OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Víctor Bejerano accumulated impressive statistics during his 24-year career. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

If baseball has one distinguishing feature, it is the length of its seasons. The U.S. Major Leagues play 162 games a year, from April to October. The Japanese professional League plays 143.

The Mexican summer league has around 114, and in our National Series the teams that qualify for the second round play 90, plus the play-offs.

No doubt, a lot of games are played. And this requires great effort on the part of players, who go out on the field day after day, many times in the heat, and on occasions the cold, and must travel constantly, sometimes at great distances.

It is no surprise that few men are able to keep up the pace for long. Those who played 10, 15, even 20 years have impressive dedication, make a daily effort, and love baseball. Not everyone has these qualities.

This article is dedicated to players who, with their devotion to baseball, have played more than 20 years, with more than 1,800 games to their names, as a minimum. Some are well known, others not, but all deserving of more respect.

BEJERANO, QUESADA, PACHECO

Of course, many know that the Cuban player with the most games is Havana’s Enrique Díaz, given his numbers of hits, runs, and triples, just to mention three of his records that have been hard to match.

The surprise comes with a player from Granma, Víctor Bejerano, one of only two players with more than 2,000 games, placing third in appearances at bat. He didn’t spend much time on the national team, but his contribution in Granma was great. He is the only player from this eastern province with more than a thousand runs (1,167) and a thousand batted in (1,097), with 248 homeruns and 383 doubles. If we add his runs and RBI and subtract his homeruns, we can see that Víctor Bejerano made 2,016 hits for Granma, meaning that he is one of the most productive players of all time. And this was accomplished over 24 consecutive seasons.

Few remember him, especially among younger fans who never saw him play. Plus, he set a stellar example at second base, making double plays with Luis Ulacia, on first.

Sergio Quesada was never selected for the national team, but his numbers show how good he was. An excellent batter behind a man on base as second bat, and good, too, when a bunt was needed.

He made more than 2,000 hits (2,025 to be exact), with 284 doubles, scoring 1,014 runs. He is ninth in the number of double plays on defense (1,292), tied with Havana’s first baseman Antonio Scull. And, as if that weren’t enough, his constancy, dedication, and love for the team, allowed him to play over two decades in almost 2,000 games.

When it comes to picking the best second baseman in Cuba’s National Series, one name stands out: Santiago’s Antonio Pacheco. For those who like statistics: Pacheco is all-time second in hits (2,356); third in runs batted in (1,304), surpassed only by Orestes Kindelán and Antonio Muñoz; has among the top 12 averages (.334); made 2,278 hits; and scored 1,258 runs. He showed his consistency over 22 years on the field for Santiago de Cuba, and almost two decades on the national team, with very significant numbers.

If readers study the table below, they will notice that there are two catchers, Eriel Sánchez and Rolando Meriño - a very impressive fact since long careers are not common among those in this difficult, exhausting position. Eriel, from Sancti Spiritus, lacked only 56 games to make the 2,000 mark, and take third on this list.

YASTRZEMSKI, MUSIAL, RIPKEN

In the U.S. Major Leagues, Pete Rose accomplished a great deal in baseball despite his difficult character and problems off the field, as the player with the most games to his name. No one has seen more than Pete Rose.

Next comes a player whose Polish last name obliged his teammates to call him Yas. At 21 years of age, Carl Yastrzemski was handed a difficult task, filling the shoes of one of the greatest batters of all time: Ted Williams.

And he did it. Over his 23 years in left field for the Boston Red Sox, Yas won three batting titles, a triple crown, seven Golden Gloves; placed ninth in hits with 3,419,  stepping up to the bat 12,000 times, and participating in more than 1,400 games over 17 years. No doubt, an extraordinary player who once said, “I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day and I dream about it at night.”

Coincidentally, another player deserving of mention here, given his long career, is also of Polish descent: Stanislaw Frantisek Musial, always known as Stan. One of the best left-handers of all time, with extraordinary consistency, he made 1,815 hits as a visitor and 1,815 at home, with almost 11,000 at bats. He was seven times batting champion, and on three occasions, most valuable player. During two seasons, he was given more walks than strike-outs, and was still able to score 475 homeruns.

Cal Ripken, one of the most charismatic U.S. ball players in history, at home and abroad, was a paradigm of dedication, love for the game, and for his only team, the Baltimore Orioles. His 2,632 consecutive games constitute an unbreakable record, along with those of players like Cy Young and Walter Johnson.

Ripken was not only consistency. Over his 19-season career, in addition to not missing a game for 11 years, he made 603 doubles and 431 homeruns, more than 3,000 hits and 1,700 runs. He was named Most Valuable Player twice, and Rookie of the Year in 1982, and awarded two Golden Gloves. His career was brilliant and his willpower incredible.

I will finish with a mention of a man who, in the opinion of many experts and historians, is the all-around best ball player ever: Willie Mays. He made a total of 660 homeruns, more than 3,000 hits; was batting champion, five-time slugging leader, and considered the best center-fielder of all time, with 12 Golden Gloves, and a record 7,095 outs… in addition to being on the field every day.

MEN OF STEEL

CUBAN NATIONAL SERIES

NAME

Games played

At bat

Seasons

Enrique Díaz

2 184

7 983

26

Víctor Bejerano

2 033

7 481

24

Fernando Sánchez

1 994

7 204

23

Agustín Lescaille

1 978

7 326

22

Antonio Muñoz

1 955

6 714

24

Sergio Quesada

1 948

7 528

20

Eriel Sánchez

1 944

7 031

25

Rolando Meriño

1 857

6 289

22

Javier Méndez

1 857

6 432

22

Antonio Pacheco

1 853

7 045

22

U.S. MAJOR LEAGUES

Names

Gamers played

At bat

Seasons

Pete Rose

3 562

14 053

24

Carl Yastrzemski

3 308

11 988

23

Hank Aaron

3 298

12 364

23

Ricky Henderson

3 081

10 961

25

Ty Cobb

3 035

11 429

24

Eddie Murray

3 026

11 336

21

Stan Musial

3 026

10 972

22

Cal Ripken

3 001

11 551

21

Willie Mays

2 992

10 881

22

Barry Bonds

2 986

9 847

22

Statistics: Carlos del Pino, www.beisbolcubano.com