Top 10 Most Influential Hispanic MLB Players in history
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the 10 greatest Hispanic players in MLB history.
For some strange reason, the Minnesota Twins traded Luis Arraez to the Miami Marlins last winter for three prospects. This was not a trade made for financial reasons, as Arraez is making only $6.1 million -- a pittance in this day and age when pro athletes receive contracts that can reach hundreds of millions of dollars.
The native of San Felipe, Venezuela, had batting averages of .334, .321, .294, and .316 in his first four seasons with the Twins. With one of the keenest sets of eyes in the major leagues, he led MLB with a 94.1 percent contact percentage on all pitches thrown to him. When swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, he made contact 91.1 percent of the time -- also tops in the major leagues. When swinging at pitches in the strike zone, he made contact 96.0 percent of the time, which again was the best rate of any MLB player.
Yet Arraez was somehow expendable, and we shall see in the postseason if the Twins pay a steep price when they need someone to hit in the clutch. Minnesota leads the AL Central and is on the Betway board at +1900 to win the World Series. However, the Twins also have the worst record in baseball among division leaders and a team batting average of just .241 – 11th best in the American League. Only one Minnesota player is hitting above .285.
It seems like the guy now leading the National League with an average that has been above .350 all season should have been a keeper in Minnesota.
In any case, you can be certain that the sizeable Venezuelan population in South Florida will be serenading Arraez in a manner resembling loco during National Hispanic Heritage month.
With that in mind, we hope you enjoy this ranking of the 10 most influential Hispanic players in Major League Baseball history.
Who was the first Hispanic MLB player?
According to Major League Baseball, Luis Miguel Castro of Medellin, Colombia, was the first Latin-American player to compete in the big leagues. Castro was an infielder who played 42 games with the Philadelphia Athletics during the 1902 season.
Current Hispanic MLB Players
Because baseball is so popular in Latin America, the major leagues are filled with players from Spanish-speaking countries, particularly the Dominican Republic. This season, there are 171 players from the Dominican Republic (11.4 percent of MLB), 106 from Venezuela (7.1 percent), 33 from Cuba (2.2 percent), 28 from Puerto Rico (1.9 percent), 24 from Mexico (1.6 percent), 13 from Colombia (0.9 percent), and nine from Panama (0.6 percent).
Famous Hispanic MLB Players
There are dozens upon dozens of famous Hispanic MLB players, but very few people realize that Ted Williams, who spent his entire career from 1939 to 1960 with the Boston Red Sox and was the last batter to average .400 in a season, was half Hispanic, because his mother, May Venzor, was a Spanish-Mexican-American from El Paso, Texas. The list below encompasses several generations of major-leaguers, including both pitchers and hitters.
Celebrating the Top 10 Most Influential Hispanic MLB players in History
- Fernando Valenzuela
MLB Career Span: 1980 to 1997
Teams: Los Angeles Dodgers, California Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals.
Awards and Honors: All-Star Game (1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986), National League Cy Young Award (1981), NL Rookie of the Year (1981)
“Fernandomania” happened in 1981 when the Dodgers made the rookie from Etchohuaquila, Sonora, Mexico their Opening Day starter and he began the season 8-0 with five shutouts and an ERA of 0.50. In addition to his dominance on the mound, Fernando Valenzuela's unusual and flamboyant pitching motion, which included a glance skyward at the apex of each wind-up, drew attention. It was a habit he claims to have developed spontaneously. He led the National League in strikeouts, and the Dodgers won the 1981 World Series.
- Miguel Cabrera
Positions: First Base, Third Base, Designated Hitter
MLB Career Span: 2003 to present
Teams: Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers
Awards and Honors: All-Star Game (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2022), American League MVP (2012, 2013)
A 12-time All-Star from Maracay, Venezuela, Miguel Cabrera captured the Triple Crown in 2012, becoming the first player in 45 years to accomplish the feat. In 2022, he became the third major-leaguer (joining Hank Aaron and Willie Mays) with a career batting average above .300 to go along with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. He was only 20 years old when he came up to the majors and helped the Marlins to their 2003 World Series victory. He will retire at the conclusion of the current season.
- Albert Pujols
Positions: First Base, Designated Hitter
MLB Career Span: 2001 to 2022
Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers
Award and Honors: All-Star Game (2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2022), National League MVP (2005, 2008, 2009), NL Rookie of the Year (2001), NL Comeback Player of the Year (2022)
In his first college game, Albert Pujols had a grand slam and an unassisted triple play. The native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic was just getting started after growing up practicing baseball using limes for balls and a milk carton for a glove. Nicknamed “The Machine,” in 2018 Pujols became the 32nd Major Leaguer to reach 3,000 career hits, and in 2022 he became only the fourth player to reach 700 career home runs. By the time he retired, he had reached second place in career RBIs, trailing only Hank Aaron. His family immigrated to the Washington Heights section of Manhattan in 1996 but lasted only two months there because of local crime, including a shooting that Pujols witnessed. They relocated to Independence, Mo.
