It’s only fitting that Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15) coincides with the most exciting portion of the baseball season since many of the most exciting hitters in the major leagues are Hispanic.
The 500 Home Run Club®, LLC salutes all of the Hispanic players who have hit 500 or more home runs, including: Slammin’ Sammy Sosa (604*), Rafael Palmeiro (569), and the newest member of the club, New York Yankee Alex Rodriquez (503*).
In addition, we owe a debt of gratitude to the great Latino ballplayers who helped forge the future of major league baseball by putting on an awe inspiring demonstration of power and longevity off their own, including: Hector Espino Gonzalez (Mexican Leagues). Martin Dihigo (Negro Leagues), as well as the next generation of Latino power hitters, such as and Dominican Republic-native/Boston Red Sox player Manny Ramirez, who is just 11 homers shy of 500 with 489* career blasts, and who continues to put up prodigious home run tallies year after year.
You don’t have to speak Spanish to recognize the faces, names and talent of Latino players in the major leagues. So many great players have come out of Latin American countries, including Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and the Caribbean islands, that most U.S. fans take it for granted that Latino players will be among their favorite team’s leaders and best players.
Over the years, Latino players have achieved levels of excellence that have crossed over cultural barriers and made them universally beloved Superstars of baseball, thereby assuring that they will always be considered among the greatest to every play the game. When the July 19, 1977 TIME Magazine cover story declared The Minnesota Twins Rod Carew to be the “best player in baseball,” no one doubted that it was true because he was born in Panama. And when people talk about the greatest “pure players” in baseball history, Roberto Clemente’s name is often mentioned, without reference to the fact that he was from Puerto Rico.
Growing Influence of Latino Players
Today, Latinos make up a significant portion of both the Major League Baseball players and fan bases. As of Opening Day 2007, approximately 28% of all MLB players were born in a Latin American country or to parents of Hispanic descent. The Dominican Republic has the most players in the MLB with 91 players, followed by Venezuela with 46 and Puerto Rico with 34. Contemporary Latino megastars include: Alex Rodriguez (who recently became the 22nd member of The 500 Home Run Club), Juan Gonzalez (434*), and Ivan Rodriguez,
Leading into the All-Star Game, five of the top nine home run hitters were Hispanic, including: Albert Pujols (274*) of the Cardinals, Manny Ramirez (489*) the Red Sox, and Alfonso Soriano (226*) of the Chicago Cubs.
Other powerful Hispanic hitters who are regularly among the leaders in the MLB homer list include Puerto Rico-born Carlos Beltran of the Mets, and Columbian-native Edgar Renteria of the Atlanta Braves.
Visit http://latinobaseball.com/mlb-rising.php for a look at MLB’s Hispanic rising stars.
*Players home run totals as of the writing of this article.
Latino Legends Team
Prior to Game Four of the 2005 World Series, MLB announced the all-time, all-star members of “The Latino Legends Team.” Chosen by an online fan poll, which resulted in over 1.6 million total votes MLB.com, the team consisted of:
Iván Rodríguez, catcher, Puerto Rico
Albert Pujols, first base, Dominican Republic
Rod Carew, second base, Panama
Edgar Martinez, third base, Puerto Rico
Alex Rodriguez, shortstop, Dominican Republic
Roberto Clemente, outfield, Puerto Rico
Manny Ramírez, outfield, Dominican Republic
Vladimir Guerrero, outfield, Dominican Republic
Pedro Martínez, starting pitcher, Dominican Republic
Juan Marichal, starting pitcher, Dominican Republic
Fernando Valenzuela, starting pitcher, Mexico
Mariano Rivera, relief pitcher, Panama
Although they were not selected to the Latino Legends’ “starting squad”, the following Latino greats received honorable mentions for their baseball legacy: Venezuela native Luis Aparicio; Puerto Rican Orlando Cepeda; Cuban-born Tony Perez; Negro League star Martín Dihigo; Dominican Sammy Sosa; and Cuban-born sluggers Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco.