Fernando Díaz Pedroso: Mexican League (Part IV)

Fernando Diaz Pedroso, big leaguer as of December 16, 2020, when his 1945-1947 seasons with the New York Cubans achieved MLB status, hit his most famous homer for the 1946-47 Ponce Lions, versus the New York Yankees’ Joe Page, 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
  • 1951 Veracruz Azules (Blues), Mexican League
  • 1954 Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes (Owls), Mexican League
  • 1956 Mexico City Diablos Rojos (Red Devils), Mexican League.

Pedroso played at 5’11” and 180 pounds. Born in Marianao, Cuba (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 in the Cuban Winter League, PRWL, Negro National League II, Dominican Summer League, Mexican League, and is one of about 217 Negro Leaguers who participated in the PRWL.

  https://negroleaguerspuertorico.com/list-of-negro-leaguers-in-puerto-rico/  Part IV focuses on Pedroso’s 1951 and 1954-1958 summer seasons in the Mexican League, Independent through 1954, and Class AA, 1955-1958. His PRWL nickname was “Pajarito.” Elsewhere, it was “Bicho” (different slang meaning).

1951 Veracruz Azules (Blues) and 1951/1954 Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes (Owls)

Pedroso went from first-place Veracruz (49-35) to last-place Nuevo Laredo (34-50) during a fine 1951 season: .333 AVG and .437 SLG. His 103 hits/309 AB included 15 doubles, four triples, and three HR. He stole 13 bases. With 1954 Nuevo Laredo, he played for Adolfo Luque, who pitched in the majors, starting with the 1914 Boston Braves and ending with the 1935 New York Giants. Luque, with Cincinnati, faced “Shoeless Joe” Jackson and the Chicago White Sox in the 1919 World Series.

He was 27-8 for the 1923 Reds. He earned another World Series ring with the 1933 New York Giants. Luque, a light-skinned (Caucasian) Cuban, pitched for the 1912 Cuban Stars, pre-1920 Negro Leagues. Those Stars included Black Cuban players’ José de la Caridad Méndez (Cooperstown, Class of 2006), Bombín Pedroso and Pelayo Chacón.

Fernando Díaz Pedroso impressed Luque with a league-leading 80 RBIs in 80 games, 13 doubles, five triples and 14 homers. He scored 72; batted .330 with a .514 SLG. Nuevo Laredo (56-24) won the pennant by 8.5 games over the Yucatán Lions.

https://tecolotesdenuevolaredo.wordpress.com/2017/11/16/el-primer-titulo-de-luque-en-la-lmb-fue-con-tecolotes/  http://www.cubadebate.cu/opinion/2013/07/17/adolfo-luque-el-perfecto-papa-montero/

Adolfo Luque, Pedroso’s Manager, Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes (Owls). Photo credit: Salón de la Fama del Béisbol Mexicano.

Table I includes Mexican League RBI leaders from Cuba. Table II comprises 10 managers with back-to-back Mexican League titles. Table III circles back to PRWL when Pedroso was the first of five Cuban players to win a league batting crown.

Table I: Mexican League RBI Leaders from Cuba

PlayerTeamYearRBI
Silvio GarcíaMexico City Diablos Rojos194283
Salvador “Chico” HernándezVeracruz Azules194497
Claro DuanyMonterrey Sultanas1945100
Roberto “Guajiro” OrtizDiablos Rojos1946108
Alejandro “Filete” CrespoPuebla Pericos194796
Roberto “Guajiro” OrtizDiablos Rojos194874
René GonzálezSan Luis Tuneros195179
René GonzálezTuneros195284
René GonzálezÁguilas de Veracruz195363
Fernando “Bicho” PedrosoNuevo Laredo Tecolotes195480
Wittremundo “Witti” QuintanaÁguilas de Veracruz196189

Source: https://martindihigoelmejor2013.cubava.cu/2019/11/14/beisbol-cubano-bateando-por-el-caribe/

