Boricuas in sports have had a major growth over the past several decades. This growth spans across the various sports i.e. baseball, soccer, and boxing, but there has not been such a big growth and influence to any sport as that which baseball has had. The presence of Latinos (Boricuas ) in baseball has grown into all levels of the sport from players to Coaches, Managers and even to General Managers. I will be writing about the sport stars of the past and present which have made a major contributions and sacrifice to their sport.
Roberto Clemente left his mark on baseball with a style of play rarely seen in modern baseball. Clemente came to a club that had suffered through three straight 100-loss seasons. He was not an immediate superstar, although his brilliant fielding ability and rifle arm were apparent from the beginning. He would eventually earn 12 Gold Gloves as a right fielder and set a ML record by leading the NL in assists five times. In 1960 Roberto Clemente began a streak of eight consecutive seasons in which he batted no less than .312. He made the first of his 14 All-Star appearances in the two 1960 games. That year, He hit safely in every game of the World Series against the Yankees, batting .310. In Game Seven, he kept an eighth-inning rally alive with a hustling infield single, setting up a go-ahead homer by Hal Smith. But Clemente never wore his 1960 Championship ring. He finished eighth in the NL MVP voting, though he’d led the Pirates with 94 RBI; he wore his 1961 All-Star ring instead.
Clemente won the first of four NL batting titles with a .351 mark in 1961. For the next several years, he was consistently brilliant. In the outfield, he would track down every ball in range, often making spectacular diving or leaping catches, he used the basket catch made famous by Willie Mays. At bat, Clemente seemed forever uncomfortable, always rolling his neck and stretching his back. Standing deep in the box. His base running style was marked by effort and determination, with arms and legs pumping and helmet often flying off. Clemente won two more batting titles in 1964 (.339) and 1965 (.329). his career-high 29 HR and 119 RBI helped him win the MVP award. In 1967 he captured his fourth batting crown with a .357 average, his best year ever. When Pittsburgh met Baltimore in the 1971 World Series. Clemente played like a man possessed, chasing down fly balls, batting .414 with 12 hits and two home runs, one in Pittsburgh’s Game Seven victory, and winning the Series MVP award.
On September 30, 1972, Roberto Clemente drove a double off Met pitcher Jon Matlack at Three Rivers Stadium for his 3,000th career hit. His .312 average that year marked his 13th .300 season and he was at or near the top of every batting category in Pirate history. On New Year’s Eve of 1972, Clemente boarded a DC-7 loaded with relief supplies for earthquake victims in Managua, Nicaragua. Shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, a mile off the Puerto Rican coast. There were no survivors. The five-year mandatory waiting period for Hall of Fame eligibility was waived and Clemente was inducted in 1973. The Pirates retired his uniform, number 21.
Javier Vazquez was born on Sunday, July 25, 1976, in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Vazquez was 21 years old when he broke into the big leagues on April 3, 1998, with the Montréal Expos and played on the team until 2003, during this time he became an ace for the Expos. On December 16, Javier was traded to the New York Yankees in a four year deal in exchange for three players. After only one season with the Yankees, he was once again traded this time to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson. But after only two seasons, he requested to be traded to be closer to his family in Puerto Rico. He got his wish because on December 2005, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Orlando Hernandez. While pitching for the White Sox, Vazquez agreed to play for the Puerto Rico team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, where he joined other Puerto Rican players, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and Bernie Williams on a team Managed by Jose Oquendo. On December 4, 2008 Vazquez was traded to the Atlanta Braves in a five player deal. Javier is married to Kamille Vazquez and they have two children Kamilla and Javier Josue. I started collecting Javier Vazquez baseball cards in 2000 after I found out that he shared my last name and was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Trained and managed by the savvy Cus D’amato, Chegui, being a good and solid boxer/puncher, won 41 out of his 45 bouts, 12 of which were by decision and 29 by knockout. He became the first Latino ever to win the light-heavyweight championship in 1965 when he beat Willie Pastrano in nine rounds at Madison Square Garden. D’Amato kept an eye on Torres when he saw him win a silver medal in the 1956 Olympics. He said “This kid will be a champion, and it won’t take that long”. Torres turned pro in 1956 and his boxing style was D’Amato’s peekaboo technique. It seemed awkward, but it worked, even for Patterson who gained the heavyweight championship title. Of his first 28 fights, only one was a draw, but the rest he won. In 1963 Chegui fought Florentino Fernandez, but he lost by knockout. He wasn’t in the least discouraged from that loss. He came back and won a decision against Don Fullmer and he knocked out Carl (Bobo) Olson in the first round.
