Although many baseball fans may believe otherwise, Bill Buckner was not exiled from Boston after his infamous 1986 World Series miscue. He appeared in 75 games for the Red Sox in 1987 before the team released him, looking to rejuvenate its outfield by shifting Dwight Evans to first base, freeing up playing time for Todd Benzinger and Mike Greenwell. Almost two dozen players would audition for the position in the ensuing years, before New England native Mo Vaughn anchored the line-up in 1993. Among the hopefuls were utilitymen (Ed Romero, Steve Lyons), one-year wonders (Nick Esasky), converted third basemen (Larry Parrish), part-time outfielders (Benzinger, Tom Brunansky), and hot corner prospects blocked by Wade Boggs (Scott Cooper). But from 1987 through 1992, Carlos Quintana led all the aspirants with 340 appearances at first base.
Carlos Narcis Quintana Hernández was born on August 26, 1965, in the coastal city of Mamporal, Venezuela, an hour’s drive from Caracas. No information about his family has surfaced except for the mention of two brothers.
Young Carlos attended the local high school, Escuela Miranda, and was signed by professional scout Willie Paffen, who also inked Bo Díaz, Luis Aponte, and Eduardo (Eddie) Zambrano.1 Quintana, a 6-foot-tall righthander, would eventually fill out to 175 pounds on his frame.2 He earned the nickname “el Cañón” (the Cannon) for the booming missile line drives generated by his bat. At the age of 19, he debuted with the Águilas (Eagles) of Zulia, the club of Maracaibo, the country’s second-largest city. In 10 at-bats he logged a single and a double.
Boston assigned him to the Elmira Pioneers of the Class A New York-Pennsylvania League (short season), where he played with future big-leaguers Brady Anderson, Josías Manzanillo, and Todd Pratt. In 1985, he appeared in 65 games and provided a solid .366 on-base percentage thanks to the good plate discipline he would exhibit during his career. However, his power had not yet developed, and he managed only 12 extra-base hits among his 61 safeties. All his defensive appearances were in the outfield.
Back home, he turned heads with a .291 average in 42 games, while rubbing shoulders with men twice his age, such as teammate César Tovar. The veteran took a special liking to the youngster; Quintana would later call Tovar “my second father.”3
Satisfied with his performance, the Red Sox promoted Quintana to Greensboro of the Class A South Atlantic League for the 1986 season, and he rose to the occasion. Playing in a more offensive-minded circuit and in a home park with the outfield poles 327 feet from home plate, Quintana increased his slugging average by nearly a hundred points, contributing 11 of the team’s 120 round-trippers. Fellow Paffen signee Zambrano joined him in the outfield, but Quintana played two games at first base, likely driven by the parent club’s assessment of long-term needs. The Red Sox brass had a veritable crop of young outfield talent, as teammate Dana Williams would join Anderson, Quintana, and Zambrano in the Big Show before the end of the decade. Quintana continued his development with Zulia, playing a winter career-high 65 games while hitting .288.
1987 brought Quintana a ticket to Boston’s New Britain affiliate in the Eastern League (Class AA). He held his own against his peers, who were on average 2.6 years older, but he struck out more often than he walked. Nevertheless, his .801 OPS was the third-highest among players on the team with at least 200 plate appearances. Back home, his average dipped to .273 in 58 contests.
Quintana remained in New England in 1988, this time assigned to the Class AAA Pawtucket club, the last stop before Boston. He had a productive season, hitting .285 with a career-high 16 home runs. He played 43 games at first base and 85 in an outfield crowded with other future major-leaguers Williams, Anderson, Kevin Romine, and Randy Kutcher. In a 10-game stretch in July, Quintana connected for five round-trippers. He featured among the league leaders with 15 home runs in a three-month span, including game-winning blasts against Tidewater and Maine.4
By the time the big-league rosters expanded in September, the 22-year-old Quintana was the youngest Boston position player to join the club. He debuted on September 16 at Fenway Park against the rival Yankees. The rookie, pinch-hitting for Jim Rice, was calm and collected as he walked on seven pitches, driving in Evans for Boston’s fifth run, and chasing Yankee reliever Steve Shields from the mound. Quintana would remain in the game but got only one more plate appearance, striking out on four pitches from Lee Guetterman to close the seventh frame.
Four days later, Quintana saw his first action in right field, playing against the Blue Jays in Toronto. He singled in his first at-bat against Jeff Musselman, almost driving a run as Romine tried to score from second base. However, Jesse Barfield, whose arm was among the best in the majors, threw out Romine at the plate. Quintana was stranded as Rice grounded out. The next two innings brought a pair of at-bats, with another single and a groundout for his efforts.
