Bjarkman: Adolfo Luque, baseball’s first Latin superstar

From SABR member Peter C. Bjarkman at La Vida Baseball on May 17, 2017:

Of all of baseball’s overlooked, undervalued and misunderstood figures, perhaps none looms larger than baseball’s first major Latino star, Cuban pitcher Adolfo “Dolf” Luque. Before players from the Caribbean started arriving in bigger numbers in the early 1950s, there was no other Latino interloper with greater big league impact.

Nor was there any who, due to his foreign roots, flew further under the radar. The résumé borders on eye-popping, if not downright spectacular. A fireplug right-hander who stood 5-foot-7 and possessed a blazing fastball, he debuted with the Boston Braves in 1914 and was already a mainstay with the Cincinnati Reds when the infamous 1919 Black Sox World Series rolled around. Luque put the big leagues on the map in his homeland and assured a special spot in the hearts of island fans for nuestros queridos rojos, our beloved Reds.

Unfortunately, this light-skinned, but reputedly dark-tempered Cuban with matinee idol looks who loved to drink, gamble and chase women maintained a reputation with big league fans and ballpark scribes alike that was never quite as “fair and balanced” as history might have demanded or that the home crowd in Cuba might have wished.

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Originally published: May 17, 2017. Last Updated: May 17, 2017.