Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

The Face of Baseball

Many years ago, in fact it was the 1987 Major League Baseball All Star Game in Oakland,California, Orestes (Minnie) Miñoso told me that “20 years from today, Hispanics will just about domintate in baseball”.
As a kid growing up in Cuba, Miñoso was my favorite player. He played for the Marianao Tigers of the old Cuban Professional Winter League.
What he told me almost 20 years ago in Oakland
is true, it is happening. Miñoso is in his 80s today and lives in Chicago, the city he loves and for the
team he played with the White Sox for most of his career.

By Amaury Pi-GonzálezLast game the Mariners played in Seattle during a recent homestand, the afternoon of June 8th against the Minnesota Twins this was the Mariners
starting lineup.
Pitching: Joel Piñeiro
Catching: René Rivera
First base:Richie Sexon
Second base: José López
Shortstop: Yuniesky Betancourt
Third base: Adrian Beltre
Left Field: Raul Ibañez
Center Field: Willie Bloomquist
Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki

The composition of the above lineup is 6 Hispanics
players, 1 Asian and 2 north american players.
Of course this doesn’t stop with the Seattle team
(whose ’06 Media Guide reads: Many Nations…
One Team) and shows 10 different flags.

I have worked games where a MLB team fielded
9 Hispanics on the field on a given day.
Joe Morgan has talked and written about the lack
of African American players in baseball today and that Major League Baseball has to do a better
job recruiting African American players.

In the case of African American players, there was
a time, around the 1960’s where guys like Hank
Aaron,Willie Mays,Bob Gibson,Frank Robinson,
Willie McCovey and Joe Morgan, among many others showcased their talents.

In today’s US culture, many African American athletes who come from the inner cities are more and more concentrated into basketball. The
NBA is proof of a visible majority.

That leaves Latin America as the primiray part
of the world to develop baseball talent and where
most MLB teams are always looking for talent.
Asia is also another place that is more and more popular, but by far Latin America has become
“where the best players come from”.

The face of baseball or in this case béisbol, is changing rapidly. Maybe too rapidly for many people that are still living in denial about the Hispanic minority in the United States, which is
currently the largest minority in the country.

Many organizations are turning the corner and have come around to join the Hispanic market since this is not going away and it is only going
to grow, they had no choice but to join in. It is just common good business sense.

As I interviewed Tony Batista prior to the game
of June 8th at Safeco Field, the thirdbaseman of the Twins, who was born in the Dominican Republic
told me he loved playing last year for the Fukuoka team in Japan. I asked him, how did he communicate there ? He told me “the team gave me an interpreter, because I do not speak Japanese” So even in Japan, Latino players are getting the respect they never got in the days of the great Roberto Clemente. Clemente was misquoted many times because of his poor
command of the English language and in many cases he was portrayed as weird,strange or
difficult to deal with, when in fact a lot of the writers in those days didn’t really like to deal with
him because he was Hispanic and happened to be one of the greatest players ever.

Of all the major sports baseball takes the longest to change, it is a basically a conservative and traditional sport but they have started to move with the times, they have no other choice if they want to survive as a major league. On the other hand baseball was the first major sport in the US to open the door to an African American player
(Jackie Robinson 1947 Dodgers)and then the other sports followed baseball’s lead. They say things are
cyclical and it might just be the right time for
baseball to take the lead again.

Miñoso says he is not a prophet but just (like he says) “solo un jugador de béisbol” -“just a baseball player”. But what he told me in 1987 was exactly right. I was named to the 1987 MLB Oakland All Star Game Clout Committe by Andy Dolich who was the VP of Business for the Oakland Athletics.
That year I had the honor of meeting and interviewing the man I always admired as a
player and my boyhood idol, Minnie Miñoso. I have seen Minnie a few times since then and he is still very sharp for his age, he has seen a lot of baseball and just like he says ‘he has seen a lot”

Historical fact: In 1949 Orestes (Minnie)Miñoso
born in Cuba was a rookie with the Cleveland Indians and became the first ever Hispanic-Black
player to play in the Major Leagues. He then played most of his career with the Chicago White Sox.


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