- David Ortiz
Positions: First Base, Designated Hitter
MLB Career Span: 1997 to 2016
Teams: Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox
Awards and Honors: All-Star Game (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016), World Series MVP (2013), Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (2022)
Known affectionately as “Big Papi,” the native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was a fan of brothers Ramon and Pedro Martinez while growing up and eventually became a friend of the big leaguers. David Ortiz signed with the Seattle Mariners but was traded to Minnesota before ever playing a big-league game, and the Twins released him rather than go to arbitration, where Ortiz would have earned a salary in the $2 million range. The Red Sox swooped in and signed him, and he became one of the most beloved athletes in Boston history. In the 2013 postseason, Ortiz hit five home runs with 13 RBIs and a .353 batting average to lead the Red Sox to the franchise’s eighth World Series championship.
- Juan Marichal
MLB Career Span: 1960 to 1975
Teams: San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers
Awards and Honors: All-Star Game (1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971), Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (1983)
Nicknamed the “Dominican Dandy,” Juan Marichal, a native of Laguna Verde, Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic, pitched a no-hitter on June 15, 1963, during a season in which he led the National League in wins. On July 2 of that year, Marichal was part of one of the greatest pitching duels ever during a game that future commissioner Bud Selig happened to attend as a fan. Marichal, 25, and Warren Spahn, 42, each took shutouts through 15 innings of a game that ended with a home run by Willie Mays in the 16th inning. Marichal was especially hated by fans of the rival Dodgers for an incident in which Marichal, who was batting, struck Dodgers catcher John Roseboro twice in the head with his bat.
- Alex Rodriguez
Positions: Shortstop, Third Base
MLB Career Span: 1994 to 2016
Teams: Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees
Awards and Honors: All-Star Game (1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011), American League MVP (2003, 2005, 2007)
The son of Dominican immigrants. Alex Rodriguez was born in Manhattan and moved with his family to the Dominican Republic when he was 4. He then went to Miami, where he earned a football (quarterback) and baseball scholarship that he passed up after being drafted first overall by the Seattle Mariners in 1993. He played only 49 games in the minors before debuting at shortstop at age 18. In 1998, he became the third member of the 40-40 club (42 home runs, 46 stolen bases). When he signed with the Rangers in 2000, his 10-year, $252 million contract was the richest in sports history.
- Rod Carew
Positions: First Base; Second Base
MLB Career Span: 1967 to 1985
Teams: Minnesota Twins, California Angels
Awards and Honors: All-Star (1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984), American League MVP (1977), AL Rookie of the Year (1967), Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (1991)
Born aboard a racially segregated train in Gatun in the Panama Canal Zone, Rod Carew was named after Dr. Rodney Cline, who delivered the baby. He moved with his family to Washington Heights in Manhattan at age 14, and he did not play organized baseball until age 18, when the Twins cut a tryout short so that the New York Yankees would not get a chance to see him. Only Ty Cobb won more batting titles than Carew’s seven, and his 3,053 career hits are 27th on baseball’s all-time list. He had a .328 career batting average.
- Roberto Clemente
Position: Right Field
MLB Career Span: 1955 to 1972
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Awards and Honors: All-Star Game (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972), National League MVP (1966), World Series MVP (1971), Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (1973)
A cannon-armed right fielder from San Anton, Carolina, Puerto Rico, Roberto Clemente died tragically when a plane he was aboard to deliver relief supplies to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua crashed. The following year, Major League Baseball renamed its Commissioner’s Award in his honor for the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team." Clemente was a track and field star and Olympic hopeful before deciding to turn his attention to baseball, where he was spotted by a Pirates scout in Richmond, Va. The scout was so impressed that he implored his superiors to procure the future Hall of Famer in the Rule 5 draft, which included Clemente because he was a “bonus baby” who was not being protected on the 25-man roster of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the team that originally signed him. Over the course of his career, Clemente accumulated exactly 3,000 hits and was a 13-time .300 hitter.
- Mariano Rivera
MLB Career Span: 1995 to 2013
Team: New York Yankees
Awards and Honors: All-Star (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013), World Series MVP (1999), American League Comeback Player of the Year (2013), Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (2019)
Considered the greatest relief pitcher of all time, the native of Panama City, Panama, saved at least 25 games in 15 consecutive seasons and posted an ERA under 2.00 in 11 seasons -- both of which are records. Mariano Rivera’s postseason records include most saves (42) and lowest ERA (0.70), and for his philanthropy he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. He had 1,173 career strikeouts and a major-league record 652 saves in a career spent entirely with the Yankees, who retired his uniform No. 42, His signature pitch, the “cut fastball,” acts like a combination of a fastball and a slider. He has a plaque in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.
- Ted Williams
Position: Left Field
MLB Career Span: 1939 to 1960
Team: Boston Red Sox
Awards and Honors: All-Star Game (1940, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960), American League MVP (1946, 1949), Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (1966)
Ted Williams, a native of San Diego, Calif., was nicknamed "Teddy Ballgame", "the Kid", "the Splendid Splinter", and "the Thumper" and is arguably the most popular player in Boston sports history. Williams is regarded as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. To date, he is the last player to hit over .400 in a season and his on-base percentage of .482 is an MLB career record. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George Bush in 1991 for his work with the Jimmy Fund, a Boston charity. His career batting average of .344 is the highest ever (excluding Billy Hamilton from the dead-ball era), and he hit 521 home runs – a number that would have been even higher had he not spent 1943, 1944, and 1945 fighting in World War II and 1952 and 1953 fighting in the Korean War.
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