Craig: Remembering a Puerto Rican baseball hero, Hiram Bithorn

From Mary Craig at BP Wrigleyville on September 28, 2017:

On February 9th, 1995, over 23,000 fans packed themselves into the 18,000 seat Hiram Bithorn Stadium to watch Puerto Rico’s “Dream Team” take on the Dominican Republic in the final game of the Caribbean Series. Not only was the series the finest exhibition of Puerto Rico’s baseball talent, it also served as an homage to the island’s strength, resiliency, and dedication to the sport. And enrobing it all was Hiram Bithorn, Cubs pitcher and the first Puerto Rican to play Major League Baseball.

Puerto Rico adopted baseball from Cuba in the late 1890s, creating its first two professional teams in 1897, the Almendares and the Borinquen clubs. Baseball quickly became a point of pride for Puerto Rico, as two years after it was assumed into American territory, the Almendares trounced the American military team 32-18. From that point forward, Puerto Ricans wholly embraced baseball, using it as a means of connecting to the United States while retaining their own identity. Every stadium became a town hall, and every major league player took with him the hopes and dreams of this island.

Serving as the epicenter of Puerto Rican baseball, Hiram Bithorn Stadium holds a particularly compelling place in the story of the sport, beginning with its name, derived from Hiram Bithorn, the first Puerto Rican to play major league baseball. Like many young Puerto Ricans, Bithorn grew up playing baseball, but he quickly separated himself from the pack, and all who watched identified something special in him.

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Originally published: September 28, 2017. Last Updated: September 28, 2017.