 Table II: Mexican League Managers with back-to-back titles

ManagerTeamYearW-LPCT
Salvador TeufferAgrario193513-3.813
Salvadpr TeufferAgrario193613-7.650
Agustin VerdeÁguilas de Veracruz193720-4.833
Agustín VerdeÁguilas193840-9.816
Armando MarsansAlijadores de Tampico194552-38.578
Armando MarsansAlijadores194656-41.578
Lázaro SalazarIndustriales de Monterrey194770-47.598
Lázaro SalazarIndustriales194850-35.588
Lázaro Salazar#Industriales194952-33.612
Adolfo LuqueNuevo Laredo Tecolotes195343-33.566
Adolfo LuqueTecolotes195456-24.700
Benjamín “Cananea” ReyesMexico City Diablos Rojos198775-49.605
Benjamin “Cananea” ReyesDiablos Rojos198882-45.646
Derek BryantSultanes de Monterrey199565-49.570
Derek BryantSultanes199682-33.713
Dan FirovaMexico City Tigers200074-44.627
Dan FirovaTigers200174-43.632
Bernie TatisMexico City Diablos Rojos200274-36.673
Bernie TatisDiablos Rojos200368-40.630
Orlando Sánchez##Saraperos de Saltillo200959-48.551
Orlando SánchezSaraperos201055-49.529

#Only manager with three straight Mexican League titles, and seven overall, most in league history. ##Caught Paul Hartzell, 1976-77 Santurce Crabbers. Source: https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://espndeportes.espn.com/blogs/index?nombre=Ruben_Castro&entryID=1113185__;!!FUTpS1-z7bov!hDXw1i4Fxr4_eqrRjwH7mAj-d–QcCPzvJ-hi8X2w4pAHapKD99bNiQ7TbDCCWAUQMjd$

Table III: PRWL Batting AVG Leaders from Cuba

PlayerTeamYearAVG
Fernando PedrosoPonce Lions1945-46.368
Miguel de la HozSan Juan Senators1961-62.354
Tony OlivaArecibo Wolves1963-64.365
Tony PérezSanturce Crabbers1966-67.333
Tony TaylorSan Juan Senators1967-68.342

Source: https://martindihigoelmejor2013.cubava.cu/2019/11/14/beisbol-cubano-bateando-por-el-caribe/

1955-1958 Mexico City Diablos Rojos (Red Devils) and 1958 Mexico City Tigers

In 1955, the Mexican League went from Independent to AA minor-league level, 100-game season.  A new home stadium shared by the Red Devils and Tigers, Parque del Seguro Social, was inaugurated. Seating capacity was 25,000. Dimensions were 325 feet down the lines, and 400 feet to straightaway CF. It closed June 1, 2000, following a Red Devils-Tigers game. Their intense rivalry was known as the “Civil War.”

Pedroso continued his torrid hitting in 1955–.331, 17 homers, 79 RBIs, .513 SLG. Teammate Alonzo Perry led the league with 122 RBIs. The 52-48 Red Devils fell short by one game to Mexico City Tigers (53-47) and Nuevo Laredo (53-47). The Tigers bested Nuevo Laredo, two-games-to-none, best-of-three playoff.

Tigers’ LHP Fred Waters—Pittsburgh Pirates prospect from Benton, Mississippi, and Roberto Clemente’s 1955 and 1956 big-league teammate—won the 1955 Mexican League pitching Triple Crown: 18-3, 2.09 ERA, and 126 strikeouts, after opening the season with 1955 Class B Waco Pirates. His contract was acquired by the Mexico City Tigers before Pittsburgh re-acquired him in September and used him in two 1955 big-league games. He once pitched in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, e.g., 1949 and 1951 Greenwood (Mississippi) Dodgers, Class C Cotton States League.

Alonzo Perry, far right, after his July 28, 1955 homer against Yucatán Lions. Perry went 6-for-6. Martín Dihigo, in 1937, was the first to go 6-for-6 in the Mexican League. Photo credit: https://diablos.com.mx/los-seis-hits-de-alonso-perry/

The 1956 Diablos Rojos, with skipper Lázaro Salazar, were 83-37, nine games ahead of arch-rival Mexico City Tigers (73-45). Pedroso played all 120 games for the Red Devils, with a .345 AVG (160 hits/464 AB). Teammate Alonzo Perry won the batting Triple Crown (.392 AVG, 28 HR, 118 RBIs). Red Devils’ Francisco Ramírez (20-3, 148 strikeouts, 2.25 ERA) won the pitching Triple Crown. Lefty Diomedes “Guayubín” Olivo (15-8) was also used to pinch-hit.

For example, his ninth-inning bases-loaded grounder drove in the game-winner versus Yucatán, August 26, 1956, to clinch the pennant, a 2-1 win. Pedroso’s earlier sacrifice fly tied it, 1-1. https://www.milb.com/news/el-26-de-agosto-de-1956-llego-el-primer-campeonato-de-diablos-rojos Freddie Thon Jr. recalled that Guayubín “pitched for my father, with San Juan, 1951-52. He became a good friend of mine.” (Guayubín was the first Dominican to pitch in a Caribbean Series—February 1952, San Juan Senators, in Panamá, and a San Juan teammate of Sam “Toothpick” Jones.)