Way before Torres thought about hanging up his gloves, he wanted one big score, so he decided to challenge Muhammed Ali, of all people. At a big boxing luncheon and Chegui’s long time friend and reporter, Bill Gallo, was there. Gallo and other reporters watched as Chegui who was 5′10″ go up to Muhammed Ali who was 6′10″ saying, “C’mon man, you and me, I need a good payday. We’ll pack them in.” Ali never answered him, but he did turn to his wife Ramonita, and say, “Okay, but you have to feed him a lot of rice and beans, only then can I make money for your man.” Torres and Ali never fought. Torres became a writer after his boxing days and was the first Hispanic columnist to write for The Post. His articles weren’t about sports, but about life in El Barrio. He also became the first Hispanic ever to chair the New York State Athletic Commission. Jose Torres died of a heart attack at his home in Ponce, Puerto Rico at the age of 72. He was revered both in Spanish Harlem and in Puerto Rico, which has declared three days of mourning for him.
Miguel Ãngel Cotto (born October 29, 1980 in Caguas, Puerto Rico is a Puerto Rican professional boxer. As an amateur, Cotto represented Puerto Rico in the lightweight and light welterweight divisions at various international events including the 1999 Pan American Games, the 2000 Summer Olympics and the 1998 Junior World Championships where he won a silver medal. Cotto began his professional career in 2001, and on September 11, 2004, he defeated Kelson Pinto for the WBO junior welterweight championship. He defended the title successfully a total of six times, before vacating it when he ascended to the welterweight division. On his first match on this division he defeated Carlos Quintana for the vacant WBA welterweight championship. Cotto successfully defended this title against Oktay Urkal, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley and Alfonso Gomez, before losing it Antonio Margarito. On February 21, 2009, he defeated Michael Jennings to win the vacant WBO welterweight championship.
Félix ‘Tito’ Trinidad, Jr. (born January 10, 1973) is a Puerto Rican professional boxer, considered as one of the best boxers in that archipelago’s history. When he was an amateur Trinidad won five National Amateur Championships in Puerto Rico. He debuted as a professional when he was 17 years old and won the first world championship in his career when he defeated Maurice Blocker for the International Boxing Federation’s welterweight championship. During his career he fought Oscar De La Hoya winning the World Boxing Council’s welterweight championship,Fernando Vargas in a unification fight where he won the International Boxing Federation’s light middleweight title, and William Joppy for the World Boxing Association’s middleweight championship. He lost to Bernard Hopkins , by technical knockout and retired for the first time. Trinidad returned to action in a fight against Ricardo Mayorga and following a fight against Winky Wright retired a second time. In 2008, he returned to the ring to fight Roy Jones , losing the contest by unanimous decision.
Félix Trinidad was born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, to Irma García and Félix Trinidad Senior. During his childhood the family moved to Cupey Alto, a subdivision of San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he grew up Trinidad began boxing at the age of 12 after receiving training by his father, who was a former national champion in the featherweight division. Over the course of his amateur career, Trinidad compiled a record of 51 wins and six losses with 12 knockout victories. During this period he won five Puerto Rican National Amateur Championships, in five different weight divisions (100, 112, 119, 126 and 132 pounds)