Quintana appeared in three more games, including a start against the Indians, and Baseball America named him the organization’s fourth-best prospect in its offseason rankings.5 He went on to produce the first of five consecutive .300 seasons at home, hitting .311 in the regular season and .321 in the finals as the Águilas won the national championship.
Despite his limited playing time, the baseball card manufacturers included Quintana in their 1989 regular-issue sets.6 He was the last player cut from the big-league roster despite a .347 spring training average, the bitter fate of a player too promising to keep on the big-league bench.7 He returned to Pawtucket and led the league in RBIs though May 17. By that time, the organization envisioned him as a first baseman, so fewer than half of his games were in the outfield.8 The Red Sox franchise got its money’s worth on June 2, 1989. Taking advantage of the scant 45 miles between Pawtucket and Boston, the front office recalled Quintana for a 7:30 P.M. game. The news reached the farm club as it finished the top of the first inning against the Iowa Cubs, so Quintana was quickly removed from the contest and sent on his way to Fenway.
In the ensuing years, the episode has been embellished to claim he started both a minor league and a major-league game on the same day.9 The anecdote was ready-made for trivia contests, given Pawtucket and Boston wore identical home uniforms at the time. However, Quintana did not enter the Red Sox game on June 2, but instead made his season debut the next night.10
The 1989 Red Sox could not replicate the “Morgan Magic” of the prior AL East-winning year and played inconsistently. Altogether, Quintana was recalled four times by the parent club but struggled to adapt. In 34 games, he hit .208 with only five extra-base hits. Baseball America remained sanguine about his future, and he rose to #2 in the Red Sox offseason prospect evaluation.11 He slugged .470, a personal best, in 33 games with Zulia during the winter.
Given Quintana’s limited appearances, he was still technically a rookie as spring training began in 1990. The Red Sox gave him an opportunity to make the team and he responded. In fact, Quintana would never again play for Boston’s minor-league affiliates.
An early-season platoon with Buckner – back in Boston for a last go at age 40 – was abandoned because Quintana was consistently productive on the field and at the plate. Skipper Morgan noted, “his reactions are instinctive, and he retains things. He’s done a terrific job for us there. We felt it would take him awhile to adjust to the new position, but he’s making all the plays,” while third-base coach Rac Slider raved about “great instincts and that’s something you can’t teach.”12 Quintana reciprocated: “I wanted to play in the big leagues, I’ve worked hard with Rac and I love doing my job. I try every day to do the best I can.”13
Boston would set the pace in the American League East, edging Toronto by two games. Quintana played 149 contests, made 572 plate appearances, registered 28 doubles among his 147 hits, and batted .287; all of those statistics were fifth-best among Red Sox regulars. He enjoyed a pair of four-hit games (on July 1 and August 30) but found himself handcuffed in the LCS against Oakland.14 Quintana started all four games but managed only one walk in 14 plate appearances. His sacrifice fly in the third inning of the second game scored Luis Rivera; it would give the Red Sox a short-lived 1-0 lead, the only time they would lead the Athletics in the entire series.
Although he led the AL in errors committed as a first baseman (17), he also paced the circuit in assists (137) and was fifth in both double plays turned (116) and putouts (1,188). In possibly the most telling sign of fan endearment, he was gifted with an original but indisputably fitting nickname: “Q.” He received rave reviews from infield mate Boggs, who told reporters, “I wouldn’t touch a thing about him. He’s an excellent hitter. He doesn’t try to do too much…I know they say the same thing about him as they used to about me.”15 A more laudable endorsement could have only come from Ted Williams.
Hitting coach Richie Hebner added “he’s perfect for this club. He’s surrounded by big-name players…Q’s name might be the 10th or 11th name you mention. But I get the feeling Q likes it just the way it is.”16 Quintana himself was pointed about his distraction-free attitude: “I look at the lineup and I say, ‘Good, I’m in the lineup.’ That’s all I care about. I want to hit good, I want to win. I don’t care where I hit. I like to play first base and I like to hit.”17 He took the winter off to rest and prepare for the rigors of another 162-game season.
