#Shortstops: Words of a diverse game

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Garrett Allen

Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, is driven by milestones.

Baseball fans fawn over Cal Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive games played, Cy Young’s 511 career victories, Ted Williams’ .406 batting average, and so on. Perhaps more importantly, however, baseball prizes firsts: the first Hall of Fame class, with icons like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Christy Mathewson; Ruth, the first player to hit 500 home runs; and of course, Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in the modern major leagues.

This obsession extends beyond the field, into front offices and media booths. Rightly so. The importance of writers, commentators, and broadcasters cannot be overstated, as they make the game accessible to the fan.

In 1958, Rene Cárdenas – a Spanish-language broadcaster with the recently relocated Los Angeles Dodgers – made history, becoming the first Spanish-language broadcaster hired by an MLB team to cover baseball full-time. Cárdenas, a Nicaraguan, called games for 38 years, spanning three organizations: the Dodgers (21 years), Astros, (16 years), and Rangers (one year). He was the first Spanish-language broadcaster for each club.

Today, Latino players are integral to baseball, and Spanish-language broadcasters play essential roles in bringing the game to players’ home countries: the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama and more.

Many years after Cárdenas’ breakthrough, José Mota, a Dominican broadcaster with the Los Angeles Angels, made history of his own.

On Aug. 19, 2017, Mota became the first play-by-play announcer to broadcast an MLB game in both Spanish and English. Mota, who handled the Angels’ radio broadcasts in both languages, also worked as a color analyst on the team’s English and Spanish television broadcasts.

Mota kept a box score for the game, where Los Angeles defeated the home team, the Baltimore Orioles, 5-1, and later donated his work to the Hall of Fame. Latino players made their presence known during the game – Nicaraguan native J.C. Ramirez notched the victory, pitching 5.2 innings, and the late Luis Valbuena, who hailed from Venezuela, went 2-for-3 with two home runs.

This game exemplifies the vital role that Latin America plays in today’s game. Of the 329 plaques that hang in the Hall of Fame gallery, 15 honor Latin American stars, headlined by Roberto Clemente, Vladimir Guerrero, Edgar Martinez and Mariano Rivera.

With players like David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols soon to be Hall of Fame-eligible, and young stars like Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. currently lighting up stat sheets, it’s safe to say that this number will only increase.

Mota, meanwhile, translated for Guerrero, a fellow Dominican, during the 2018 Induction Ceremony.

Garrett Allen was a 2019 programming intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series