Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Other Sandy (Part One)

There is a book out there that needs to be written.  If I I could take a sabbatical from work, I would attempt to write it.  It is a story of triumph and tragedy.  Of a person rising from the depths of poverty to the riches of fame and acclaim, only to return to the despair of destitution, of homelessness and loneliness. 
It is a story that needs to be told of a man born in a foreign land in extreme poverty, left fatherless at the age of three and how he learned the game of baseball as a child and rose to prominence.  
It would chronicle his climb and progression in the sport as he ascended through the Cuban Leagues, the Cuban National Team, the United States Negro Leagues and eventually his acquisition with the Major League Brooklyn Dodgers.
It would tell the story of a young Dodger scout named Al Campanis, who signed the young Cuban star immediately after witnessing his speed and knowing he had a star in the making before him.
Edmundo Isasi Amoros, born in 1930 in Matanzas, 50 miles east of Havana, Cuba, he descended from a rich Afro-Cuban heritage.  A short ball player,  listed at 5’ 7”, 170 lbs.  He had decent pop for a  player of his size and stature.  Campanis recognized his amazing speed, bunting skill, defensive prowess and power that he generated from amazing wrist strength.   “Miracle wrists” is what coach Billy Herman called them.  (Kahn, Roger, The Boys of Summer,  Harper and Row, New York, 1972, p. 172).  Camapanis remarked on Amoros’ speed saying, "I saw him hit a ball on one bounce to the second baseman and nearly beat it out."   (Dawiduff, Nicholas, “The Struggles of Sandy A,” Sports Illustrated, July 10, 1989).  He was bound for the big leagues on the fast track.

Plaza in Matanzas, Cuba. Birthplace of Edmundo Istasi Amoros
It would address experiences he faced in the states, the racism of Jim Crow laws, the challenges of a new language and culture and how he still succeeded as a standout  minor leaguer outfielder in Brooklyn organization for clubs in St. Paul and Montreal. 
As a youngster in Cuba, he witnessed the Dodgers training in Havana and was immediately taken by Jackie Robinson.  Amoros soon began to pattern his game after Jackie, using his best asset...blazing speed and daring baserunning. Edmundo quickly rose through the ranks in the Cuban Leagues, and was selected as an outfielder on the Cuban national team.  He led his national team to the championship of the Caribbean Games in Guatemala City in 1950 by hitting .370 with 6 home runs and twelve RBI in the series.  Shortly thereafter he was signed by the Negro League New York Cubans.  From there Campanis scouted and signed him to a contract with Brooklyn. (Costello, Rory, “Sandy Amoros,”  The Baseball Biography Project, link: http://bioproj.sabr.org/bioproj.cfm?a=v&v=l&bid=2711&pid=238#_ednref29)
He progressed in the Minors, leading the International League in hitting with a .353 clip at Montreal. By 1954, he was the starting left fielder with the defending NL Champs.  He hit memorable homers in a pennant clinching victory and in game five of the ’55 Series.
Snider and Amoros celebrate pennant clinching victory in 1955, where they each hit two home runs.
It would cover his struggles in the Major Leagues on a team of superstars and future Hall of Famers and it would be a story told by his teammates that reached out and befriended the young man.  Additionally it would tell the story of the Cuban community in New York and how he sought refuge among them.  And it would address the friendship with fellow Cuban teammate Chico Fernandez who would step up later in his life to assist him in a time of need.
Carl Furillo tried to speak Spanish with him and attempted to teach him English.  Roy Campanella would joke with him and keep him company on road trips. Amoros was the only latin player on that Brooklyn team for a time.  But he never got a grasp on the English language and there are those that believe that held him back from becoming a standout player.  Eventually, Chico Fernandez, his fellow Cuban and minor league teammate made the big club in 1956.  They would jump in his car and go to Manhattan to Latin clubs for music and dinner.  Brooklyn embraced the young star.  The Dodgers were the perfect fit for the young Cuban  with their diverse roster and history of innovation and integration.  The borough was an ideal place for him to break into the Major Leagues.  
It would cover the baseball highlight of his life, and how he was a World Series hero.  The incredible catch and series winning play in Yankee Stadium on October , 1955.  

The catch ranks right up there with the greatest clutch plays ever.  Game 7, Yankee Stadium.  Dodgers up 2-0 in the 6th.  Runners on 1st and 2nd with none out.  Yogi Berra sliced a drive down the left field line.  Amoros was playing him to pull in left center field.  Dodger pitcher Johnny Podres said,“I thought, Sandy, you better get on your horse to catch this one!”  Berra stated,”If he wasn’t left handed, he’d have never caught it.”  Baserunner Gil McDougal, “...I was a dead duck.”

Amoros’ stabbing catch, cat like reflexes, instant jarring stop, pivot and return throw was instrumental in not only recording the out, but turning a rally stopping double play.  3 innings  later, the Dodgers had won their first World Championship.

Sandy Amoros catches Yogi Berra's 6th inning drive in game 7 of the 1955 World Series,  Billy Martin puts on the brakes in the lower portion of the photo.  This catch proves to be the key defensive play of the series as the Dodgers win their first World Series Championship, 4 games to 3.

Then it would chronicle the celebration, as he returned home as a hero to Brooklyn and to Havana, Cuba.  
Brooklyn was a borough in euphoria.  Amoros returned to Cuba as a national hero.  He was a source of national pride to Cubans.  A World Series hero.  A celebrity back home.  Even as his career sputtered to an end, Amoros was beloved in his home country. (Dawiduff, Nicholas, “The Struggles of Sandy A,” Sports Illustrated, July 10, 1989). 

At the pinnacle of his life and baseball career, it appeared that Amoros’ future was very bright.  But tragically from that moment on,  Sandy Amoros’ life would start to slowly slide downhill with a series of setbacks, bad breaks and adversities.
(to be continued...) 

1 comment:

  1. You snooze you lose. Evan, you will not believe this. I have two articles started. 1) The Other Sandy 2) The Other Koufax.

    My Amoros article was from my point of view that it is the most important catch in my lifetime. It was greater than the Willie Mays catch in 1954, not because the degree of difficulty was greater, but because of the circumstance. Substituted into the game after having been sitting on the bench, a double ties the score with none out, seventh game, the Dodgers looking for their first WS championship, Yogi a left handed batter so Amoros shading right. Willie's was amazing and significant in Game 1 to set the stage for the series. If he doesn't make it, there are more chances for the Giants to win the series.

    I am forever grateful to Sandy Amoros. I have that card in excellent condition. I am now very familiar with the rest of the story but look forward to your Part 2. I like your take better, so am satisfied not to have gotten mine launched. Now don't take The Other Koufax.