Fernando Díaz Pedroso: Águilas Cibaeñas, 1952 Dominican Summer League (Part III)

Fernando Diaz Pedroso, a big leaguer as of December 16, 2020, when his 1945-1947 seasons with the New York Cubans achieved MLB status, hit his most famous home run for the 1946-47 Ponce Lions, versus Joe Page of the New York Yankees, on February 24, 1947, in a San Juan, Puerto Rico spring training game. Pedroso contributed to these championship teams:

  • 1946-47 Ponce Lions, Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL)
  • 1947 New York Cubans, Negro National League II
  • 1950-51 and 1951-52 Havana Lions, aka Reds, Cuban Winter League
  • February 1952 Caribbean Series Champs (Havana)
  • 1952 Águilas Cibaeñas, Dominican Summer League
  • 1954 Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes (Owls), Mexican League
  • 1956 Mexico City Red Devils, Mexican League.

Pedroso, who played at 5’11” and 180 pounds, was born in Marianao, Cuba (a borough of Havana), on May 30, 1924. He passed away at age 70, November 20, 1994, in Villahermosa, capital and largest city of southeast Mexico’s state of Tabasco. Pedroso played professionally in the Cuban Winter League, Puerto Rico Winter League, Negro National League II, Dominican Summer League, Mexican League, and is one of over 200 Negro Leaguers who participated in the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League.  https://negroleaguerspuertorico.com/list-of-negro-leaguers-in-puerto-rico/  Pedroso

Part III focuses on Pedroso’s 1952 summer season in the Dominican Republic, with the Águilas Cibaeñas championship team. Part IV—the last Pedroso blog—covers his Mexican League play.

1952 Dominican Summer League (DSL)

Rodolfo Fernández, from Cuba, had played for the 1937 Dragones de Ciudad Trujillo, winners of a three-team tournament with the Águilas Cibaeñas (AC) and Estrellas Orientales (EO). The Dragones featured Satchel Paige, Joshua Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and a constellation of other stars, who eventually won a best-of-seven finals versus AC. The author met Fernández, in New York City, early 1990s, at a special function featuring Negro Leaguers. “I was familiar with the Dominican Republic,” stated Fernández. “We made good money in 1937. Martín Dihigo was with the 1937 AC ballclub, in that three-team tournament. I managed AC in 1952 and 1953.” (Exorbitant salaries paid in the 1937 tournament depleted league finances; there was no Dominican Republic pro baseball played, until the summer of 1951.)

The 1937 Águilas Cibaeñas, based in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Martín Dihigo is standing, back row, fifth, L to R. Photo credit: https://latinobaseball.com/pictorial-baseball-in-the-dominican-republican-has-a-long-and-proud-history/

In 1952, Fernández managed AC to a 32-22 record, excluding two additional tiebreaker wins in Santiago (August 28) and Santo Domingo aka Ciudad Trujillo (August 31), versus the Escogido Lions, before AC defeated Licey, four games-to-three, in the league finals. The 28-year-old Pedroso played well defensively in RF. His slash line was .276/.354/.346, and .700 OPS. These were “above average” for the team totals of .265/.331/.336 and .667 OPS.  https://stats.winterballdata.com/teams?year=2&phase=SR&team=AC Coincidentally, the same Joe Page who gave up Pedroso’s three-run HR, February 24, 1947, pitched four games for the 1952 Escogido Lions. Escogido’s top hitter was Willard Brown, who slammed nine homers, two fewer than league leader Alonzo “Su Majestad” (His Majesty) Perry, with the Licey Tigers. Veteran third baseman Howard Easterling was another Escogido import.

Licey’s Luis Rodríguez Olmo was 1952 batting champ (.344 AVG). Olmo recalled: “We had a very good [Licey] team with Alonzo Perry and Rubén Gómez, my good friend.” https://www.licey.com/fallece-el-expelotero-luis-rodriguez-olmo-el-jibaro/ Gómez joined Licey, late June 1952, after departing from the Kansas City Blues, top farm of the New York Yankees. Rogers Hornsby, who saw Gómez pitch gems against his 1950-51 Ponce Lions and watched him pitch for Santurce in the 1953 Caribbean Series, hosted by Havana, told Casey Stengel that the “Yankees made a mistake in letting Gómez go.” Gómez had pitched against Pedroso, in Puerto Rico, 1947-1950, and in the 1951 Caribbean Series, held in Caracas, Venezuela, prior to the 1952 DSL campaign. “Pedroso had a lot of ‘maña’ (savvy),” recalled Gómez. “He was a ‘money player’—produced in key games and helped win titles.”

AC had two excellent starters: Terris “The Great” McDuffie and Emilio “El Indio” Cueche. McDuffie (14-3), 1.82 ERA, hurled 158.1 innings in 18 starts, completing 13. Cueche, a 5’8” Venezuelan, pitched 148 innings, with a 9-9 W-L and 2.80 ERA. AC’s line-up had four players with 20+ RBIs: Guillermo Vento (3B-catcher), 33; Luis “King Kong” Villodas-28; OF Alejandro Crespo-27; and Pedroso (RF-2B), 21. AC OF Tiant Tineo led the loop with 17 SB. Villodas’s five triples led the league. AC used 15 Natives and seven Imports. McDuffie, Cueche, Willie “Gachito” Morales (6-4 W-L), from Puerto Rico; and LHP Tomás Gómez Checo were four solid starters, with Gómez Checo relieving nine times and starting eight. McDuffie’s statement “la hit no gana juego” (hit does not win a game) was popular among Dominican sportswriters.

