From Esteban (Steve) Bellán, who in 1871 became the first Latin-born player to compete in a top professional baseball league, to Hall of Famer Tony Perez to "Mr. White Sox" Minnie Minoso, Cuban-born players have been big-league pioneers since the game's earliest days.
On a club full of stars, Perez was considered the most clutch hitter for Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" of the 1970s. Perez was a seven-time All-Star selection and ended his 23-year career with 1,652 RBIs, 505 doubles and 379 home runs, while helping to propel the Reds to two World Series championships (1975 and 1976). He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.
Pitcher Jose Mendez was likely the first internationally-recognized Cuban baseball star. Mendez, nicknamed "The Black Diamond," was known for his blazing fastball and sharp curve. The author of a 10-inning perfect game as a member of the Cuban Stars in 1909, his career spanned from 1908 to 1926. As a player-manager with the Kansas City Monarchs, he led the team to three consecutive Negro National League pennants from 1923 to 1925. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Dihigo was perhaps the most versatile player in baseball history. Known as "El Maestro," Dihigo spent 12 seasons in the Negro Leagues. He also starred in leagues in Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Dihigo went 18-2 for the Mexican League's Aguila de Veracruz club in 1938 and led the league with a 0.90 ERA as a pitcher while winning the batting crown with a .387 mark. He totaled more than 260 wins and smashed his way to three Negro League home run crowns. Dihigo was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006.
A left-handed power hitter who excelled in his native Cuba and the Negro leagues, Torriente starred for the Chicago American Giants from 1918 to 1925, leading the club to three consecutive Negro National League titles (1920-1922). Perhaps Torriente's most notable achievement came in Cuba during the winter of 1920. As a member of the Almendares club, Torriente outplayed Babe Ruth in a nine-game series as Ruth barnstormed during the offseason. Torriente was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006.
The anchor of the infield of the three-time World Series champion Oakland Athletics, Campaneris was a sure-handed shortstop who led the American League in stolen bases six times. A six-time All-Star, Campaneris became the first player to appear in all nine positions in one game on Sept. 8, 1965. He finished his 19-year big league career with 2,249 hits and 649 stolen bases.
One of the first of a new wave of Cuban players to enter the big leagues, Hernandez debuted with the Florida Marlins in 1996. The next season, he finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting by going 9-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 17 starts, helping the Marlins advance to the playoffs for the first time. Hernandez went 4-0 during the postseason and was named the MVP of both the NLCS and the World Series. He won 178 games over 17 big-league seasons.
Esteban "Steve" Bellan was the first Latin American to appear in the big leagues. Born in Havana and educated in New York City at the school that would become Fordham University, Bellan played club baseball before joining the Troy Haymakers in 1869. The Haymakers became part of the National Association in 1871, and Bellan would play in the league until 1873.
Miñoso opened doors for hundreds of Latinos who followed. After starring in the Cuban and Negro Leagues, Miñoso became an offensive force for the Go-Go Chicago White Sox of the 1950s. He memorably suited up for a major league club in five different decades and finished his 17-year big league career with a .298 batting average.
Oliva was among the American League's most accomplished hitters during the 1960s. The 1964 Rookie of the Year represented the Twins in the All-Star Game in every one of his first eight full MLB seasons. Though knee injuries shortened his career, Oliva finished with three AL batting titles and a Gold Glove Award.
Recognized for his twirling windup, Tiant had the talent to match the flair. After posting a 20-win season with the Indians in 1968 to go along with a AL-best 1.60 ERA, "El Tiante" gained his greatest fame with the Red Sox, as the ace of Boston's 1975 American League champion staff. He finished with 229 career victories and 2,416 strikeouts.