Gustavo Chacin

This article was written by Tony Oliver

Gustavo Chacin (TRADING CARD DATABASE)Baseball fans have always sought to quantify every aspect of their beloved game, no matter how picayune. Runs and outs came first, followed by individual marks like strikeouts, hits, and wins before technological advances allowed the proper measurement of pitch speed, much to the delight of aficionados eager to compare the exploits of Nolan Ryan to those of Randy Johnson beyond vivid memories and anecdotal evidence. While modern sabermetricians have waxed poetic over launch angle and exit velocity, only the connoisseurs of esoteric figures have measured the home-run trot, perhaps the least graceful of all gaits found on the baseball diamond. Unofficially, the Orioles’ Luke Scott holds the record, rounding the bags in 35.76 seconds, thanks to a pulled hamstring shortly after he passed first base in a June 10, 2010, contest.1 Less than 10 days earlier, on Memorial Day, one of the baseball calendar’s holiest days, the Astros’ Gustavo Chacín had accomplished the task in 27.28 seconds — a seeming eternity to those watching the video but likely a mere blur to those in attendance, cognizant of the sheer incongruity of the scene.

Gustavo Adolfo Chacín González was born on December 4, 1980, in the coastal city of Maracaibo, Venezuela, which sits between its namesake lake and the small gulf connected to the Caribbean Sea. A stocky 5-foot-11, 185-pound left-handed pitcher, he was scouted by Luis Feunmayo, who arranged a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998. He was quickly assigned to the Pioneer League (Rookie) for the 1999 season and appeared in 15 games (nine as starter). His 3.09 ERA over 64 innings placed second in the league among qualifiers.2 He featured in eight decisions (four wins, three losses, one save) with the Medicine Hat (Alberta) Blue Jays, garnering an all-star selection.3

In 2000 the Toronto brass shipped Chacín to the Dunedin affiliate of the Class-A (Advanced) Florida State League as a member of the starting rotation. Chacín, the youngest member of the team, responded with a 9-5 record and 127⅔ innings but allowed a team-high 14 home runs. Nevertheless, he was added to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies later in the season. The Southern League gave the newcomer a rough welcome, victimizing him for 10 hits, seven runs (all earned), six walks, and two losses in 10 innings pitched. Countless others would have been traumatized by the rough landing, but Chacín took it in stride and returned for a strong 2001 campaign. He started 23 games and appeared as a reliever in two others, earning 11 victories with a 3.98 ERA, slightly above the league average of 3.89, along with one shutout. The card issuers seized on his strong minor-league performance to include him in the 2002 extended sets; Donruss, Topps, Leaf, and Upper Deck anointed Chacín a top prospect, fueling the fire of Blue Jays fans everywhere longing for a second banana to Roy Halladay’s top-of-the-rotation presence.

The franchise opted to try Chacín as a bullpen arm for Tennessee in 2002, starting him in 13 contests while bringing him as a reliever in 22 others. As with many pitchers unsure of their role, Chacín struggled, with his ERA increasing to 4.66, a pattern that would continue the next year with the Eastern League’s New Haven club. In a career-high 46 contests, Chacín’s WHIP was an uncomfortable 1.543 but a key statistic caught the eye of the Blue Jays. He allowed only one home run during the entire campaign, an important concept the pitching-starved club sought to instill in their young arms’ mindset. The Ravens advanced to the league finals, bringing a taste of collective success to the young left-hander. The team changed both its home (to New Hampshire) and its name (to the Fisher Cats) and won the circuit in 2004, with Chacín leading the league with 16 victories along with his team-high 25 starts and 141⅔ innings pitched. A brief call-up to the International League for the Syracuse club added two more wins (with 14 strikeouts in 11⅔ innings) for a minor-league high of 18. He loaded up on the hardware front, earning Double-A and Eastern League All-Star selections and the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year award.4 Baseball America named Chacín to the Minor League 2nd All-Star Team and the Blue Jays selected him as their Minor League Player of the Year.5

