Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Latin-Sabor of the White Sox

"Not too many people like the president. I do. My mom will kill me, but it's an honor to talk to the president." Ozzie Guillen on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, after appearing on Chavez's weekly ‘Alo Presidente' TV show.

Hardcore Leftside readers will know that there is just one opiate that can divert us from the global struggle: White Sox baseball. So this past week has been very special for me.

When I rededicated this site as AV2TS I promised to try to keep to issues related to the Latin-Carribean-US nexus. Fortunately in recent weeks, the White Sox have provided such an excuse. Of course, most MLB teams have major Latin/Carribean connections today, but consider the following:

The White Sox took what was widely seen as a big gamble on two aging Cuban starting pitchers. Many saw the team's 2005 fortune as riding on these 2. Well, despite some ups and downs, in the end they more than delivered and are responsible as anyone for the White Sox's success.

Proud Cuban Jose Contreras is shaping up to be the team's MVP. His stellar late season pitching stopped Sox slides when things looked desperate, winning 9 straight games, including Game 1 of the ALDS vs. Boston 14-2. He will start today vs. the Angels. Unanimous opinion cites Jose's improved state of mind this year after reunification with his family and the addition of countryman "El Duque" Hernandez on the team this year as reasons for his success. Jose was widely considered to be homesick last year in New York. Contreras himself cites his Cuban expirience in big games. Meanwhile Jose is eligable to play with the Cuban team when it plays in MLB's World Baseball Classic next March. He requested a contract clause explicitly allowing him that right.

"El Duque," the 5th starting pitcher, more than justified his position on the roster in the final Game 3 vs. Boston. He shut down the Red Sox for 5 innings after coming in on relief. Duque, Contreras and (Venezuelan) Freddie Garcia are said to bond over Latin soap-operas, a common reminder of home.

Manager Ozzie Guillen, the first Latin manager to make the Playoffs, grew up watching shortstop Luis Aparacio, the first Venezuelan player in MLB. Guillen is known for his hilarious, if sometimes brutally honest, commentary - a trait sorely lacking in today's American sports. But his most important asset may be his ability to keep the team loose, yet focused. Never to be found in the manager's office, Ozzie plays cards and messes around with his players, even acting as a translator for the Cubans when needed. Surely he gets the best out of his players.

And as an interesting history note, Luis Aparicio, who was with the team in their 1959 World Series run, is said to have put a curse on the team when he was traded to Baltimore in 1963. "They won't win a World Series for 40 years," he said (that expired last year). Then there is Cuban legend Minnie Minosa (first dark-skinned Latin in MLB), who is perhaps best known for his DH appearance (1 for 3) at the age of 56, 13-years after his retirement. Another Latin White Sox shortstop Chico Carrasquel (who passed earlier this year), was the first Latin player to make the All-Star game.


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5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before I knew Guillen was a Chavez supporter I was rooting for the Sox to go all the way, and also from when he coached the Marlins. Now I will root against him and the Sox. I hope Guillen owns some land in Venezuela that Chavez can confiscate.

1:43 PM  

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