Dominican Baseball Legends
In case you didn’t know, the Dominican Republic goes mad for baseball. Called béisbol or just pelota (ball), it’s the DR’s national sport. Through the winter months (October-January), fans avidly follow their national baseball league, called LIDOM (LIga de béisbol de la Républica DOMinicana).
If you want a real cultural adventure on your vacation, check out a LIDOM baseball game. See if you can keep up!
Dominican baseball fans also keenly track the progress of Dominican players in the Major League.
Many young players aspire to one day play for their favourite national team, and maybe even be signed by a MLB team. Their local baseball heroes prove it can be done, and offer the glinting hope of future stardom.
Did you know?
After the United States, the Dominican Republic is the country that contributes the largest number of players to Major League Baseball.
In the 2017-18 season, MLB signed a record 612 Dominican players. Bonuses are estimated to total around $70 million (USD).
Many Dominican players have pitched and batted their way to become national heroes and have gone down as legends in the sport.
Let’s take a look at some of the world-class sporting talent that has come out of the DR:
Marichal is Dominican baseball royalty. A right-handed pitcher for the San Francisco Giants in the 1960s, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.
He was a 10-time All-Star, known for his precision with the ball and his intimidation tactics. He is said to have deliberately aimed his pitches at the batters’ helmets to give them a scare!
Marichal’s delivery was spectacular: his left leg kicked almost vertical in a fearsome windup. Remarkably, his kick retained its height throughout his career, and photos show it only lowered slightly by his retirement. The elaborate windup meant you couldn’t tell what he was going to pitch until it was coming at you!
His number 27 was retired by the Giants in 1975.
Juan Marichal is treasured by Dominican baseball fans. The Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo, home of the Tigres del Licey and the Leones del Escogido, was renamed the Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal in 2015, in honour of his contribution to Dominican baseball.
Martinez was a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. He played a huge part in helping the Boston Red Sox end their 86-year drought and win the World Series in 2004. He is recognised as one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
Statistically, Martinez is incredibly impressive. An 8-time All-Star, Martinez’ best years were 1997-2003. He won the Cy Young Award three times, posting a cumulative record of 118–36 (.766) with a 2.20 ERA. In 1999, he was runner-up for the American League (AL) Most Valuable Player Award after winning the pitching Triple Crown with a 23–4 record, 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts.
He reached the dizzying heights of winning the Cy Young Award in both the American and National Leagues – a rare feat. He also holds the record for the lowest single-season WHIP in major league history (0.737 in 2000) and the lowest single-season Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in the live ball era (1.39 in 1999).
From 2002 to 2006, Martinez held the major league record for the highest career winning percentage by a pitcher. He retired in December 2011 with the fourth-highest percentage in history, and the highest by a right-hander since 1893.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery bought an oil painting of Martinez for their collection in 2011.
Next time on Dominican Baseball Legends, we’ll meet David Ortiz, the pro baseball star with a heart for making a difference, and Sammy Sosa, the home-run record chaser!
In the meantime, don’t miss out on the chance to attend a baseball match while you’re in the Dominican Republic. It could be the cultural experience you never knew you needed!