Joshua Gibson and Quincy Trouppe in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico: Part II

Part I concluded with Quincy Trouppe as catcher/manager for the 1947-48 Caguas Criollos, Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) champs. Part II highlights exploits by Gibson and Trouppe in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Coincidentally, Gibson was born in Buena Vista, Georgia, December 21, 1911; Trouppe’s birthplace was Dublin, Georgia, one year later—December 25, 1912. Dublin is 109 miles northeast of Buena Vista. And Buena Vista is 138 driving miles south of Atlanta whereas Dublin is 139 driving miles southeast of Atlanta. Trouppe relocated to the St. Louis, Missouri area between 1921 and 1922, per his SABR bio.  https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/quincy-trouppe/ Conversely, Gibson moved to Pittsburgh circa mid-1920s, after completing the fifth grade in Georgia. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/josh-gibson/ Trouppe graduated from high school at an all-Black school in St. Louis.  Gibson dropped out of school at 15 to work at an airbrake manufacturing plant.

Gibson with 1934 Concordia Eagles

Miguel Dupouy Gómez has written extensively on the Concordia Eagles, based in Venezuela. Their players, in the 1930s, included Luis Guillermo Aparicio Ortega “El Grande”—father of stellar American League shortstop Luis Aparicio—Negro Leaguers’ Rap Dixon and Tetelo Vargas, and three future Cooperstown Hall of Famers: Martín Dihigo, Joshua Gibson and Johnny Mize. https://www.geni.com/people/Luis-Aparicio-Ortega/6000000000274250769 Concordia was the first Venezuelan ballclub to travel abroad. In 1934, they won six of nine contests versus the Escogido Lions and Licey Tigers, in the Dominican Republic. Concordia received the “Trujillo Cup” for this accomplishment. That same year (1934) Aparicio “El Grande” paced Concordia to a 12-0 record against Venezuelan competition, with a tournament-leading .396 BA. On July 19, 2020, Miguel Dupouy Gómez published an excellent blog titled: Joshua Gibson: El Babe Ruth de las Ligas Negras (Josh Gibson: The Babe Ruth of the Negro Leagues).

Gonzalo Gómez, owner, Concordia Eagles, and Joshua Gibson, 1934 Eagles. Photo credit: Dupouy Gómez brothers’ archives.

Dupouy Gómez indicated that Concordia, on March 11, 1934, was defeated by the Almendares team, 19-17, at San Juan’s Escambrón Stadium, despite Joshua Gibson’s 6-for-6 day at the plate, with a pair of homers, two doubles, a single and a triple, for the cycle! Per Dupouy Gómez, Gibson had a series-leading .643 BA, with two homers, two doubles, one triple and a stolen base. Historian Jorge Colón Delgado, via a March 27, 2022, phone conversation with the author, noted that Concordia lost three straight games in that Puerto Rico Series against Almendares, before salvaging a win and a tie against the Puerto Rico Stars, a local team. That 1934 competition was “much stiffer” in San Juan, than in the Dominican Republic.

1937 Dominican Republic League

A three-team tournament took place from March 28 – July 11, 1937, between Los Dragones (Dragons) de Ciudad Trujillo, Águilas Cibaeñas (AC) and Estrellas Orientales (EO). The EO played their home games in San Pedro de Macoris, while AC were based in Santiago. Ciudad Trujillo is present-day Santo Domingo. According to author William F. McNeil, Joshua Gibson was playing winter baseball in Puerto Rico, when Satchel Paige—who made $600/month with the Pittsburgh Crawfords– contacted him (Gibson) in San Juan. Paige was the Dragones highest-paid player with a $6,000 salary, per this March 25, 2018 blog by Mike Viago https://www.avclub.com/in-1937-a-dictator-assembled-a-baseball-team-for-the-a-1823978045.)  