Despite swirling rumors about possible trades, Quintana was consistent in 1991, attaining big—league career highs in home runs (11), runs (69), walks (61), runs batted in (71), batting average (.295) and OPS (.787) in another 149 games. He clubbed two home runs on June 10; the offensive outburst earned him the Player of the Week award for June 16.18 On July 30, Quintana tied Tom McBride’s 1946 club mark – then also tied for a major-league best – with six RBIs in one inning. (David Ortiz has since tied the franchise record.) The feat has been duplicated by only two of his countrymen, Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu.19
The Blue Jays bested the Red Sox by seven games in the ALCS, so Quintana was unable to remove the bad taste of his October failures. On the field, he cut his miscues by more than half and was first in total zone runs as a first baseman with eight. He put the finishing touches on a dream year by hitting .351 for Zulia in the regular season and .355 in their playoffs, guiding the team to another title.
However, tragedy was around the corner. Quintana’s career suffered a large blow when he was involved in an automobile accident. According to police reports, his brothers Roberto and Eddie had been shot at a party.20 Subsequent narratives altered the story somewhat: his brothers were traveling to an event when another vehicle hit theirs. The other driver, in the heat of the argument, shot one of the brothers and fled the scene.
Quintana quickly transferred his brothers into his own car to seek medical assistance. En route, his car in turn was hit by another vehicle, crashing into a bridge.21 Quintana’s wife, Solys, broke her legs while he broke his left arm and his right big toe. The injury was serious enough to merit his father to ask about the impact on his career. The prognosis was a months-long recovery.22 While the five-hour surgery was successful, an infection in his pelvis caused additional operations a month later.23 Years later, Quintana was curt in his recollection: “Sometimes things are good, sometimes not. It’s a little hard, a little difficult. You go on.”24
The accident altered Boston’s 1992 plans. While Quintana was making his way up the Red Sox farm system, his name had been connected to various trade rumors, including a swap for Houston slugger Glenn Davis. Quintana’s solid 1990 campaign prompted the Red Sox to include heralded prospect Jeff Bagwell in a trade-deadline deal for Larry Andersen. Although hindsight proved the transaction to be among the club’s all-time worst, Bagwell was blocked at third base – his original position – by Boggs and Cooper. He was also deemed a lesser prospect than Vaughn at first base, so he appeared expendable.25
Quintana’s success had been a welcome tonic for the club, which had spent the prior decade alternating between past-their-prime veterans like Tony Pérez and Buckner and light-hitting farm product Dave Stapleton. No Red Sox first baseman would make the All-Star Game in the 1980s while slugger Cecil Cooper, traded on the verge of his prime for a returning George Scott, enjoyed success in Milwaukee.26
Without the young Venezuelan, the club alternated veterans Brunansky and Jack Clark with youngsters Cooper and Vaughn at first base. None laid a decisive claim to the position, a possible factor in the Red Sox protecting Quintana during the 1992 expansion draft.
After a long year of rehabilitation, Quintana returned to the diamond in 1993, but it was Fenway’s legendary right field that he called home. The venerable Evans, a perennial Beantown favorite who earned eight Gold Gloves playing the position, had retired after the ’91 season. Brunansky provided a short-term solution but had left as a free-agent before the ’93 season began, leaving the club to consider iron-gloved sluggers Iván Calderón and Rob Deer or the aging Andre Dawson.
The emergence of Vaughn, a superior power hitter, prompted the team to shift Quintana to the outfield, though he would also spell Vaughn at first base and enter games as a defensive replacement. The combined effects of the injury and a year away yielded Quintana’s least successful season as a regular player. His 56 OPS+ was driven by a dearth of power (six extra base hits), a death knell for a right-handed hitter who cannot take advantage of the Green Monster to generate doubles. In his last game wearing the Red Sox uniform, Quintana replaced Vaughn at first base and then singled the following inning. He was doubled up at second base in the subsequent play.27 Eager to recapture the magic, he played 55 games in Venezuela and hit .309; although the team did not make the finals, he earned his first Gold Glove.
The Red Sox front office considered its options in light of Quintana’s poor season, with assistant general manager Mike Port recognizing, “It was strange. We didn’t know if it was the layoff or its aftereffects, but he just was not the same. He would make contact, but the ball didn’t come off the bat with the same life it used to.”28 Nevertheless, Quintana figured in the team’s plans for 1994, until the dominoes fell in spring training, and he was released on March 29.