Photo credit: Tony Campora

Pedroso (1952 Águilas Cibaeñas), Dominican Summer League, faced Licey’s Guayubín Olivo. Pedroso knew Alonzo Perry, too, from that 1952 season. Historian Tony Piña Campora noted that Perry was the “most productive Import in the history of Dominican Republic pro baseball, 1951-present,” adding: “He [Perry] was a five-tool player and also an excellent pitcher.” Regarding Guayubín Olivo, Campora stated: “He is the best Native left-handed pitcher in Dominican Republic history. He had velocity, control, savvy…already 41 when he debuted with the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates; had a splendid career in the Caribbean in the 1940s-1960s.”

In 1957, Pedroso fashioned a .333 AVG (155-for-465), eight HR, and 89 RBIs, in 117 games. His 66-54 Red Devils finished second, two behind 68-52 Yucatán. Pedroso’s 1957 skippers were Cubans’ Lázaro Salazar and Preston Gómez. Legendary Martín Dihigo managed Veracruz. Sportswriters voted OF Pedroso to the League’s All-Star Team.

All-Star catcher Earl “Mickey” Taborn hit a league-leading 27 HR. He had caught for the 1947-1950 Santurce Crabbers, and played against Pedroso in the PRWL. Alonzo Perry’s league-best 107 RBIs placed him as All-Star 1B. Pedroso’s last Mexican League season was with the 1958 Red Devils and Tigers. Table IV highlights his pro career hitting stats.

Table IV: Pedroso’s Hitting Stats, Winter/Summer Pro Baseball (1943-1958)

LeagueABRH2B3BHRRBISBAVGSLG
Cuban Winter League4575811115223815.243.298
Negro National League II#4555811717714814.257.332
All-Star Games+100410011.400.500
PRWL1,01619232848113917533.323.507
PRWL Finals&306111004NA.367.400
Dominican Republic2173260631219.276,354
Dominican Finals301700041.233.233
Caribbean Series2841010053.357.379
Mexican League2,252385742106314838936.329.468
Totals4,4957361,3901955491685112.309.437

#MLB status stats with 1945-1947 New York Cubans. +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; https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/player.php?playerID=diaz-01fer  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

This concludes the four-part series on Pedroso, who produced in winter/summer baseball. The author plans to focus on catchers, who caught and managed at the same time in Puerto Rico, and on Guayubín Olivo, in future blogs. These backstops include Robert Clarke, Joshua Gibson, Johnny Hayes, and Quincy Trouppe. When it comes to the importance of catchers, in winter ball, Paul Hartzell, shared some thoughts with the author, via e-mail, March 1, 2022.

Twenty-two year-old Hartzell’s first start for the 1976-77 Crabbers had 20-year old Orlando Sánchez—mentioned in Table II—behind the plate. Per Hartzell: “Elrod (Hendricks) wasn’t with the team yet but Ron Pruitt was and I assumed he was the catcher for my game (against Caguas).

Sunday arrived and when I looked at the lineup and see Orlando Sánchez is catching. I asked [manager] Jack McKeon who was catching and where he played?” McKeon’s answer was: “He [Sánchez] just turned 20 and played in A ball this year.” Hartzell noted: “Considering I was 22 years old and had played A ball one year before that, I didn’t think much of it. I assumed he was pretty good or Jack wouldn’t have put him in the lineup.”

Juan “Terín” Pizarro, in his last PRWL active season, was Santurce’s de facto pitching coach. Pizarro led the 1974 Mexican (AAA) League with a 1.57 ERA for the Cordoba Cafeteros. He explained, to Sánchez, that Hartzell had two pitches. Hartzell defeated Caguas, 4-1, and recalled: “What I remember the most was if he [Sánchez] was nervous, he didn’t act it and understood that I made my living throwing low in the strike zone, and he kept a low target the entire game.

I don’t think I changed more than two or three of his pitch calls the entire game. I remember shaking Orlando’s hand after the game and he had a pretty big smile on his face.”

Fernando Díaz Pedroso after his three-run homer off Joe Page.

Fernando Díaz Pedroso had a big smile on his face, too, after his three-run homer off Joe Page, February 24, 1947, helped the Ponce Lions defeat the New York Yankees, 12-8. The $70 collected by fans, on the spot, and given to Pedroso in “real time,” made “Pedroso’s day.”

With gratitude to Paul Hartzell, Tony Piña Campora and Freddie Thon Jr. Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian, Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League, did the editing and inserted photos.

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