Had the clock struck midnight at that juncture, and Chacín’s regal carriage turned into a pumpkin, he likely would have been satisfied with a sensational year. Toronto, however, had other ideas, calling the young lefty to the majors. Many observers bemoan baseball’s long season as tedious, with offerings like September 20’s Blue Jays-Yankees game as all but meaningless, but the model allows the also-rans to give their prospects some valuable experience once the rosters expand. The Yankees strode in with a 94-55 record, tops in the AL East, while Toronto was 31 games behind, occupying the cellar. In fact, only 10,732 of the Bronx faithful attended, seemingly unworried about the 23-year-old making his major-league debut. Chacín never trailed, bolstered by Russ Adams’s leadoff home run against Javier Vázquez, and through 98 pitches, 63 of which were strikes, limited the Yankees to four hits, three runs, and three walks. Newspaper chronicles the next morning revealed that this was the first win by a left-handed debutante in the Joe Torre era, a remarkable achievement. At the whim of the baseball deities, his even better follow-up against Baltimore (seven innings, one run, four hits, four strikeouts) was met by a dreaded loss as his comrades were unable to cross home plate.

The offseason brought hope north of the border with Chacín penciled in as the second starter behind Halladay for the 2005 Blue Jays. His impressive April numbers (4-1 record with a 2.48 ERA) earned him the Rookie of the Month Award, a feat he could repeat in July (five victories in six appearances). Chacín paced the American League first-year players with 13 wins; his 34 starts topped Blue Jays hurlers. He was selected for both the Topps and Baseball America versions of the All-Rookie Teams.6 Perhaps his most impressive feat was allowing only 0.89 home runs per nine innings, good for ninth place in the American League despite facing the heavy boppers of the American League East. He had a strong claim to the Rookie of the Year Award and earned two first-place votes but paced behind five other greenhorns.

Frustration was the theme of the young hurler’s 2006 season. Thanks to robust run support from his hitters, he finished April with a 4-1 record that belied ugly fundamentals: seven home runs allowed and 12 walks in 30⅔ frames. Early May brought seven runs in 8⅓ innings and a trip to the disabled list with a strained forearm and sprained elbow ligament. Returning to the team on May 30, he was lifted after 88 pitches against Boston while nurturing a five-run lead that would yield his sixth victory. He was not as lucky on June 9, leaving after three innings after re-straining his elbow; he did not come back until August.7 During the stretch run, Chacín lowered his ERA by more than a full run but continued to struggle with control (1.27 strikeout-to-walk ratio), ending his 17-game season with a 5.05 ERA and nine wins against four losses.

However, Chacín’s inactive stint was not without highlights. Since its beginning, baseball players have been used to sell tobacco, cars, sodas, and even coffee makers, so it was not a surprise when the Blue Jays marketing team concocted “Chacín: the fragrance.” With tongue firmly in cheek, the always jovial pitcher filmed two 30-second promotional videos, eagerly shared over the local Toronto airwaves and on the Rogers Centre scoreboard. For months the team’s broadcasters had a running joke that the pitcher, whose last name sounded like cologne, should have his scent immortalized.8 The antics, which may have been forgotten in a prior era, were chronicled in various videos available on YouTube, as the left-hander told the audience his product “smell(ed) like victory.” 9

What began as a running joke in sports radio eventually took a life on its own, with the franchise giving the lucky first 10,000 fans to pass the turnstiles of its June 27, 2006, game a “free sample.” Local newspapers did not chronicle the aroma in the ballpark, and Facebook was barely two years old when the giveaway took place; its success would have likely been quickly parroted in today’s social-media-driven society.10 A local company concocted the fragrance with Chacín himself lending a helping hand and nose to determine its ingredients.11

Chacín’s darkest personal hour came during 2007 spring training, as Tampa police arrested him for driving under the influence. The organization was frank in its assessment, with manager John Gibbons stating that “it’s a serious mistake and we all make mistakes,” while general manager J.P. Ricciardi acknowledged that Chacín “made a mistake and we want to work with him, not against him.”12 With the incident fresh on his mind, he struggled mightily, allowing 17 earned runs in 27⅓ innings, good for a 5.60 ERA. Toronto placed him on the 15-day disabled list on April 29 due to a strained elbow; little did anyone know it was the last major-league pitch Chacín would throw for the franchise. The pain continued through bullpen sessions and a minor-league assignment before he had surgery in early September for a partially torn labrum.13 He re-signed with the team on January 17, 2008, but was assigned to extended spring training after a slate of brutal performances. After a rough 11 games (7.88 ERA in 45⅔ innings) with Dunedin, having come full circle from 2000, Chacín was released by Toronto on May 9.