Paige needed Gibson’s bat in the line-up, and made the catcher a substantial cash offer—which was eventually accepted. Published reports by Viago and others indicated that Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, the country’s President, sent his designee, Dr. José Enrique Aybar, to Pittsburgh, with $30,000 in cash. Paige may have kept 20 percent of the $30,000, and used the remaining funds to secure players from Cuba and the U.S., including:

  • Sammy Bankhead
  • James “Cool Papa” Bell
  • Rodolfo Fernández
  • Silvio Garcia
  • Leroy Matlock
  • Bill Perkins
  • Lázaro Salazar

Gibson missed the first several months of play and went hitless in his first 12 AB, before finishing with 24 hits in 53 AB, a .453 BA, with four doubles, five triples, two homers and 21 RBIs. His .453 BA and .830 SLG were tops among the three-team league. The 18-13 Dragones qualified for a best-of-seven finals against second-place AC (15-17), who finished a half-game ahead of 14-17 EO. Martín Dihigo (AC) hit four homers to tie Santos Amaro for the league lead. Dihigo was 6-4 as a pitcher. He went 34-for-97 at the plate (.351 BA) and posted a .577 SLG. Paige (8-2) was the winningest pitcher. He won the seventh game of the finals, 6-5, thanks to a two-run homer by Sammy Bankhead, who had a .309 BA. Gibson’s five triples tied him with teammate Lázaro Salazar for the league lead. “Cool Papa” Bell posted a .318 BA. Leroy Matlock (4-1) had the same W-L PCT as teammate Satchel Paige (.800).

Team rosters were fluid as evidenced by this May 1, 1937, graphic. Perucho Cepeda, for example, was listed on this Ciudad Trujillo roster, but departed shortly thereafter. George Scales, the EO second baseman, was with that ballclub the entire season. Ditto for OF Tetelo Vargas.

1937 Dominican Republic Team Rosters, May 1, 1937 (pre-Joshua Gibson). Photo credit: https://www.hakes.com/Auction/ItemDetail/90405/DOMINICAN-REPUBLIC-BASEBALL-LEAGUE-1937-BROADSIDE-SCORE-CARDS-FEATURING-LEGENDARY-PLAYERS

Without question, Gibson was the most dominant hitter in this three-team league, despite playing the most difficult position—catcher. His dominance continued with the 1937 Homestead Grays, after he was sold/traded to that team in the States. In 39 games for the Grays, he went 65-for-156, with 13 doubles, 7 triples, 20 homers and 73 RBIs. His slash line was: .417/.500/.974 with a 1.474 OPS! https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/player.php?playerID=gibso01jos

Joshua Gibson, 1937 Ciudad Trujillo Dragones. Photo credit: hakes.com/Auction/item.

1937-39 Cuban Winter League Seasons for Gibson

Gibson played a partial 1937-38 season with the Havana Reds, who withdrew from Cuba’s Winter League with a 8-38 record, and forfeited their next 20 games. Gibson went 21-for-61, a .344 BA, with three doubles, two triples, three homers, 13 RBIs and .607 SLG. Santa Clara’s Raymond Brown slugged four HR in 86 AB to tie for the league lead with Almendares’ Willie Wells and Roberto Estalella. Santa Clara’s Sammy Bankhead (.366 BA) led the league, for the 44-18 pennant winners. In 1938-39, Gibson joined the Santa Clara Leopards, league champs (34-20), behind the hurling of Manuel “Cocaína” García (11-4) and Raymond Brown (11-7), plus Gibson, with a league-leading 50 runs and 11 homers in 163 AB. Those 11 homers set an All-Time league record. Gibson’s stats are in Table I.

Table I: Joshua Gibson, Cuban Winter League

SeasonTeamABRH2B3BHRRBIBASLGAB/HR
1937-38Havana61112132313.344.60720.33
1938-39Santa Clara1635058731139.356.63814.82
Total (2) 22461791051452.353.62916

Source: Jorge S. Figueredo, Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1978-1961, McFarland, 2003.

