Nusbaum: Hector Espino, the unknown slugger

From Eric Nusbaum at SB Nation on May 21, 2013:

Héctor Espino landed in Florida on Aug. 6, 1964. A helicopter reportedly flew over Jacksonville, Fla., trailing a banner with the words ESPINO HAS ARRIVED. The next day – the same day Lyndon Johnson signed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution – Espino made his American baseball debut. Five weeks and 32 games later, he was gone, never to return, a historical footnote, destined to be forgotten by all but the most obsessive baseball fans.

There is a joke told by Mexican baseball fans about Espino arriving at the pearly gates of heaven with much less fanfare. St. Peter doesn’t recognize Espino and asks God what he should do. “Don’t be a coward,” God says. “Pitch to him.”

Most American baseball fans wouldn’t recognize Héctor Espino either, even though he was the greatest hitter in Mexican history and by many accounts one of the best hitters of all time. Espino played from 1960 to 1984. He had wrists like the barrels of baseball bats and a body like a 5’11, 185-pound vending machine. He also hit somewhere between 755 and 796 professional home runs.

The exact total, like much about Espino’s career, is a matter of perspective.

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Originally published: May 21, 2013. Last Updated: May 21, 2013.