Cristóbal TorrienteCristóbal Torriente
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 2006
Primary team: Chicago American Giants
Primary position: Center Fielder
“The Black Babe Ruth” was the nickname Torriente acquired in the fall of 1920. The New York Giants (plus Ruth) visited Torriente’s native Cuba for a nine-game series vs. Almendares—Torriente’s team. Torriente outhit and out-homered Ruth in the series and the home team won the series by one game.
Torriente was a powerful, stocky centerfielder who possessed all of the traditional five tools: hitting for average and power, fielding, throwing, and running. Torriente came stateside in 1913 to play, appropriately enough, for the Cuban Stars. He also played several seasons in the ‘teens for J.L. Wilkinson’s “All-Nations” team.
He joined The Chicago American Giants in 1918, helping the team capture the first three Negro National League pennants in 1920-22. He won the league batting title in 1920 and in 1923. He joined the Kansas City Monarchs in 1926, and the next two seasons he spent with the Detroit Stars. He wound up his American career in the early 1930s with Gilkerson’s Union Giants, the Atlanta Black Crackers, and the Cleveland Cubs.
Like many players, Torriente had a parallel winter career in the Cuban Winter league. In 13 seasons in his homeland, he hit over .300 11 times, and won two batting titles. His teams won six Cuban championships in those thirteen seasons.
He was a left-handed bad ball hitter with dramatic power to all fields, also hitting for gaudy averages, often reported in the high three hundreds and low four hundreds. He was a quick and fast base runner who stole many bases. In center field, his speed seemed odd from such a stocky player, but he covered a lot of ground and had an accurate and powerful arm.
He also was an occasional pitcher in the Negro National League, compiling 15 career wins against just a handful of losses.
Torriente, as a light-skinned Cuban, might well have played in the major leagues, but the scouts who looked at him rejected him because his hair was too kinky. Regardless of his hair, he was an all-around great ballplayer. As Indianapolis A.B.C.’s manager C.I. Taylor put it: “If I should see Torriente walking up the other side of the street, I would say ‘There walks a ballclub.’”
He was among the ten original inductees into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, and was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Year Inducted: 2006
Primary Team: Chicago American Giants
Position Played: Center Fielder
Birth place: Cienfuegos. Cuba
Birth year: 1893
Died: 1938, New York, New York
Cuban Stars (West) (1914-1915)
Kansas City Monarchs (1916-1917)
Chicago American Giants (1919-1925)
Kansas City Monarchs (1926)
Detroit Stars (1927-1928)
Cleveland Cubs (1932)
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