'Have to honor their own'

Pregame celebrations included a hall of popularity induction event, a crowning achievement derby competitors and music carried out by 3 of the most significant Latino performers at that time.

Four future Hall of Famers, a number of existing All-Stars and other future stars dotted both lineups. And one group was handled by Roberto Clemente.

Almost a month after the last major-league video game was dipped into the Polo Grounds in 1963, the historical ballpark positioned in between the Harlem River and Coogan’s Bluff in upper Manhattan played host to one last baseball video game — including 2 groups comprised practically totally of Latino significant leaguers.

Cuban-born Tony Oliva was simply 24 with a grand overall of 16 major-league at-bats in 2 seasons with the Minnesota Twins however discovered himself amongst the Latino giants of the video game: future Hall of Famers Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and Luis Aparicio, to name a few.

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“I went because I was invited,” stated Oliva, who went on to end up being an eight-time All-Star and three-time American League batting champ. “I finished that year in the majors. I started at Triple-A and finished in the big leagues. And they invited me. I don’t know why they invited me, because in that game were the pure horses of the big leagues. There was Clemente, Cepeda, Julio Bécquer, (Zoilo) Versalles, many of the (Latino) players from the big leagues and some Latino kids like me who were in the big leagues that year, but 99 percent of them were the big leaguers.”

Tony Oliva was an eight-time All-Star and three-time American League batting champ with the Minnesota Twins.

Despite his lack of experience, Oliva went 2-for-5 with an RBI, however his AL team was up to the Clemente-handled National League group 5-2 as fellow citizen Pedro Ramos of Cleveland gave up 4 made runs in spite of starting out 8. The San Francisco Giants’ Marichal, who had actually connected Sandy Koufax with an NL-leading 25 wins that season, started out 6 in 4 nothing innings for the success.

“It was historic,” the Dominican-born Marichal stated when remembering the video game to the New York Daily News in 2013. “There was a lot of emotion among all the players, and you could tell the fans were excited about it, too.”

Official participation for the video game, hung on Saturday, Oct. 12, 1963, was 14,235, well listed below the Polo Grounds’ capability of 56,000 however far much better than the 1,752 fans who enjoyed the New York Mets lose their last house video game at the Polo Grounds on Sept. 18 en path to a 111-loss season.

The contest, hung on Columbus Day, was arranged to benefit the Hispanic-American Baseball Federation, which supplied baseball devices to youth gamers.

But the video game likewise was utilized to develop the Latin American Baseball Players’ Association Hall of Fame, inducting 4 gamers — Cuban-born Adolfo Luque and Puerto Ricans Hiram Bithorn, Pedro “Perucho” Cepeda and Francisco “Pancho” Coimbre — in its inaugural class.

“They wanted to start a Hall of Fame to honor Latino ballplayers, and part of it was recognizing, I believe, that MLB or the sports writers were not going to give them their due, that they were going to have to honor their own,” stated Adrian Burgos Jr., a teacher of history at the University of Illinois and the starting editor-in-chief of La Vida Baseball site.

In this April 7, 1963 file photo,  an aerial view of New York's Polo Grounds home of the New York Mets is shown.

In this April 7, 1963 file picture, a bird’s-eye view of New York’s Polo Grounds house of the New York Mets is revealed.

Luque (194-179, 3.24 AGE in 20 MLB seasons) was the very first Latino to appear in a World Series (for the Cincinnati Reds in 1919 versus the Chicago “Black Sox”) and the very first Latino to win a Series video game (the clinching Game 5 in 1933 for the New York Giants versus the Washington Senators).

Bithorn, for whom the baseball arena in San Juan is called, in 1942 ended up being the very first Puerto Rican-born gamer to reach the majors. Coimbre, a star in the Puerto Rican league, likewise played in the Negro leagues with the New York Cubans. And Cepeda, Orlando’s daddy, used the renowned 1937 Ciudad Trujillo group in the Dominican Republic that consisted of Negro league stars and future Hall of Famers Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell.

Orlando Cepeda accepted on behalf of his daddy and was likewise voted the most popular Latino gamer the majors. Marichal was called the top Latino pitcher. Puerto Rican-born Vic Power of the Minnesota Twins was called the top Latino gamer.

“It was an amazing feeling having my father involved in that day,” Cepeda informed MLB.com in June. “It really brought tears to my eyes.”

Orlando Cepeda, shown in this April 4, 1963 file photo, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

Orlando Cepeda, displayed in this April 4, 1963 file picture, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

The pregame home-hitting contest was won by the AL as Power and Panamanian-born New York Yankees outfielder Héctor López — the AL supervisor — each homered with Dominican-born Giants outfielder Felipe Alou providing the NL’s only crowning achievement.

And there was the music, carried out by New York-born bandleader Tito Puente, Puerto Rican bandleader Tito Rodríguez and Cuban vocalist La Lupe.

“When you consider the legendary players involved and the legendary musicians who performed,” Ralph Paniagua, a Latin music promoter and creator of LatinoBaseball.com, informed the Daily New, “it was just such an amazing and historic day for the Latino culture that we’ll probably never see again.”

Indeed, it was the one and just “Latino All-Star Game” in addition to the only Latin American Baseball Hall of Fame induction.

“Even though ultimately that Hall of Fame does not come into being,” Burgos stated, “it’s fascinating that in 1963 they (Latino players) realized that those here in the United States would have a hard time understanding what they are going through to be big leaguers.”

That was a time when Latinos were simply starting to make a substantial effect in the majors. It was not up until 1967 that Latino representation in the majors reached 10 percent, compared to about 25 percent recently (based upon opening day lineups).

In truth, there were not rather sufficient Latin American-born gamers to submit both lineups in 1963. Two gamers from the U.S. Virgin Islands — Al McBean and Joe Christopher — were on the NL lineup. And without any NL catchers born in Latin America that season, the NL relied on Cuno Barragán, a California-born kid of Mexican immigrants who had just one at-bat that season; and Italian-American Joe Pignatano, who played in Triple-A that year and never ever played in the majors once again after 1962.

None of that mattered.

“It didn’t matter that it was for charity and that it wasn’t a ‘real’ all-star game,” Cepeda stated in 2013. “When you put on your uniform, you played hard and you tried even harder to win. And that’s what everybody did in that game.”

This short article initially appeared on U.S.A. TODAY: ‘Latino All-Star Game’ in 1963 was Polo Grounds’ baseball ending

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