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Luis Olmo Turns 90

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  • Luis Olmo Turns 90

    Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Luis Olmo turned 90 years of age on August 11.
    Olmo is a Puerto Rican who played for the Dodgers from 1943 to 1945 and again in 1949. He played in the '49 World Series.
    Olmo led the National League in Triples in 1945. On May 18 of that year, he hit a grand slam home run and a bases loaded triple in the same game, a feat no other player accomplished for the rest of the 20th Century.
    Olmo jumped to the Mexican League in 1946 because one Mexican team owner offered a higher salary than major league teams were playing. Olmo and several others were banned by MLB Commissioner Happy Chandler. In Olmo's case the suspension lasted three years. Olmo returned to the Dodgers in '49 and played for the Boston Braves in 1950 & 1951 before calling it a career.
    Happy birthday, Luis!

    *Philly-brownsfan*

  • #2
    '45 was the year I became a Dodgers fan, and I recall Olmo as the star of that team.

    He was part of a pretty good hitting outfield that year (Dixie Walker: .300, Goody Rosen: .325, Olmo: .313), and his 110 RBI were the third-best in the league.

    He could have filled the permanent hole in LF for years.

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    • #3
      I keep hoping to see more in the Puerto Rican press about Luis, a very interesting player and personaility. You'd think this occasion would prompt something. I will remain on the lookout.

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      • #4
        The Puerto Rican chapter of SABR honored Luis on his birthday. Here's the notice:

        http://www.sabr.org/sabr.cfm?a=cms,c,2895,3,158

        I wonder if Luis was there himself? The SABR guys there are pretty plugged into the veterans' community. I'll see what else I can find out.

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        • #5
          Dick Schaap said Luis was his all time favorite Dodgers player. ''El Jibaro'' is in the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame.

          My Dad was a semi-pro pitcher in Puerto Rico during the 1930s. In one of his last games he pitched to Luis who proceeded to hit a tremendous home run against him. But Dad was a good sportsman and he rooted for Luis and the Dodgers until they left Brooklyn.

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          • #6
            Great story, beisbolfiebre. I wish I could have seen Puerto Rican baseball back in the '30s, '40s, and '50s -- not only for the talent, but for the way the island must have looked back then.

            Olmo visited KeySpan Park in 2003 for the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame ceremony. Here's the story (though only Luis's name is mentioned):

            http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories...6_25plays.html

            This book was also published in 2003, and if the photo of Olmo is from that time, he looked quite healthy for a man in his 80s.

            http://books.google.com/books?id=c0_...q=Olmo&f=false

            Here too is an early article about him in the U.S. press; it's from 1943:

            http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...s-olmo+arecibo

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            • #7
              Thanks for that great reply!

              You would have loved to have met my Dad who was a virtual encyclopedia of Puerto Rican baseball from that era. For example, years ago when Frank Robinson managed in the PR Winter League, several writers said he was the first Black manager in that League. This is incorrect as George Scales managed there in the late 30s and 40s. Dad was quite adamant about that matter and years later I read online reports which confirmed what he said. Dad also knew Perucho Cepeda and was friends with Josh Gibson.

              Have you read any data on Piggy Gerard? He was a Cruzano (that is from St Croix or Santa Cruz as we call it) and was Luis Olmo's best friend. It was said Branch Rickey considered him for the position that he ultimately gave to Jackie Robinson.

              I hope that some one will write a book on Puerto Rican baseball from that era. It may have been one of the strongest and most underrated leagues of all time. Even the legendary Don Zimmer has said that the Santurce team he played for in the early 50s was the greatest winter ball team he ever saw.
              Last edited by beisbolfiebre; 08-21-2009, 08:07 PM.

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              • #8
                Not only have I read about Gerard, beisbolfiebre...I have written about him! (As perhaps you may have guessed from my screen name here.) Here is his bio:

                http://home.roadrunner.com/~vibaseball/gerard.html

                I never knew that he was such good friends with Olmo. I actually saw Gerard twice when visiting St. Croix to do my research. It was a great blow to find that he had lost his memory to a stroke and Alzheimer's. Oh, the stories we missed. When Gerard passed away, the obituary in the local paper used the photo I took of him in 1999.

                There are two fine books on the Puerto Rican League and the Santurce Crabbers by Thomas Van Hyning. I believe they are still in print. They are just what you want.

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                • #9
                  Doug Harvey, the greatest umpire of my generation, used to tell about umpiring in the Winter League in a game managed by Luis Olmo at Luis Olmo Stadium. Which, as you can imagine, made it a little tough on the umpires, since our guy was a bit popular there! Happy Birthday to a great baseball man.

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                  • #10
                    ''I have written about him!''


                    GREAT article!

                    Tell me something: a few years ago I met an elderly Cruzano who told me he and Piggy played cricket as youths back in Santa Cruz. Do you know if he played organized cric for the Leeward Islands or any local club in his home town?

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                    • #11
                      It's news to me that Gerard played cricket, but when I think about it, it's really not surprising. Valmy Thomas told me that cricket was still the sport of St. Croix in his youth, and he was born in 1928, 12 years after Gerard.

                      Amazing how these details still come to light.

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                      • #12
                        Luis Olmo and Leo Durocher
                        Attached Files
                        Let's Go Mets!
                        New York Mets fan since 1962

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                        • #13
                          As I hoped, the Puerto Rican press did put out an article on Luis. It recapped the SABR salute.

                          Even if you don't read Spanish, you can enjoy the photos. Luis looks terrific for 90, and there's a special bonus. Millito Navarro -- the real grand old man of Puerto Rican baseball, now 103 years old -- was also on hand looking happy and healthy.

                          http://www.vocero.com/noticia.php?id=28896

                          Here's another brief one in Spanish:

                          http://boricuacomotu.com/portal/modu...rticle&sid=191
                          Last edited by VIBaseball; 08-24-2009, 07:50 AM. Reason: Additional story link

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                          • #14
                            Thanx for your info and the great fotos.

                            As for cricket, I believe it is still the # 1 sport in that island. Its players are a part of four recognized international teams: St Croix, CVI (Combined Virgin Islands), the Leeward Islands, and the Windies or West Indies Cricket team. The Windies were world champions in the 1990s and were led by Antigua's Sir Vivian Richard.

                            About 40% of St Croix's population is Puerto Rican (the percentage is smaller in other W.I. isles). This accounts for why so many Cruzanos enjoy baseball. But I remain puzzled as to why cricket never became a major sport in PR considering how many Leeward Islanders have called it home.

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                            • #15
                              Danny Kaye: a former student at Jefferson High School in the East New York section of Brooklyn.

                              That was my school!

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