It is often stated that reaching the major leagues is awfully hard but staying is even harder. The Washington Nationals came knocking on December 16 with a contract. However, he did not play a game in the majors or minors for the franchise, which released him on April 1, 2009. The Philadelphia Phillies gave him an opportunity four days later, assigning him to the Lehigh Valley and Reading clubs before releasing him on November 9. Philadelphia was oddly not impressed with Chacín’s performance, which included 115⅓ innings with a 3.20 ERA. He went back home to plot his move, confident another team would request his services. The Houston Astros beckoned on December 22, as an early Christmas present.

The road back to “The Show” began in Round Rock, the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate. Chacín pitched six games early in the season, compiling a 3.60 ERA in 25 innings before being recalled by the Astros. Houston was caught in an identity crisis, with future Hall of Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell recently retired and All-Stars Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee, and Lance Berkman struggling to sustain an otherwise mediocre roster. The franchise hit rock bottom in 2011-2013, losing a combined 324 games, but the 2010 edition was merely uncompetitive, finishing fourth in the Central Division, 10 games under .500.

On May 7, more than a thousand days after last taking a big-league mound, Chacín threw two scoreless innings in a losing effort against the San Diego Padres. He was effective, throwing only 33 pitches (22 strikes) to the 10 batters he faced. A week later, he tossed 1⅓ frames in San Francisco, and on May 20 he obtained three outs against Colorado. The Astros’ confidence in their reclamation project grew, and through his Memorial Day (May 31) outing, he boasted a 1.86 ERA in 9⅔ innings, all as a middle reliever in Houston defeats.

Before the May 31 game, and over more 339 career major-league innings, Chacín had given up 45 round-trippers but had never hit one himself. In fact, during his entire professional career (major leagues, minor leagues, and the Venezuelan winter league), he had never swatted a four-bagger. On the third pitch of his at-bat leading off the third inning, he connected to deep right field. While the theme of Chariots of Fire did not blare through Minute Maid Park’s loudspeakers, no one would have blamed Chacín had he channeled the Academy Award-winning score in his mind.

He savored the moment, basking in the fans’ adulation as the cheers got louder once the baseball disappeared, a few feet from the Chick-Fil-A’s pole on right field. Chacín’s run eased into a jog once he passed first base, breathing easier just prior to touching the keystone. His ill-fitting helmet wobbled at the pace, prompting Chacín to readjust it shortly after passing the opposing shortstop before resetting his goggles between third base and home plate. After crossing the dish for Houston’s second run, he was engulfed in a sea of high fives in the Astros dugout from his teammates, perhaps as oblivious as many fans that this was Chacín’s first major-league hit. In fact, it took one full replay cycle before the announcers confirmed his feat to the television audience; by then, Chacín’s victim, the Nationals’ Luis Atilano, was focused on the next batter, Michael Bourn.

Hitting-wise, the fairy-tale round-tripper was not just the highlight of Chacín’s year, but also of his professional career. Chacín had not hit a home run in the minors, though he had a respectable .242 average (8-for-33) across all his stops. In the purest example of baseball symmetry, Atilano and Chacín are connected beyond that fateful swing. Exactly three weeks earlier, the Washington pitcher had singled off the Mets’ John Maine. While Atilano registered the win by tossing 5⅓ strong innings, his safety was the only time he reached base in his short big-league career: He only played one year in the majors.

But the May 31, 2010, high was ephemeral. Chacín was lifted on the bottom of the fifth, with Cory Sullivan pinch-hitting as the Astros were down by three runs. The Nationals crossed the plate nine times in the seventh inning, putting the contest out of reach. Chacín picked up his last two wins and two losses as the season progressed, along with his only lifetime save. His final appearance came on September 30, when he tossed an inconsequential third of an inning by giving up a walk and a hit, and striking out his last batter.