After working with a physical trainer for most of April and May, Quintana managed to shed 15 pounds and get closer to his traditional playing weight. The Pittsburgh Pirates inked him to a minor league deal on June 3 and assigned him to Class AAA Buffalo. Seven weeks into the opportunity, he believed he was “seeing the ball well.”29 He also demonstrated his value in the field, committing only one error. However, his power was again lacking; his .291 slugging average in 39 games prevented a call-up to the big leagues. The 1994 strike was the final nail in the coffin for this return to the Big Show, as play stopped before the typical roster expansion. The winter leagues provided respite for players during the work stoppage, and Quintana delivered his final .300 season with 43 hits in 132 at-bats. His postseason prowess (25-for-65) almost catapulted the Eagles to the title, but the rival Caracas club prevailed in a six-game series.
Quintana next tried his luck with the Class AAA Liga Mexicana de Béisbol (Mexican Baseball League). He played in 78 games altogether for Minatitlán and Yucatán in 1995, anchoring the infield defense. He had a robust .325 average with a .418 slugging percentage.30 His numbers dropped a year later, with Quintana Roo, to .280 and .367 in 69 contests.31 One final year, 1997 with Saltillo, was forgettable: he managed only four hits in eight games for a .148 average.32 His Venezuelan numbers continued the negative trend, and his average languished below .240, although he earned another Gold Glove in the 1995-1996 season.
Quintana played one campaign in the Italian Baseball League with the Grosseto team and clubbed four home runs against BC Modena in 1998.33 He appeared in 48 of the team’s 52 regular-season contests, hitting .364 with a Ruthian .734 slugging percentage and a .491 on-base percentage.34 After a one-year absence, he returned to Venezuelan winter play, donning the uniform of the Caribes (Caribs) of Anzoategui, hitting .235 in 41 games.
Quintana finished his Venezuelan career with a .286 average, 222 runs scored, 234 runs batted in, two Gold Gloves, and 486 hits in 518 games. Eleven of his 12 seasons were with the Águilas, whose fans elected him to the franchise’s all-time team.35 He helped the club to a pair of league championships and a second-place finish, hitting .416 in 77 at-bats. His 92 postseason safeties were a league record until José Pirela surpassed him during the 2016-2017 playoffs.36
Quintana played in three Caribbean Series (1989, 1990, 1992) as part of the Venezuelan team. His two home runs, 10 runs batted in, and .324 average prompted his induction into the competition’s Hall of Fame along Jesús Alfaro and Alvaro Espinoza, as part of the Class of 2014. Zulia club president Luis Rodolfo Machado, who signed Quintana to his first Venezuelan baseball contract, accepted the award on his behalf.37
Quintana retired from the major leagues with a solid .276 batting average and 380 hits in 438 games. He handled All-Star pitchers very well during his brief career, hitting more than .300 against Dave Stewart (8-for-23), Jack McDowell (4-for-10), David Wells (7-for-21), Randy Johnson (6-for-17), Jimmy Key (9-for-21), Greg Swindell (8-for-19), Chuck Finley (7-for-20), and Bob Welch (7-for-19). Duane Ward (1-for-11, with eight strikeouts), Mike Moore (0-for-10), and Todd Stottlemyre (1-for-12) gave him the most trouble.38
While traditional statistics painted a positive picture, park factors and more advanced stats have revealed him to be a replacement player. His career 94 OPS+ is low for a first baseman/right fielder, though his era was not prone to inflated statistics driven by PED use. Although his career was brief and his tenure was sandwiched between two more famous first sackers, his name evokes pleasant memories from the Fenway faithful.
Last revised: March 23, 2022
Quintana is believed to have fallen on hard times in his native Venezuela, as has the nation in general. The author’s efforts to contact him were unsuccessful. Any assistance in getting in touch with Quintana would be greatly appreciated.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author relied extensively on Baseball-Reference.com, retrosheet.org, thebaseballcube.com, and pelotabinaria.com.
- SABR members Roberto Saletti, Carolina Maggioli, Lucca Rossi, and Anna Maria Paini for identifying sources of Quintana’s Italian Baseball League statistics
- SABR members Armando Banavides, Ernesto Arribas, and Virgilio Partida Bush for identifying sources of Quintana’s Liga Mexicana de Béisbol (Mexican Baseball League) statistics
This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and David H. Lippman and fact-checked by members of the SABR Bio-Project factchecking committee.
