Martín Dihigo

Martín Magdaleno Dihigo Llanos (May 25, 1906[1] – May 20, 1971), called The Immortal, was a Cuban professional baseball player. He played in Negro league baseball 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 several positions.

Martín Dihigo
Pitcher/Second baseman
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
Cuban League debut
1922, Habana
Last Mexican League appearance
1950, Águila de Veracruz
Negro leagues statistics
Batting average.307
Hits436
Home runs68
Runs batted in309
Win–loss record27–19
ERA3.34
Managerial record58–51–6
Teams
Negro leagues
Cuban League
  • Habana (1922–23, 1924–1929, 1938–39, 1940–1945)
  • Almendares (1923–24, 1929–1932)
  • Santa Clara (1935–36)
  • Marianao (1936–1938)
  • Cienfuegos (1939–40, 1945–1947)
Mexican League
  • Águila de Veracruz (1937–1939, 1950)
  • Azules de Veracruz (1940, 1947)
  • Unión Laguna (1941–1943, 1946)
  • Nuevo Laredo (1944)
  • San Luis Potosí (1947)
Venezuelan League
Career highlights and awards
  • Negro League All-Star (1935, 1945)
  • 4× Cuban League MVP (1927/28, 1935/36, 1936/37, 1941/42)
  • Eastern Colored League batting champion (1926)
  • Only player in History to be elected to 5 different Hall of Fames
  • Elected to Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame (1951)
  • Elected to Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame (1964)
  • Elected to Venezuelan Hall of Fame
  • Elected to Dominican Hall of Fame

Cuban League records

Mexican League records

  • .676 career winning percentage ( > 1,000 innings)
Member of the National
Baseball Hall of Fame
Induction1977
Election methodNegro League Committee

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.

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. He served as Cuba's Minister of Sport from 1959 until his death in 1971. In Cuba, Dihigo was known as "El Inmortal" ("The Immortal"); in other Latin American countries, he was sometimes 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 but finished last. Upon Fidel Castro's rise to power, Dihigo returned to Cuba and was appointed the minister of sports. [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.[5]

Known as a humorous, good-natured man as well as a versatile player, Dihigo was posthumously elected to the American Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. Dihigo was also inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame.[6][7]

Martín 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.'[8]

Others had heaped praise on him earlier, as well. Buck Leonard said, “He was the best ballplayer of all time, black or white.”[9]

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.”[10]

Along with Willie Wells, Dihigo is just one of two players to be inducted to the American, Cuban, Mexican, Dominican Republic and Venezuelan Baseball Halls of Fame.

See also

  • List of members of the Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame

Notes

  1. 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. Martín Dihigo at Find a Grave
  6. "Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum". Archived from the original on 2009-01-09. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
  7. Early Latino Ballplayers in the United States: Major, Minor and Negro Leagues By Nick C. Wilson
  8. Jesse Sánchez. "Clemente headlines All-Time Latino Team". Retrieved 2012-09-28.
  9. https://baseballhall.org/hof/dihigo-mart%C3%ADn
  10. 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

  • Clark, Dick; Lester, Larry (1994), The Negro Leagues Book, Cleveland, Ohio: Society for American Baseball Research
  • Figueredo, Jorge S. (2003), Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878–1961, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, ISBN 0-7864-1250-X
  • González Echevarría, Roberto (1999), The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-514605-0
  • Hogan, Lawrence D. (2006), Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, ISBN 0-7922-5306-X
  • Riley, James A. (1994), The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf, ISBN 0-7867-0959-6
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