NYT JUL/27/06


José Méndez 1887-1928

Nicknamed the Black Diamond, and probably the first internationally recognized Cuban baseball star, he was a fearsome right-handed pitcher, confounding hitters with his fastball, curveball and change of speeds. He was a dominant pitcher in Cuban baseball during the first and second decades of the 20th century, and he outpitched the Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants and Eddie Plank of the Philadelphia Athletics in exhibitions in Cuba, drawing raves from Giants Manager John McGraw.

As a player-manager for the Kansas City Monarchs, playing shortstop and pitching occasionally, he took the team to three straight pennants (1923 to 1925) in the Negro National League. He won two games for the Monarchs when they defeated the Hilldale Daisies in the first black World Series, played in 1924.

Alex Pompez 1890-1974

A son of Cuban immigrants, he owned the Cuban Stars, a team of Latin players showcasing their talents in the United States during the 1920’s, then ran the New York Cubans, who played in the Negro National League from 1935 until the late 1940’s.

As a scout for the New York and San Francisco Giants when the Negro leagues faded away, he helped open the major leagues to black players from Latin America. In a quarter century of scouting, he played a role in the signing of the future Hall of Famers Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda.

A onetime numbers broker, he was reputed to have been one of the wealthiest men in Harlem. As an expert on the history of black baseball, he served on a Negro leagues committee for the Hall of Fame in the 1970’s.


Cristóbal Torriente 1893-1938

A native of Cienfuegos, Cuba, he was considered to be one of the three greatest Negro leaguers from Cuba, together with Martin Dihigo and José Méndez. A star for many years in the Cuban winter leagues, he gained renown with the Chicago American Giants, helping propel them to three consecutive championships (1920-22) in the Negro National League.

A stocky left-handed hitter, he was noted for swinging at bad balls and powering them to all fields. In an American Giants game at Kansas City, he was said to have hit a line drive that cracked a clock 17 feet over the center-field wall, sending its hands going around and around. He was also a superb center fielder with a strong arm.