November 4, 1920: The Day Torriente Outclassed Ruth

This article was written by Jorge S. Figueredo

This article was published in the 1982 Baseball Research Journal


Cristobal Torriente, the magnificent Cuban power hitter, was considered by many experts as one of the three best black outfielders of all time. On the afternoon of November 4, 1920, he had the most unforgettable game of his career and surely one of the most memorable games in the history of Cuban baseball as he outclassed the incomparable Babe Ruth.

John McGraw brought his New York Giants team to Havana for a series of post-season exhibitions and the Babe had been added to the team. Ruth had been paid an unheard-of sum of money by promoter Abel Linares to play with the Giants. In his first game, October 31, he singled and tripled. But in his next appearance, the King of Swat was fanned three consecutive times by diminutive Jose Acosta, who beat the Giants 7 to 1. Acosta was a knuckle-baller who had pitched for the Washington Senators that summer.

The third game for Ruth was on November 4 and it was the first against the Almendares team and Torriente. It was played at the new Almendares park before a large audience. Isidro Fabre was the Blues’ hurler and the Giants sent George “Highpockets” Kelly, their regular first baseman, to the mound. He had pitched one game in relief for the Giants back in 1917. Fabre allowed the Giants three quick runs in the first frame, one of them scored by Ruth, who had walked.

Torriente opened the second inning for Almendares by clouting a home run over the fence in left-center as part of a 4-run rally. In the third, Ruth reached first when his grounder was muffed by second sacker Mike Herrera. Torriente also came up in the third and duplicated his previous feat by again clearing the wall in left-center for the fifth run for his team.

As an added attraction in the fifth inning, the Giants sent Ruth to the mound to replace Kelly. The Babe, a fine southpaw hurler in the teens before converting to the outfield, had pitched in only one game in 1920. He came in with the bases loaded and quickly disposed of Merito Acosta, who popped out to Larry Doyle at second. Torriente then came up and proceeded to drill a hard-line drive past Frankie Frisch at third base – a shot that the Fordham Flash later remembered as one that “almost took my leg off!” Two more runs scored and Torriente arrived smiling at second with a double. The bleachers exploded in a great ovation and the Bambino frowned. The Yankee idol recovered and stopped the Blues’ rebellion by retiring Eusebio Gonzalez and Mike Herrera, two other Cubans who made it to the majors. Ruth then returned to his original position and Kelly went back to the mound.

Ruth grounded out weakly to Armando Marsans in his third try. He was walked by Fabre in the sixth and, in his last opportunity at the plate, fouled out to catcher Abreu.

But Torriente was not yet finished. After Kelly got him out in the sixth on a grounder to the box, he smashed yet another roundtripper with Acosta on base and the Giants were defeated 11-4. Three homers, a double, and six runs batted in! What a performance by the great Cuban star!

Here is the box score of that memorable game.

 

 

 
 Giants

AB

R

H

Almendares

AB

R

H

George Burns

Lf

4

0

1

Bartolo Portuondo

3b

2

4

1

Dave Bancroft

SS

4

1

2

Armando Marsans

lb

4

1

2

Ross Youngs

Cf

5

0

1

Bernardo Baro

Rf

1

0

0

Babe Ruth

lb/P

3

1

0

Merito Acosta

Lf

5

1

2

Frank Frisch

3b

4

1

2

Crist. Torriente

Cf

5

3

4

George Kelly

P/lb

5

0

0

Eusebio Gonzalez

SS

4

0

1

Larry Doyle

2b

4

1

0

Mike Herrera

2b

4

1

1

Earl Smith

C

4

0

1

Eufemio Abreu

C

4

0

0

Frank Snyder

Rf

4

0

1

Isidro Fabre

P

4

1

1

   

37

4

8

33

11

12

Line score

New York 300 010 000 — 4
Almendares 041 021 21x — 11

Home Runs: Torriente 3. Two-Base Hits: Torriente. Sacrifice Hits: Baro 2. Stolen Bases: Bancroft, Frisch. Hit.by-Pitch: Frisch (by Fabre), Portuondo (by Kelly). Strike Outs: Kelly 6, Fabre 2. Walks: Kelly 4, Fabre 4. Passed Ball: Smith. Time: 2 Hours 20 Minutes. Umpires: Valentin Gonzalez and Kiko Magrinat. Scorer: Julio Franquiz.

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