Quincy Trouppe in Cuba

Trouppe turned 32 in Cuba, with the 1944-45 Marianao Tigers, who were last, 15-33, behind Almendares Blues (32-16), Havana (25-23) and Cienfuegos (24-24). Trouppe’s .317 BA (20-for-63) was second on the team to league batting champ Claro Duany (.340). He caught veterans’ Henry McHenry, Daniel “La Coyota” Ríos, Julián Acosta, Alejandro “Patón” Carrasquel and lefty Luis Tiant Sr. Trouppe’s managers were Lázaro Salazar and Armando Marsans.

In 1947, Trouppe managed 62-34-1 Cleveland Buckeyes (Negro American League) to a pennant. They faced the New York Cubans (Negro National League), in the Negro League World Series, won by New York, 4-1-1. https://www.retrosheet.org/NegroLeagues/1947PS.html Games were played at the Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, Cleveland Stadium, Shibe Park, Comiskey Park and League Park (Cleveland). Claro Duany and Luis Tiant Sr., Trouppe’s 1944-45 Marianao teammates, played for the Cubans. So did Oreste “Minnie” Miñoso, Fernando Díaz Pedroso, etc.

February 20-25, 1949 Caribbean Series

Trouppe played in the first Caribbean Series event, hosted by Havana, February 20-25, 1949. He traveled to Havana as a reinforcement with the 1948-49 Mayagüez Indians, a common practice in this competition. Mayagüez won one of six contests, to finish last behind host Almendares (6-0), Cervecería Caracas (3-3) and Panamá’s Spur Cola (2-4). Trouppe cracked four hits in nine AB, a .444 BA, with three RBIs. Mayagüez had four catchers: Humberto Martí, Chaguín Muratti, Trouppe and Luis “King Kong” Villodas. In hindsight, they should have added more starting pitching, and Santurce OF Willard Brown and Bob Thurman, instead of 2B Lorenzo “Piper” Davis. Trouppe’s thumb injury affected his catching. And Mayagüez committed 16 errors for a .933 fielding PCT. Almendares only had two errors and .992 fielding PCT. Almendares outscored Mayaguez, 50-36. The Indians’ had a series-best .307 BA compared to the Blues’ second-best .297. Monte Irvin (.389 BA, two homers, 11 RBIs) was Almendares’ star. Al Gionfriddo (.533 BA) led all series hitters. Future actor Chuck “Rifleman” Connors (.409 BA, five RBIs) played well at 1B. Ditto for 3B Héctor Rodríguez (.458 BA, one HR, eight RBIs). Agapito Mayor (3-0 W-L) sparkled on the mound for Almendares, managed by Fermín Guerra.

1949-50 Cuban Winter League Season

Trouppe traveled to Cuba for the 1949-50 season, October 12, 1949 – February 18, 1950. The 72-game schedule featured approximately four games per week, on average, at Havana’s Gran Stadium, capacity 35,000 spectators. (It was inaugurated October 26, 1947.) The 1949-50 campaign was a horse race with Almendares (38-34) edging Cienfuegos (36-36) by two games; Marianao (35-37) and Havana (35-37) by three. Trouppe had a .256 BA, with three homers and 13 RBIs. Teammate Ray Dandridge, at 3B, was selected to the League All-Star Team, as was pitcher Jim Prendergast (8-5, 3.61 ERA). Veteran Negro Leaguers Dave “Impo” Barnhill and Fernando Díaz Pedroso saw action for Marianao. Sandalio Consuegra (13-12) was Marianao’s mound workhorse. Fans followed the home run chase between Almendares’ Roberto Ortiz and

Havana’s Don Lenhardt. Each slugged 15 homers to break the standard of 11 set by Joshua Gibson, 1938-39, and tied by Roberto Ortiz, 1946-47.

