Fernando Díaz Pedroso: New York Cubans and Caribbean Series Heroics (Part II)

Fernando Díaz Pedroso

Part I highlighted Pedroso’s February 24, 1947 home run for the Ponce Lions, versus Joe Page of the New York Yankees, in a San Juan, Puerto Rico spring training game. Part II’s emphasis is Pedroso’s 1947 season for the New York Cubans, who bested the Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro League World Series, along with his two Caribbean Series (1951 and 1952), with the Havana Lions, aka Reds, representing the Cuban Winter 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.

1947 New York Cubans (Negro National League II)

Pedroso mostly played CF for the 1945 New York Cubans, and RF, in 1946. He transitioned to second base and LF, for the 1947 Cubans, champions (46-21-1), Negro National League II. https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/team.php?yearID=1947&teamID=NYC https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/player.php?playerID=diaz-01fer The 1947 Cubans became Negro League World Champions. Table I includes some hitting stats for 12 key players—eight regulars, three back-ups and their best pinch-hitter. It does not include seven pitchers, and one position player who appeared in one league game.

Table I: Basic and Advanced Batting, Twelve 1947 New York Cubans

Lou LoudenC27.269.331.333.314
Lorenzo Cabrera1B27.295.361.452.379
Fernando Díaz Pedroso2B23.291.362.351.347
Minnie Miñoso3B21.356.406.508.426
Silvio GarcíaSS33.335.400.430.394
Cleveland ClarkLF27.265.335.358.323
Pedro PagésCF33.243.333.351.317
Claro DuanyRF29.321.409.418.398
Ray NobleC28.278.316.352.307
Rabbit Martínez2B34.217.309.300.294
Mario AcostaOF21.250.250.500.329
Pat ScantleburyP-PH29.293.326.439.345
Team Totals/Average

#wOBA is Weighted On Base Average. It assigns higher values to extra-base hits, than to singles, for example. A wOBA of .400+ is excellent; .350 is good; .300 and below is weak.

1947 Negro League World Series: Cleveland Buckeyes versus New York Cubans

The September 19-27, 1947 series began at New York’s Polo Grounds and ended at League Park, Cleveland, Ohio. https://www.retrosheet.org/NegroLeagues/1947PS.html  A sixth-inning downpour at the Polo Grounds resulted in a 5-5 tie game. Cleveland won at Yankee Stadium, September 21, 10-7, scoring three in the ninth. Their 17-hit attack was led by Panamanian Leon Kellman (4-for-5). https://www.retrosheet.org/NegroLeagues/boxesetc/NgLg/B09210NY61947.htm Sam Jethroe, Al Smith and Quincy Trouppe were three top-notch Buckeyes players. Pitcher Sam “Toothpick” Jones later had success for National League and Winter League clubs, i.e., 1951-52 San Juan Senators, 1954-55 Santurce Crabbers, 1955 Chicago Cubs and 1959 San Francisco Giants.

The New York Cubans’ 1947 World Series line-up featured leadoff hitter Oreste “Minnie” Miñoso (3B) followed by Pedroso (LF or 2B). (Miñoso would be inducted in Cooperstown, Class of 2022.) Three talented lefties—Luis Tiant Jr., Pat Scantlebury and Lino Donoso—pitched for the 1947 Cubans, who won four in a row:

  • September 23,  Cleveland Stadium; Cubans, 6-0 win; Barney Morris SHO; Sam Jones, lost in relief.
  • September 24, Shibe Park, Philadelphia, 9-4 win; Pedroso got two hits; Dave “Impo” Barnhill hurled a CG. Barnhill pitched for Humacao Oriental Grays-Arecibo, Puerto Rico Winter League, one featuring Joshua Gibson (Santurce), Satchel Paige (Guayama), Leon Day (Aguadilla), Raymond Brown (San Juan, Santurce, Ponce), Billy Byrd (Santurce and Caguas), Roy Partlow (San Juan), Luis R. Cabrera among many other Negro Leaguers.
  • September 26, Comiskey Park, Chicago; Donoso won, 9-2.
  • September 27, League Park, Cleveland; Scantlebury’s seven strong relief innings helped a 6-5 victory, after Cleveland took a 5-0 lead into the sixth. Scantlebury went 3-for-5.

East-West All-Star Games (1946, 1949 and 1950)

Pedroso, hitting second and playing CF, went 3-for-4 for the East (1949 contest), in a 4-0 win against the West. He also walked and recorded a SB. The next year, he cracked an RBI double off Bill Powell, his only hit in that [1950] contest. Pedroso was 4-for-10 in these All-Star Games, including one AB in Game One, 1946, pinch-hitting for Bill Byrd.

