The Demanding Dozen (Part One)

By Gary Norris Gray, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: July 24, 2010

Al Lopez

Al Lopez

CALIFORNIA (BASN) — As we close this series on minority managers in major league baseball, we find that the game has expanded and continues to grow world wide despite the backward tendencies of the executive leaders of this wonderful game, baseball continues to move forward.

The new 1070 Arizona Immigration Law will be enforced later this week (Thursday, July 29).

Latino baseball players might think twice about their careers in the game. Many teams have headquarters for their minor league clubs in the state of Arizona.

This could be a turning point for Major League Baseball and a chance to make a stand. Baseball can either be a game of inclusion and expansion or die because of racial indifference.

Latin players have overtaken baseball the past 30 years. But they’ve had problems breaking Major League’s color lines in managing a professional team, just as their African American and Asian American brothers.

Latin players face the same humiliations that their minority brothers faced in the 1940′s, 50′s, and 60′s. Segregation does not distinguish between languages just people of darker hue.

The Latino players have a long history in baseball from Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, of the Pittsburgh Pirates whose number 21 should be retired. Along with other Latin stars such as Minnie Minoso, who played with many teams, breaking the record for pinch hitting appearances in 2000.

Minoso played four decades and became the oldest player in the league and who started the second wave of Latino players to America.

Other great Latin players that have helped to change the game were Hall of Famer Rod Carew, Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Bernie Williams.

Not to mention the great Latin pitchers like Luis Tiant, Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, and the new sensation Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies.

Without these players baseball would not be the game it is today.

Here is the breakdown of Latino players from countries that have made the game of baseball exciting to watch the past five years:

66 from Dominican Republic, 31 from Puerto Rico, 25 from Venezuela, 12 from Mexico, 11 from Cuba, 7 from Panama, 3 from Colombia, and 1 each from Argentina and Nicaragua

There is a big stumbling block that most Latino players playing in America face — command of the English language. Latino managers have to face prejudice because many American baseball executives misconceive these talented players as being Black not Latino.

Many baseball owners and general managers think that Latinos cannot direct American players because of the perceived languages barrier this is often never the case.

Here is a brief list of Latino managers in MLB history.

Miguel Angel Gonzalez

In 1938, the Cuban star became the major’s first Latino manager for the St. Louis Cardinals. He would return to the job in 1940 after a years absence he was let go again early in the season after 1-5 start for a total of 9 wins and 13 loses. This would open the door for future Latin baseball players. It would take about 20 years before the South American and Central American influence would take hold on America‘s game.

Al Lopez

The Hall of Famer managed the Cleveland Indians (1954) and Chicago White Sox (1959) to AL pennants while never having a losing record in 15 years — a feat that has not been duplicated. He is the most famous Latino Manager because of his years with the winning Dodger organization. This Cuban American was the starting catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Lopez’s Trolley Dodgers were known as the team that stopped the New York Yankee string of World Championships. He was elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans committee in 1977. Lopez has 1,410 career wins (11th all-time) games in his managing career. He held the record for most wins in a season with 111 until it was broken by the 1998 Yankees and 2001 Mariners. He passed away four days after the Chicago White Sox (under Ozzie Guillen) won the 2005 World Series

Preston Gomez

A Cuban manager that took over the expansion Padres in 1969 and years later would manage the Houston Astros (1974) before moving on to the struggling Chicago Cubs (1980). Owners and General Managers thought that Gomez would be good for their young pitching staffs. He understood the art of pitching and took care of his pitchers wherever he went. Gomez passed away this past January.

Cookie Rojas

The former All-Star and current broadcaster managed both the California Angels and Florida Marlins becoming the third person to manage from his Caribbean homeland of Cuba. This firebrand second basemen wanted his teams to play as hard as he had in Philadelphia and Kansas City years earlier. He is the first ballplayer I’ve met in person and his personality really shines. His will to win is very strong.

Felipe Alou

Part of a great Latino baseball family, Alou managed both the Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants. A three time-All Star and 1994 N.L. Manager of the Year, he produced more wins from teams that literally lacked talent on the field. Alou started the small ball strategies and philosophies that many teams use today. He is one of the most underrated managers in the game. Alou turned down the first Giant managerial offer in 1985 as he wanted to stay with the team that had supported him during his playing days. He was the first Dominican manager in the Major Leagues.

Tony Perez

This Hall of Famer managed both the Cincinnati Reds and Florida Marlins. He was the cog at third and first base for the Big Red Machine of the 1970′s. When Perez left the Queen City, the Reds wouldn’t win another championship until the ’90′s. A three-time World Champion, seven-time All Star, and the 1967 All Star Game MVP, Perez was the heart and soul of the Reds’ offensive attack. In 1983, the Phillies tried to reassemble the Big Red Machine in Perez, Pete Rose and Joe Morgan. They were called the Wheeze Kids, in reference to the 1950′s Philadelphia Wiz Kids.

Tony wanted the 1993 Reds to play like the Big Red Machine but the young Reds could not perform like those All Stars. The Marlins were an expansion team and Tony had to teach his players every intricate aspect of the game. Neither the Reds or Marlins responded to Perez’s teachings. NEXT: The remaining Latino and minority managers in MLB history.