Category Archives: Cristobal Torriente

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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Hall of Fame Negro League Outfielder Cristobal Torriente

torriente

Cristobal Torriente, like most of the 2006 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees from Negro League baseball, had not been well-known to many baseball fans. That includes a long time one such as yours truly.  His feats on the diamond had not been celebrated as contributions to Negro League lore similar to those of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell and the other Negro League legends that had previously been enshrined in Cooperstown.  But Torreinte deserved Hall of Fame recognition and he received it in 2006.

Born in Cienfuegos, Cuba on November 16, 1893, Torriente saw a few of his white countrymen play Major League baseball. However, he could not due to the dark hue of his skin.  Just like African-American professional baseball players for nearly half of the 20th Century, he could not cross Major League baseball’s “invisible color line”.  Instead, Torriente showcased his baseball talents in the Negro Leagues.

In a poll of former Negro League players and sportswriters conducted in the early 1950s, Cristobal Torriente was named one of the best outfielders to play in the Negro Leagues. Known as the “Cuban Strongman, the left-handed slugger stood 5’11”, 185 pounds, with broad shoulders, and a rifle for a throwing arm.

The following is an excerpt from my book, Last Train to Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era, which profiles the Hall of Fame outfielder:

“Pitchers had a hard time getting him out due to his quick,

powerful swing. They could not throw strikes pass him. Getting him

to swing at pitches out of the strike zone also did not work because

the Cuban was a notorious bad ball hitter. Facing him was an

experience pitchers dreaded.

 

Many stories have been told as a testimony of the Cuban’s

power when batting. One is about a line drive he hit off the right

field wall in Indianapolis against the ABCs. Supposedly the ball was

hit so hard, it got to the wall so fast, the right fielder was able to

throw the speedy Torriente out at first base. Another story is about

a ball he supposedly hit in Kansas City against the Monarchs. It

smashed a clock 17 feet above the centerfield fence. According to

Torriente’s American Giant teammate shortstop Bob Williams,

“The hand of the clock started going round and round.” It is doubtful

all the stories of balls hit by Torriente are true. But there is no

doubt he was one of the best hitters seen by Negro League fans.

 

Little is known about the early life of Cristobal Torriente in

Cuba. From most information, he was born in 1893 in Cienfuegos.

His family worked in the fields and boiler houses of the area’s sugar

Cooperstown

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mills. By 17 he was in the Cuban Army displaying his physical

strength by loading heavy guns onto mules; while also blasting

baseballs around local sandlots.

 

After being a young phenomenon in the 1913 Cuban Winter

League, the 19 year old Torriente joined the Cuban Stars and played

his first season in the United States. The Stars were a traveling team

that played mainly against independent black professional baseball

teams. No official African American league existed at the time, but

the Stars competed against such black teams as the New York

Lincoln Giants, New York Lincoln Stars, Chicago American Giants,

and others. The change in surroundings did not hinder Torriente.

He quickly began to establish himself as the team’s hitting star

going up against the likes of “Smokey Joe” Williams, “Cannonball”

Dick Redding, ”Big Bill” Gatewood, and other Negro League

pitchers. By many accounts, Torriente hit .383 that first year. And if

the Stars’ opponents believed that was just rookie luck, the strong

Cuban put that to rest the next season by again hitting over .300. In

his years with the Cuban Stars, he reportedly never hit less than

.300.”

torriente_plaque_800

For more of Cristobal Torriente’s Negro League baseball story, read Last Train to Cooperstown:The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era”.  For more information, go to http://booklaunch.io/kevinlmitchell/last-train-to-cooperstown.

 

 

 

“The Cuban Strongman”

Torriente picrtureIn a poll of former Negro League players and sportswriters conducted in the early 1950s, Cristobal Torriente was named one of the best outfielders to play in the Negro Leagues.  Known as the “Cuban Strongman, Torriente was born on November 16, 1893 in Cienfuegos, Cuba.  The left handed slugger stood 5’11”, 185 pounds, with broad shoulders, and a rifle for a throwing arm.

The following is an excerpt from my book, Last Train to Cooperstown:  The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era, which profiles the Hall of Fame outfielder:

“Pitchers had a hard time getting him out due to his quick,

powerful swing. They could not throw strikes pass him. Getting him

to swing at pitches out of the strike zone also did not work because

the Cuban was a notorious bad ball hitter. Facing him was an

experience pitchers dreaded.

Many stories have been told as a testimony of the Cuban’s

power when batting. One is about a line drive he hit off the right

field wall in Indianapolis against the ABCs. Supposedly the ball was

hit so hard, it got to the wall so fast, the right fielder was able to

throw the speedy Torriente out at first base. Another story is about

a ball he supposedly hit in Kansas City against the Monarchs. It

smashed a clock 17 feet above the centerfield fence. According to

Torriente’s American Giant teammate shortstop Bob Williams,

“The hand of the clock started going round and round.” It is doubtful

all the stories of balls hit by Torriente are true. But there is no

doubt he was one of the best hitters seen by Negro League fans.”

For more of Cristobal Torriente’s Negro League baseball story, read Last Train to Cooperstown:The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era”.  For more information, go to www.klmitchell.com  or http://booklaunch.io/kevinlmitchell/last-train-to-cooperstown.

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