Cuban Winter League

Pedroso’s 10 winter seasons in Cuba featured less playing time, compared to Puerto Rico, Negro National League II and Mexico. Here is a summary of regular seasons in Cuba:

  • 3-44 Cienfuegos Elephants (25-23); 6-for-26, three runs and two SB. Had limited AB, playing behind Alejandro Crespo, Pedro Pagés and Pedro Formental. Did benefit, playing for manager Adolfo Luque, a future skipper of his, in Mexico.
  •  1944-45 Marianao Tigers (15-33). Had 10 hits in 41 AB, two SB. Lázaro Salazar and Armando Marsans were his managers.
  • 1945-46 Marianao (23-37). Pedroso went 14-for-50, with six RBIs, as a utility IF, backing up 2B Barney Serrell, 3B Minnie Miñoso, and SS Ray Dandridge. Pedroso traveled to Puerto Rico, where he won the league batting title, over Monte Irvin.
  • 1949-50 Marianao (35-37). Pedroso was 7-for-24.

breaker, to “punch their ticket” to the February 1951 Caribbean Series, in Venezuela.

With 1950-51 Havana, Pedroso was limited to 24 AB, with five hits and three SB. Alejandro Crespo, Pedro Formental and Eddie Mierkowicz got the most OF playing time. Hoyt Wilhelm and Steve Bilko were two other Pedroso teammates. Miguel A. “Mike” González managed Havana, to the 1951 Caribbean Series, where Pedroso sparkled with more playing time. He got his most regular season playing time, in Cuba, 1951-52, with Havana (39-for-147), but fewer at-bats with Marianao, 1952-53 (68), Almendares, 1953-54 (36), Havana, 1954-55 (34) and Almendares, 1956-57 (seven AB).

February 22-26, 1951 Series, Caracas, Venezuela

Pedroso was reunited with George Scales, his 1945-49 Ponce Lions skipper, who managed the 1950-51 Santurce Crabbers, in their first  [1951] Caribbean Series. Santurce (5-1 W-L) edged Havana (4-2 W-L), in Caracas, followed by host Magallanes (2-4 W-L) and Panamá’s Spur Cola (1-5 W-L). José “Pantalones” Santiago reinforced Santurce in this series, the same Pantalones who saved Ponce’s 12-8 win over the 1947 New York Yankees, in the February 24, 1947 spring training game, when Pedroso hit a three-run HR off Joe Page. “Fernando was a no-nonsense, talented ballplayer,” recalled Santiago. “He was a special talent who could run, hit, and hit with power…who hustled, a winner.” Pantalones bested Hoyt Wilhelm, in the series opener, to give Santurce a nice start. Pedroso went 4-for-13, with three RBIs, and tied Spur Cola’s Jesse Douglas with three SB.

February 21-26, 1952 Caribbean Series, Panamá City, Panamá

Havana (5-0-1) traveled to Panamá, and captured the Caribbean Series title over host Carta Vieja Yankees (3-3), Cervecería Caracas (3-3), and San Juan Senators (0-5-1). Pedroso’s 6-for-15 performance (.400) was second-best to teammate Sandy Amorós’ .450 batting average. San Juan tied Havana, in the opener, 3-3, but it was suspended, and not completed, after nine frames. The next night, Havana’s Tommy Fine pitched the only no-hitter in Caribbean Series, a 1-0 gem versus Cervecería Caracas, striking out four and walking three. Five days later, he had a no-hitter through eight innings against Carta Vieja, before tiring in the ninth and allowing three runs.

Freddie Thon Sr., San Juan’s manager, mailed a postcard to his children, among them, Freddie, Jr. “San Juan was well reinforced, but the American players who won the [1951-52] title for him (George Crowe, Charlie Gorin, Sam Jones, Ben Wade and Dave Pope) were not able to go [to Panamá], and left for the U.S.,” per Thon Jr. “We heard the games via radio and Roberto Vargas pitched a game against Cuba…”  That (February 23, 1952) game was a heart-breaking loss for Vargas, who took a 2-1 lead into the home ninth, when Havana scored two, to win it, 3-2. Ellis “Cot” Deal also pitched well against Havana, in the series opener.

Table II: Pedroso’s Available Professional Career Hitting Stats

Cuban Winter League4575811115223815.243.298
Negro National League II#4555811717714814.257.332
All-Star Games+100410011.400.500
PRWL Finals&306111004NA.367.400
Caribbean Series2841010053.357.379
Mexican League2,252385742106314838936.329.468

#Includes five games in 1947 World Series between New York Cubans and Cleveland Buckeyes. Pedroso achieved MLB status on December 16, 2020, per a ruling by Commissioner Rob Manfred. +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://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/player.php?playerID=diaz-01fer ;;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.  

With gratitude to Larry Lester, for Pedroso’s New York Cubans (East) All-Star Game stats, and locating seamheads links for Pedroso and the New York Cubans. To José “Pantalones” Santiago, who recalled Pedroso as a talented and skillful ballplayer. Freddie Thon Jr. shared recollections of the 1952 Caribbean Series, and the challenges posed by departing star players. Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian, Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League, did the editing and inserted photos.

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