Chico was the Man

Venezuela’s Chico Carrasquel became the first Latino player to be named to an All-Star team

September 21, 2012
(NBHOF Library)

By Kimberly McCray

Venezuela has sent almost 300 players to the big leagues.  Yet of all the players hailing from the small South American nation, a select group of high-profile shortstops are Venezuela’s most successful exports. Glove men like Omar Vizquel, Dave Concepcion, Ozzie Guillen and Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio top the list of the position six players that are the pride of the nation.   

Within this exclusive group of Venezuelan shortstops, perhaps none is more lauded and respected in his home country than Alfonso Carrasquel (1926 – 2005).  Nicknamed “Chico” by the American press, Carrasquel became a hero with his groundbreaking rise to the major leagues in an era that was only beginning to see Latinos reach the highest level of play.  

Said Ozzie Guillen of Carrasquel’s role in breaking into the big leagues, “As the first great Venezuelan shortstop, Chico helped put our country on the baseball map. “

Signed by the Dodgers in 1949, Carrasquel was traded the following year to the White Sox, his team for the following eight seasons. After a breakout rookie year in 1950 in which he hit .282 and posted a 24-game hitting streak, Carrasquel went on to a solid career of 10 years in the major leagues. In those 10 years, Carrasquel accomplished many feats, most notably becoming the first Latin American player to be elected to an All Star team, an honor he achieved in 1951. 

Described early in his career as being a great defensive shortstop who “throws strikes to first base, covers a vast territory, is quick as a cat and can throw from almost any position…”, Chico was half of one of the era’s best double play combinations, partnering with Nellie Fox for his entire career with the White Sox. Leaving Chicago in the capable hands of Aparicio in 1956, Carrasquel first went to the Cleveland Indians and then the Kansas City A’s, completing his career with the Baltimore Orioles in 1959. 

Even today, more than 50 years after his playing days came to an end, the name Carrasquel in Venezuela is associated with baseball like Roosevelt is with American Presidents. 

 “I don’t think he was the greatest player ever to come from the country…” said Guillen, “…but to me, he was the greatest man to come from Venezuela.”

Check out bios of other Latin Legends here

Kimberly McCray was the 2012 library-recorded media intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development.

For information on how to apply for the Class of 2013 Steele Internship Program, click here