Entering the 2011 season, Chacín was still relatively young, having just turned 30. The Astros re-signed him with an invitation to spring training, but he did not make the club. He threw 66⅔ innings for the Oklahoma City Redhawks but was released on July 14. The Mets inked him for the International League’s Buffalo Bisons but his tenure was brief; 20 earned runs in 15 innings later, New York chose not to re-sign him.

Eager to stay in the game, Chacín played independent ball in 2012 with the Rockland Boulders of the Canadian-American Association (3-5, 5.43 ERA) and the Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks (2-2, 3.93) before venturing south of the border in 2013 for one last run in Triple A with the Mexican League’s Diablos Rojos of Mexico City (eight games, all in relief) and the Laguna Vaqueros (one game with no batters retired). For his entire major-league career, Chacín forged a 27-17 record across 102 games, 58 of which he started. His 4.23 ERA was consistent with his minor-league mark of 4.30.

But beyond franchise uniforms, Chacín also wore his country colors with great pride. In the original 2006 World Baseball Classic he registered a save against Australia in the preliminary round.14 He did not feature in the decision against Puerto Rico in the first round, but Venezuela advanced to the semifinals, where he did not see action.15

Chacín’s commitment to his motherland, however, had begun much earlier. A few months after his 18th birthday, he debuted for the Cardenales of Lara of the winter league. He would wear the team’s colors for six consecutive campaigns, appearing in 72 games (56 as a starter) with a solid 3.44 ERA. His first four seasons included forays into the postseason. After several years away, Chacín returned to the winter circuit. Now wearing the Caracas uniform, he pitched in 13 games across the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 campaigns. His 65 regular-season innings were supplemented by an additional 58 in the postseason, in which he picked up three wins for the Leones’ 2009-2010 title. He saved the team from elimination with a stellar performance (seven innings, five hits, six strikeouts, no walks).16

Chacín next played for Magallanes in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, starting 21 games and picking up another title, this time with the Navegantes against his former Lara franchise. He repeated the trick by thriving under pressure, scattering two runs over five innings to tie the series before Magallanes clinched the 2012-2013 crown the next day.17 He was traded to La Guaira and tossed only three innings with a 15.00 ERA, with an additional 2⅔ scoreless frames in the playoffs. For his winter-league career, Chacín appeared in 113 contests, pitching 444 innings with a 3.77 ERA (111 ERA+) and a 23-29 mark. He added an additional 132 innings in the playoffs with a 4.09 ERA and a 10-8 record.

As of 2020 Chacín lives in Tampa, Florida, and was active with the Venezuelan exile community.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author relied extensively on 



1 Larry Granillo, “The All-Time Tater Trot Tracker Leaderboard,” June 26, 2016,  Accessed April 23, 2021.

2 “1999 Pioneer League Leaders,”

3 “Pioneer League All-Star,”

4 “Gustavo Chacin,” Accessed April 23, 2021.

5 “Gustavo Chacin,” Accessed April 23, 2021.

6 “MLBAll-Rookie Team,” the  Accessed April 23, 2021.

7 Associated Press, “Blue Jays Score Eight Runs in the Eighth, Stun Tigers,”, June 9, 2006,

8 Matt Maldre, “Blue Jays Pitcher Gustavo Chacín to Get His Own Cologne,”, April 15, 2006.

9 “Chacin Cologne No. 2,”, July 12, 2007. Accessed April 23, 2021.

10 Ian Hunter, “Flashback Friday: Chacin Cologne,” Blue Jay Hunter, October 15, 2010,

11 Lisa Altobelli, “Scene of a Pitcher: Batting Odor,” Sports Illustrated, June 26, 2006,

12 Associated Press, “Jays Pitcher Chacin Arrested, Charged with DUI,”, March 17, 2007.

13 “Gustavo Chacin,” SportsEdge,ín/news Accessed April 23, 2021.

14 World Baseball Classic 2006 Statistics, accessed on April 23, 2021 via,

15 World Baseball Classic 2006 Statistics, accessed on April 23, 2021 via

16 “Registro Historico Estadistico del Beisbol Profesional Venezolano,”  Accessed April 23, 2021.

17 “Registro Historico Estadistico del Beisbol Profesional Venezolano,”  Accessed April 23, 2021.

Full Name

Gustavo Adolfo Chacin Gonzalez


December 4, 1980 at Maracaibo, Zulia (Venezuela)

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