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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Cuban Baseball Histories: The Nineties (Second Part)

Por Fidel Orihuela

Cuban Baseball had lived, probably, only one dynasty in the history of its National Series, when Industriales team won four consecutive championships in the sixties. However, it didn’t remain like that and in the nineties is the decade in which these changes were more patent, with four teams that had an impressive domain over the tournament and one that was starting to arise as a strong team as well. Pinar del Rio had two championships while the team from Havana won also two but not consecutively. At the end of the decade, Santiago de Cuba team would win and repeat their victory for three more years.

1996: Alberto Diaz is today an anonymous player for the new generations that like national baseball, but he is amongst a very selected group of Cuban players from the island. The outfielder from Jovellanos, Matanzas, is one of the three Cuban players that has had four home runs in the same game, a feat that he got against Camaguey on December 17,1995. Diaz was the second one to have done that after the player from Camaguey, Leonel Moa (vs. Granma on December 10,1989), and after him, Omar Linares did it too (vs. Villa Clara on April, 8,1997) in the second edition of the tournament Copa Revolucion.

1997: Faithful to the tradition of some players that at some point of their careers worn the Matanzas team uniform and won the MVP of the national Series like Erwin Walters, Wilfredo Sanchez, Fernando Sanchez or Lazaro Junco, the center fielder Jose Estrada won the MVP in 1997, a season in which he would hit .391, with 60 runs scored and 104 hits. That team also had Julio German Fernandez, leader in home runs (15) and RBI (60), and Juan Manrique, who was the leader in walks (53). The team also counted with the good performance of Michel Abreu, who was named Rookie of the Year. However, a poor pitching performance left the team without hopes for the postseason.

1998: Although he was born in La Maya, Santiago de Cuba, the right handed pitcher Jose Ibar Medina thriumphed with Havana, a team that enjoyed his many wins at the end of the last century. This pitcher did not have a very spectacular beginning but after a decade pitching, he started a winning streak and in 1998 he equaled the ancient record of Rolando Macias (Azucareros-1979) of 14 consecutive wins and got to the 20 wins, breaking Braudilio Vinent’s mark of 19 with Serranos in 1973. In the next season, Ibar won other 19 games to sum up 38 in two seasons, mainly supported by his knuckle ball pitch, which was very effective.

1999: They say records are meant to be broken and Michel Enriquez proved that by breaking Wilfredo Sanchez hits’ mark that had lasted exactly 30 years. In 1969, in a championship of 99 games, Sanchez batted 140 hits, a mark that Michel, the “Super 12” from Isla de la Juventud, broke in 90 games when he hit 152. Enriquez is a player with hitting contact ability and also at hitting the ball to the opposite field. He has won three batting titles in the National Series