1 “List of Amateur Baseball Scouts,” The Baseball Cube, http://www.thebaseballcube.com/mlb/people/scouts/byLetter.asp?L=W
2 Note: while baseballreference.com states 6’0, 175, both thebaseballcube.com and the Sporting News Player Contract Card list 6’2”, 195 lbs. It is not uncommon for players to increase their height and weight for scouts. “Carlos Quintana Player Contract Card,” The Sporting News, https://digital.la84.org/digital/collection/p17103coll3/id/179814/rec/1
3 Nick Cafardo, “Q. Who’s the Red Sox’ hit man? A. The Q,” Boston Globe, May 29, 1991.
4 “Around the Minors,” The Sporting News, July 18, 1988: 27 & August 15, 1988: 37.
5 “Carlos Quintana Player Card,” The Baseball Cube, http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/profile.asp?ID=16858&View=Prospect
6 “Carlos Quintana Baseball Cards,” Check Out My Collectibles (COMC), https://www.comc.com/Players/Baseball/Carlos_Quintana/c14636/Cards/Baseball/1980s,so,vDetails,i100
7 “A.L. East,” The Sporting News, April 17, 1989: 19.
8 “A.L. East,” The Sporting News, May 29, 1989: 40.
“This Day in Minor League History,” Minor League Baseball, http://www.milb.com/milb/history/tdih.jsp?tdih=0602&sid=
10 Bill Nowlin and Matthew Silverman, Red Sox by the Numbers: A Complete Team History of the Boston Red Sox, Simon & Schuster, June 2016.
11 “Carlos Quintana Player Card,” The Baseball Cube.
12 “Sox’ First Problem Solved by Quintana,” The Sporting News, June 11, 1990: 19.
13 Joe Giuliotti, “Sox Find Quintana 1st-Rate at 1st Base,” The Sporting News, July 16, 1990: 12.
14 “Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers, May 24, 1991 Box Score,” Retrosheet.org, https://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1991/B05240DET1991.htm
15 Nick Cafardo, “Little Known with Big Cat, Quintana is Red Sox’ Silent Star-to-Be,” The Washington Post, May 30, 1991.
18 “Carlos Quintana Player Card,” The Baseball Cube,
19 “Texas Rangers at Boston Red Sox, July 30, 1991 Box Score,” Retrosheet.org, https://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1991/B07300BOS1991.htm
20 “Red Sox’s Quintana Has a Broken Arm,” The Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times, February 25, 1992. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1992-02-25-sp-2524-story.html
21 Mike Harrington, “Quintana Paying Dues in Minor Leagues Again.” The Buffalo News, July 16, 1994, https://buffalonews.com/news/quintana-paying-dues-in-minor-leagues-again/article_7dc315e0-73b9-58ca-a9ef-51e68fb5e873.html
22 “Quintana injured in crash,” The Associated Press, The Tampa Bay Times, February 2, 1992, https://www.tampabay.com/archive/1992/02/25/quintana-injured-in-crash/
25 Luis Torres, “Trade Retrospective Special: Red Sox Send Jeff Bagwell to the Astros for Larry Andersen,” Beyond the Box Score, August 1, 2017, https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2017/8/1/16066426/jeff-bagwell-astros-red-sox-hall-of-fame-larry-andersen-trade
26 Dwight Evans was selected to the 1987 All Star Game as an outfielder. After Bill Buckner’s release, he moved to first base for the remainder of the year.
27 “Milwaukee Brewers at Boston Red Sox, October 3, 1993 Box Score,” Retrosheet.org, https://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1993/B10030BOS1993.htm
30 Pedro Treto Cisneros, Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano, Mexico City, Mexico, Revistas Deportivas, S.A. de C.V., 2005.
31 Treto Cisneros.
32 Treto Cisneros.
33 Maurizio Roveri, “Villalobos e I rei del fuoricampo,” (Villalobos is the Home Run King), Baseball Italia, 1998, May 4, 2010, https://www.baseball.it/2010/05/04/villalobos-e-i-re-del-fuoricampo/
34 “1998 Italian Baseball League Statistics,” Scorekeepers.org, https://www.scorekeepers.org/campionati/schede_vita/squadra.php?id=9&anno=1998&sport=B#attacco
35 Ignacio Serrano, “Wilson Álvarez y Carlos Quintana son citados por todos en el Todos Estrallas del Zulia,” El Emergente, May 2020, https://elemergente.com/2020/05/wilson-alvarez-y-carlos-quintana-son.html
36 Ignacio Serrano, “José Pirela se acerca al récord de Carlos Quintana,” El Emergente, January 2017, https://elemergente.com/2017/01/jose-pirela-se-acerca-al-record-de.html
38 “Selected Batter-Pitcher Matchups for Carlos Quintana,” Retrosheet.org https://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/Q/MUS0_quinc001.htm