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Martín Dihigo

Martín Dihigo
Pitcher / Second baseman / Manager
Born: (1906-05-25)May 25, 1906[1]
Matanzas, Cuba
Died: May 20, 1971(1971-05-20) (aged 64)
Cienfuegos, Cuba
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
Negro leagues debut
1923, Cuban Stars (East)
Last Negro leagues appearance
1945, New York Cubans
Negro leagues statistics
Win–loss record27–19
Earned run average3.34
Strikeouts246
Batting average.307
Home runs68
Runs batted in309
Managerial record58–51–6
Teams
Career highlights and awards
Negro leagues
Cuban League
Mexican League
  • .676 career winning percentage (> 1,000 innings)
Hall of Fame inductions
Member of the National
Baseball Hall of Fame
Induction1977
Election methodNegro Leagues Committee

Martín Magdaleno Dihigo Llanos (May 25, 1906[1] – May 20, 1971), called The Immortal and The Maestro, was a Cuban professional baseball player. He played in the Negro leagues and Latin American leagues from 1923 to 1936 as a two-way player, both as a pitcher and a second baseman, although he excelled at all nine positions and later as a manager.

Early career

Dihigo (front row, center) on club Almendares.

Dihigo was born in the sugarmill town of Cidra in Matanzas Province, Cuba. He began his professional baseball career in the winter of 1922-23 at the age of 16 as a substitute infielder for Habana in the Cuban League. The following summer, Dihigo broke into American baseball as a first baseman for the Cuban Stars. He played in the Negro leagues from 1923 through 1936 and again briefly in 1945. Over the course of his career, he played all nine positions. As a hitter, he led the Negro leagues in home runs in 1926 and 1935. As a pitcher, he once defeated Satchel Paige while Paige was touring Cuba.[citation needed] In 1943, at the age of 38, Martin Dihigo managed his own baseball team. This team was located in the Dominican Republic and featured New York Giants player Johnny Mize. While coaching the team he also was a player. They had a 6-3 record but then lost three games in a row to end the exhibition tour.

Negro leagues

Dihigo's career record in twelve seasons in the Negro leagues was a .307 average and .511 slugging percentage, with 431 hits, 64 home runs, 61 doubles, 17 triples, 227 RBI, and 292 runs scored in 1404 at bats. He drew 143 walks and stole 41 bases. As a pitcher, he went 26–19 with a 2.92 ERA, with 176 strikeouts and 80 walks in 354 innings.[2] Dihigo served as player-manager of the New York Cubans in 1935 and 1936.[3]

Mexican and Cuban leagues

Although a two-time All-Star in the American Negro leagues, Dihigo's greatest season came in 1938 with Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz in the Mexican League, where he went 18-2 with a 0.90 ERA as a pitcher, while winning the batting title with a .387 average. In another season in the Mexican League, he had a 0.15 ERA. In his Mexican career, he was 119-57 with a .317 batting average. In the Cuban League, he was 107-56 as a pitcher with a .298 average at the plate. Dihigo continued his playing career in Mexico into the early 1950s. In Cuba, Dihigo was known as "El Inmortal" ("The Immortal"); in other Latin American countries, he was called "El Maestro" ("The Master").

Career stats

In Dihigo's career, including statistics from Dominican, American, Cuban, and Mexican leagues, he compiled a lifetime .302 career batting average with 130 home runs, although eleven seasons of home run totals are missing. As a pitcher, he compiled a 252-132 win–loss record.

Post career

After retiring, Dihigo became a radio announcer for the Cuban Winter League. He fled Cuba in 1952 to protest the rise of Fulgencio Batista. He managed the Leones del Caracas in the 1953 Caribbean Series. Upon Fidel Castro's rise to power, Dihigo returned to Cuba where he continued to mentor other players until his death. [4]

Death and Hall of Fame inductions

Dihigo's plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame

Dihigo died five days before his 65th birthday, on May 20, 1971, in Cienfuegos, Cuba. He is buried in Cementerio Municipal Cruces in Cruces, Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Known as humorous, good-natured, well read, as well as a versatile player, Dihigo is the only player to be inducted into five baseball halls of fame: the American, Cuban, Mexican, Dominican, and Venezuelan Baseball Halls of Fame.

Dihigo's stature as a ballplayer is reflected in this conversation between former Dodgers general manager Al Campanis and broadcaster Jaime Jarrín:

Al said, 'Jaime, the best player that I have ever seen in my life is Martin Dihigo, but he never came to the Major Leagues,'" Jarrin said. "'After Dihigo, I would put Roberto Clemente above Willie Mays. Those are the two best players I have ever seen in my entire life.'[5]

Others had heaped praise on him earlier, as well. Hall of Famer Walter Fenner “Buck” Leonard said, “He was the greatest all-around player I know. I’d say he was the best ballplayer of all time, black or white. He could do it all. He is my ideal ballplayer, makes no difference what race either. If he’s not the greatest I don’t know who is. You take your Ruths, Cobbs, and DiMaggios. Give me Dihigo and I bet I’d beat you almost every time.”

Hall of Famer Johnny Mize said, “He was the only guy I ever saw who could play all nine positions, manage, run and switch-hit.”[6]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Sources disagree on Dihigo's birthdate. Hogan, p. 386, shows his birthdate as May 25, 1906, while Riley, p. 233, and baseball-reference.com show May 25, 1905.
  2. ^ Hogan, pp. 386–87, 404–05.
  3. ^ "Martin Dihigo Manager Page". seamheads.com. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
  4. ^ Bjarkman, Peter (2007). A History of Cuban Baseball, 1864–2006. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 34. ISBN 978-0786428298.
  5. ^ Jesse Sánchez. "Clemente headlines All-Time Latino Team". Retrieved 2012-09-28.
  6. ^ Bayne, Bijan C. (2020-04-13). "'The Immortal' Martin Dihigo may have been the best baseball player ever — Andscape". Andscape.com. Retrieved 2022-08-11.

References

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Martín Dihigo
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