By Gary Norris Gray BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: July 10, 2011

OAKLAND, CAWhat would Major League Baseball look like without the Latin influences on the game?

This year, 2011, the starting line up for the American League All Stars had seven Latinos with Curtis Granderson- African American from the New York Yankees and Josh Hamilton – Caucasian American from the Texas Rangers in the lineup.

Mexico and Panama

Mexico and Panama

Think about this in 1980 “Fernandomaina” swept the country and won the hearts and minds at Chavez Ravine. When Fernando Valenzuela, the rookie pitcher from Mexico took the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball fans cheered. Thousands of Latino baseball fans bought tickets to see him. Valenzuela brought back the screwball. He would throw this pitch with his eyes looking to the heavens.

The Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente put his heart and soul into the game at Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium. His number 21 should be retired. Many Latino players wear his number in his honor. He was the best outfielder of Latin decent that baseball has ever seen. He could throw a strike to home plate not letting the opposition score. Clemente wore the Pittsburgh Pirate black and gold uniform with pride and won two World Championships. We are still family.

Remember my favorite with the Houston Astros. How could you miss those crazy rainbow colored uniforms? Jose Cruuuuuuz was another great left fielders of game. The New York Mets and Houston Astros locked up in a playoff classic in 1986 for the National League Championship. The Mets won the 16 inning game 7-6 and the series in six. The Astros have never been the same.

Americans watched the Alou brothers in the same outfield in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park during the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Felipe, Jesus, and Matty wore the same team uniform. It has not happened since.

Long time veteran Sandy Alomar, along with his two sons Sandy Jr. (catcher), and Hall of Famer Roberto-(second base) became one of the best father son teams in baseball.

The St. Louis Cardinals Mark McGwire would have had to chase the season home run record all alone without Sammy Sosa (Chicago Cubs) chasing him. These two men brought the game of baseball back to the American people after a long protracted strike. The Sports Illustrated cover that praised the two sluggers for saving the game of baseball would protect McGwire while alienating Sosa during the steroid revelations. McGwire has a job in baseball while Sosa sits at home.

How can anyone forget the sights and sounds of pitcher Jose Lima (Los Angeles Dodgers) and yes it will always be “Lima Time” on the baseball field. The animated and very opinionated Dominican found stardom in a Houston Astros jersey in 1997-2001. He did it with that fist pump and twirl after every save. This unusual act made history. The smile no one can forget.

Venezuela and Columbia

Venezuela and Columbia

The Latin pipeline for second basemen and shortstops continues. These players would play on the battered baseball fields of their homelands. They would play on fields that were full of rocks and had no foul lines. It still amazes baseball fans, managers, and teammates that they even made the Major Leagues.

Lest we forget the rise of the Martinez Brothers, Pedro and Ramon, from the Dominican Republic. Pedro pitched for the Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox, N.Y. Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. He was also a multiple All-Star, Cy Young award winner and World Series Champion. He will enter the Baseball Hall of Fame very soon. Pedro will be remembered for his low sinking hard fastball that made many batters leaving the plate shaking their heads. Little brother Ramon pitched for the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Pirates. In 1993 Pedro and Ramon were in the same Los Angeles Dodger pitching rotation and made life miserable for opponents.

These young men came from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico and Venezuela to play the game they loved and wanted to escape the poverty of their homelands.

Puerto Rico and Cuba

Puerto Rico and Cuba

It is troubling to see the State of Arizona presented baseball’s jewel of jewels, the All Star Game under a cloud of uncertainty. A state that targeted its Latino residents with the racially motivated immigration law 1070.

The All Star Game is one of the most important games of the year but MLB continued to fumble, stumble, and bumble away their chances to improve the game.

MLB may have over 35% of Latin players on their hollowed fields in 2011.

Stars like First basemen, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox) Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers) and Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals).

Second basemen, Robinson Cano (New York Yankees), Orlando Cabrera (Cleveland Indians), Wilson Valdez (Philadelphia Phillies) and Edgardo Alfonzo (New York Mets).

Shortstop, Jose Reyes (Mets), Asdrubal Cabrera (Indians), Sterling Castro (Cubs) and Rafael Furcal (Dodgers).

Third basemen, Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez (Yankees), Pedro Alvarez (Pittsburgh Pirates), Adrian Beltre (Texas Rangers) and Pedro Feliz (Kansas City Royals).

Catchers, Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez-Detroit Tigers, The Molina Brothers (“We Catch The World”), Bengie (Rangers), Gustavo (Yankees), Jose (Toronto Blue Jays) and Yadier (Cardinals).

Outfielders, Jose Bautista (Blue Jays), Nelson Cruz (Rangers), Tony Alvarez (Pirates), Carlos Beltran (Mets), and Raul (Rauuuuuuuuulll!) Ibanez (Phillies).

Starting Pitchers Jose Valverde (Tigers), C.C. Sabathia (Yankees), Carlos Zambrano (Cubs), Jonathon Sanchez (San Francisco Giants) and Ubaldo Jimenez (Colorado Rockies).

Relief pitchers, Frankie ‘K-Rod’ Rodriguez (Mets), Mariano Rivera (Yankees), and Francisco Cordero – (Cincinnati Reds).

With all of the Latin players gains they have lost coaching and managerial positions. The New York Mets released Omar Minaya as General Manager, replacing him with Sandy Alderson. Then the Metropolitans pulled a double play by firing Jerry Manuel, replacing him with Terry Collins. The Mets are a very vanilla(bland) team with a tight budget. The Ghosts of the New York Yankees past must walk the sidelines of Flushing Meadows-Citi Field haunting the blue and orange.

The Florida Marlins lost Edwin Rodriguez after a very slow start. The Marlins hired the oldest active manager Jack McKeon at 80 years young this summer.

The Atlanta Braves hired Fredi Gonzalez after Bobby Cox announced his retirement at the end of last year. This is the only gain in Latino managerial positions.

Like African American managers, (Dusty Baker of the Cincinnati Redstockings and Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers) there are only three current Latin managers Fredi Gonzalez with the Atlanta Braves, Ozzie Guillen with the Chicago White Soxs and Tony LaRussa of the St. Louis Cardinals. Five minority managers out of 30, not a good record.

Now that the All Star Game has come and gone maybe baseball will strive to include all cultures. This great summertime game needs to move forward to place African Americans, Latin Americans, and Asian Americans in the front office.

©Copyrighted 2011@ Gary Norris Gray- Gray Leopard Prod.