Quincy Trouppe, 1949-50 Marianao Tigers, Cuban Winter League. Photo credit: https://cubanbeisbol.com/post/2476601929/quincy-trouppe

1950-51 Cuban Winter League Season

Havana (41-32) won a one-game playoff against arch-rival Almendares (40-33) to represent Cuba in the February 1951 Caribbean Series, hosted by Caracas, Venezuela. Trouppe’s Marianao team finished third at 36-36, followed by last-place Cienfuegos (28-44). Hoyt Wilhelm (8-6) pitched well for Havana. Their top sluggers included Steve Bilko (1B), Bert Haas (3B) and OF Pedro Formental. Future big-league manager Dick Williams performed well for Almendares, in the OF and got some clutch hits. Trouppe split time with Mario Díaz behind the plate. Ex-Negro Leaguer Bill Greason (2-2, 3.38 ERA) and Dodgers prospect Tom Lasorda (4-2, 5.05 ERA) were

two pitchers who Trouppe caught. (Lasorda also pitched for Almendares; and Willie Mays practiced with Almendares, prior to his 1951 rookie season with the New York Giants, but did not play in a league contest.) Table II features the Cuban Winter League hitting stats of Trouppe.

Table II: Quincy Trouppe, Cuban Winter League

SeasonTeamABRH2B3BHRRBIBASLGAB/RBI
1944-45Marianao63112023114.317.4924.5
1949-50Marianao129183362313.256.4039.92
1950-51Marianao115172551110.217.30411.5
Total (3) 3074678136537.254.3848.3

Source: Jorge S. Figueredo, Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1978-1961, McFarland, 2003.

Post-Script

Trouppe managed the 1956-57 Ponce Lions, in Puerto Rico to a 28-44 record, fifth place. The Lions had budget problems. Steve Bilko, who played against Trouppe in Cuba (1950-51), was released for financial reasons, but Trouppe did his best. Carlos Manuel Santiago, Ponce’s second baseman, noted that Trouppe “was a kind gentleman—a sympathetic person, not mean-spirited.” Jim Brosnan (3-9, 3.77 ERA in 14 starts) later became a well-known author. He recalled: “I had personal problems that winter, from my marriage to my health. My skipper (Trouppe) was a fine fellow, but overall, it was not a pleasant season.” Barney Schultz, who earned a 1964 World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals—the same franchise that Trouppe scouted for—led 1956-57 Ponce in innings pitched (105.2), with 14 relief appearances and 10 starts. He was 3-10, with a 4.25 ERA. “It was a good experience,” stated Schultz. “I also pitched winters in Venezuela’s Occidental League. Winter ball helped me, and I appreciated Quincy Trouppe.”

Fast forward to the last two months of the 1964 major league season. Gene Mauch, Philadelphia Phillies manager, mentioned this regarding Barney Schultz:  “Eleven saves in two months. That’s more than Schultz had in his whole big-league career,” fumed Mauch, in September 1964. “He never saw the day he could get us out before,” continued the frustrated Philadelphia manager. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/barney-schultz/ The author still recalls Mickey Mantle’s walk-off homer off a Schultz knuckleball, in Game Three, October 10, 1964, World Series. https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA196410100.shtml

Special thanks to Miguel Dupouy Gómez for detailed and valuable blogs on Venezuela’s baseball history, including highlights of the Concordia Eagles. Thanks to Quincy Trouppe, for memories, from Puerto Rico and Cuba. Jim Brosnan, Carlos Manuel Santiago and Barney Schultz provided input on Trouppe as a manager. To Bill Johnson, for writing Josh Gibson’s SABR bio; Jay Hurd, for penning Quincy Trouppe’s SABR bio; and, John Stahl, for Barney Schultz’s SABR bio. Jorge Colón Delgado’s on-going research on Joshua Gibson’s performances in Puerto Rico, 1930s, is timely. Jorge, Official Historian, Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League, did the editing and photo placements.

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