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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Cuban Baseball Histories: The Seventies (Second 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.

1976: Since earlier in his career, Pedro Jose Rodriguez demonstrated that he would get far as a slugger. The strong third baseman, Rookie of the Year in 1974, would become, two seasons later, the third baseball player in the National Series with two home runs in the same inning, something only achieved before by Modesto Gil (Granjeros-1973) and Miguel Lopez (Pinar del Rio-1974). Besides, “Cheito”, as nicknamed, was the first player to achieve 6 RBI in a single inning, record that was surpassed to 7 RBI afterwards by the players Evenecer Godinez and Fausto Alvarez from Santiago de Cuba, while Alexei Bell, also a player from Santiago de Cuba, incremented it to 8 RBI. Pedro Jose only played for 15 seasons, but even so he hit 286 homers.

1977: Rogelio Garcia, known as “El Ciclon de Ovas”, is the historic leader of strikeouts in Cuban Baseball after the year of 1959, with 2499. From 1977 to 1980 he was the undisputable leader in this category. He could not do the same in 1981 but he would do it again the next two years. This leadership, that he extended for six seasons, would give him a total amount of 714 strikeouts.

1978: Wearing the Vegueros’s uniform, Maximiliano Gutierrez, a pitcher from Pinar del Rio, applied the whitewash for 47.1 innings, an actual record of the Cuban Baseball that will probably hold out many years more. This streak began with a shutout against La Habana, then continuous shutouts will follow, this time against Isla de la Juventud (11 innings), Metropolitanos, Granma and Henequeneros. After five consecutive shutouts, the streak was broken by the Santiago de Cuba team, anyway he achieved the title with Vegueros and ended leader of wins with 9.

1979: Only two players from Sancti Spiritus, Lourdes Gourriel (doubles-12) and Antonio Munoz (walks-72), were included among the main individual leaders in the 18th National Series and they achieved the title of this championship. Managed by Candido Andrade, the Sancti Spiritus team won without too much difficulty with a win-loss record of 39-12, making of the Villa Clara team runner up of the season. A still young Gourriel was the face of a team that, along with the feared slugger Antonio Munoz and Owen Blandino, known as “El Gallo de Cabaiguan”, who was a determining player because of his leadership from the hot corner. After this gold medal, Sancti Spiritus has not achieved another title in the National Series.