1990s AND NOW






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1970s and 1980s

Seeds are Planted for Baseball's Current Latino Landscape


The 1970s continued the trend set in the 1960s of an increasing presence of Latinos in Major League Baseball. The increase during this time period wasn't just due to Puerto Rico though, as it had been for the majority of the time since the Castro regime came to power in Cuba. Now players from the Dominican Republic were beginning to encounter success within the MLB. Though some Dominicans had played in the Majors before this time, most notably Felipe Alou (1958) and Juan Marichel (1960), the decade of the 1970s saw their general immersion into the sport (15). By the end of the decade, Dominican players were as numerous as Puerto Rican players, and the 1980s saw them overtake all other Latino groups in terms of players in the Major Leagues and retain that mark even to present day (16).

Though controversial to some, many attributed the growing numbers of Latino players in the Majors to baseball academies established in the Dominican Republic by some Major League teams in the late 1960s and 1970s. Though these schools produced many of the Dominican players coming to the Majors, the schools were often seen as exploitative, serving the needs of the individual teams more than the players themselves (17). Less controversial reasons for the increase of Latino talent during this time were the highly-scouted winter and summer leagues throughout the Caribbean but predominantly in the Dominican Republic. Young Latino players who participated in these leagues could develop their skills and also show themselves off to Major League scouts in hopes of landing contracts in the MLB.

Not only were more Latino players from more diverse regions entering the game, but Latino players were also starting to become recognized for their contributions to the game. The first Latino player to be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame was Roberto Clemente 1973, with Vernon Gómez earning admission not long after. Three other Latino players made it into the Hall of Fame during the 1970s and 80s, Martín Dihigo in 1977, Juan Marichal in 1983, and Luis Aparicio in 1984 (18). Also during these two decades, Latinos captured four Most Valuable Player awards, two Cy Young awards, and five Rookie of the Year awards (all at least doubling previous all-time totals for Latinos) (19). The end of the 1980s also saw Latinos and persons of Latino descent achieve prominent roles of leadership in the Major Leagues as coaches and managers, with one of the first to experience success being Lou Piniella, a former player of Cuban descent who managed the New York Yankees from 1986 to 1987 and was a general manager for the team from 1988 to 1989. Piniella would go on to manage other teams through the 1990s, where he saw tremendous success, winning a World Series title and two Manager of the Year titles and is still managing into the 21st century.

Lou Piniella