and the starters had to pitch as many innings as they could. Vinent, an iron arm pitcher, mastered this and he not only lead the season of 1974 with 16 complete games, but he also in his entire career, went the route 265 games being the absolute leader in this category.

1975: The fireballing right handed pitcher Juan Perez Perez from Camaguey got in 1975 his third no hit no run in the National Series, after having two in the former championships. Until today, no other pitcher has achieved three no-hitters in consecutive seasons.