Licey’s mound aces were Guayubín “Diómedes” Olivo (10-5, 1.33 ERA) and Rubén Gómez (8-3, 1.57 ERA). Four of Gómez’s eight regular season wins were against AC. Alonzo Perry had a .327/.404/.599 slash line: 1.003 OPS. The Licey-AC finals began Saturday, September 6, at the Hipódromo in Santiago. Gómez pitched a 10-inning CG, in his 4-3 win. Cueche took the loss. Olmo went 2-for-5, including the game-winning hit in the 10th. Game Two was the next morning, a 5-4 McDuffie victory, with a Gómez Checo save. That afternoon, Federico “ChiChi” Olivo blanked AC, 5-0, after pitching five relief innings in the morning.

Game Four was held at La Normal, Ciudad Trujillo, Saturday, September 13. Rubén Gómez and Cueche hurled ten innings apiece, when the 5-5 contest was called due to darkness. AC swept the September 14 twin-bill, 1-0 and 4-3. The 1-0 AC win was a three-hit SHO by Gómez Checo over ChiChí Olivo. That afternoon, McDuffie won on Alejandro Crespo’s walk-off HR. AC 1-0 (morning) win was the first baseball game televised in the Dominican Republic, by “Radio Televisión Dominicana.” https://archivodeportivo.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/beisbol-veraniego-dominicano-1952-final/  So, Pedroso played in the very first baseball game televised in the Dominican Republic, Sunday, September 14, 1952!

1952 Águilas Cibaeñas

Rubén Gómez pitched Licey’s 3-1 win on Sunday (September 21), to even the series at three games each. The final game was Thursday, September 25, at “Estadio de la Escuela Normal Presidente Trujillo” (La Normal’s full name). Starting line-up for AC was: Tineo (CF), Guillermo Estrella (SS), Gachito Morales (LF), Vento (3B), Fernando Bueno (1B), Crespo (C), Pedroso (RF), Cueche (P) and Julio Martínez (2B). Host Licey lined up with Othello “Juanita Morel” Renfroe-SS, Alcibíades Colón-RF, Silvio García-3B, Olmo-LF, Perry-1B, Casey Jones-C, Luis Báez-CF, Fiquito Suárez-2B and Rubén “El Divino Loco” Gómez-P. Cueche won it, 4-1. Tomás Gómez Checo got one out in the ninth; McDuffie, the last out and save. Cueche fanned 10 in 8.1 innings. Writers voted Gómez Checo the Final Series MVP. Pedroso, per Table I, went 7-for-30, in the finals, with AC, with four RBIs and one SB.

Table I: Pedroso’s Available Hitting Stats, Winter and Summer Pro Baseball

LeagueABRH2B3BHRRBISBAVGSLG
Cuban Winter League4575811115223815.243.298
All-Star Games+100410011.400.500
PRWL1,01619232848!11!3917533!.323.507
PRWL Finals&306111004NA.367.400
Dominican Republic2173260631219.276,354
Dominican Finals301700041.233.233
Caribbean Series2841010053.357.379
Mexican League2,252385742106314838936.329.468
Totals4,0406781,273178479063798.315.449

+Three All-Star Games for East, with New York Cubans, 1946, 1949 and 1950. &March 1947 “Roasted Pig” Finals. ! Incomplete stats. Sources: Jorge S. Figueredo, Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2003; Larry Lester ,https://tinyurl.com/ycbv67n3; https://negroleaguerspuertorico.com/player/fernando-diaz-pedroso/ ; Rafael Costas, Enciclopedia Béisbol Ponce Leones, 1989; Pedro Treto Cisneros, Editor, Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano, Undécima Edición, 2011.  https://stats.winterballdata.com/players?key=3174

Post-Script

The author conversed with King Kong Villodas, at his Ponce, Puerto Rico home, October 1991. Villodas played for the Baltimore Elite Giants in 1946 and 1947. https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/team.php?yearID=1946&teamID=BEG&LGOrd=1 and     https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/team.php?yearID=1947&teamID=BEG&LGOrd=1&tab=bat Thus, he is Puerto Rico’s first major league catcher, as a result of seven Negro Leagues, between 1920 and 1948, achieving MLB status, December 16, 2020. “I played against Pedroso (1946 and 1947) when Baltimore played the New York Cubans,” noted Villodas, a Ponce native. “Pedroso was consistently good wherever he played, including New York, Puerto Rico, and in Santiago, Dominican Republic. He had fine ability, but did the petty things to help his team win, including that summer of 1952…” 

With gratitude to Rodolfo Fernández, Pedroso’s 1952 AC manager; to Rubén Gómez, 1952-star pitcher for Licey; Luis Rodríguez Olmo, 1952 DSL batting champion, with Licey; and Luis “King Kong” Villodas, Pedroso’s 1952 AC teammate, for their memories. Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League, did the editing and inserted photos.

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