A Late Birthday Shout for Cristobal Torriente

One of the many topics of discussion by sportscasters during the recently completed 2017 World Series involved Los Angeles Dodgers’ right fielder Yasiel Puig.  The club is still hoping he will continue to mature and more consistently display his tremendous baseball playing talent.  Puig, a native of Cuba, is one of the most recent in a pipeline of outfielders from that Caribbean nation to successfully play professional baseball in the United States.  Yoenis Cespedes, currently with the New York Mets is also from Cuba.  Former players from the pipeline include Oakland A’s All-Star Jose Canseco, two-time American League batting champion (1964, 1965) Tony Oliva, the defensive star of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 1955 World Series Game Seven win over the New York Yankees; Sandy Amoros, and two-time Negro League, seven-time Major League All-Star Orestes “Minnie” Minoso.

I forgot to give a birthday mention last week  for one of the first in the stream of outfielders through the pipeline; Cristobal Torriente, born November 16, 1893 in Cienfuegos, Cuba (same as Puig).  He played with a number of teams in Negro League baseball from 1913 to 1932; including the Chicago American Giants (1918 – 1925), Kansas City Monarchs (1926), and Detroit Stars (1927 – 1928).  In an early 1950’s poll of former Negro League baseball players and sports writers, Cristobal Torriente received high consideration as one of the best outfielders in Negro League history.

Torriente picrture

In 2006, Cristobal Torriente and fifteen other individuals from the Negro League baseball era were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  I profile the 2006 inductees in my book “Last Train to Cooperstown:  The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era”.  The following is an excerpt from my profile of Cristobal Torriente:

“At the end of World War I, Chicago was becoming an urban

mecca for African Americans. The lure of the possibility for

economic stability and a better life had fueled the migration of

southern blacks to the city. Rube Foster used the growing aura

Chicago had for African Americans to attract ballplayers to his

Chicago American Giants.  He felt the city gave him an advantage

When  talking to a player about joining his team.  Other owners

accused Foster of using what Chicago was becoming for African

Americans to steal their ballplayers.   Foster’s approach proved

successful with Torriente, who went to play for the American

Giants in 1918.  He had excellent seasons with the Cuban Stars,

however it would be with Foster’s team that Torriente would reach

his peak as a baseball player.

 

Having the most area to cover, centerfield is the most

challenging outfield position. Most managers choose their fastest

outfielder to play it. This was Rube Foster’s thinking in regards to

Cristobal Torriente. Although the Cuban mostly played right field in

his years with the Cuban Stars, his speed and strong arm were a

perfect fit for centerfield in Foster’s mind. With Torriente as the

anchor in centerfield, the American Giants went on to have a

consistently good outfield for many years. Good ballplayers such as

Hall of Famer Oscar Charleston, Jimmy Lyons, Floyd “Jelly” Gardner,

and David Malarcher all shared the American Giants’ outfield at one

time or another with Torriente.

 

When Rube Foster’s vision became a reality in 1920 and the

Negro National League (NNL) was formed, his Chicago American

Giants became its premier team from the start. They won the league

championship the first three years (1920 – 1922).  The lack of

documented league statistics prevents a true picture from being

given of Torriente’s performance on the field during the American

Giants’ years of dominance.  Research indicates he finished those

seasons hitting from .342 to as high as .411.  Clearly, they were his

best seasons in the Negro Leagues.”

 

torriente_plaque_800

To read the entire profile of Torriente and the other 2006 inductees Last Train to Cooperstown

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