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Fri, 05.25.1906

Martin Dihigo, Baseball Player born

Martin Dihigo

*Martín Dihigo was born on this date in 1906. He was an Afro Cuban professional baseball player.  

Martín Magdaleno Dihigo Llanos was born in Cidra, Jesús María in Matanzas Province, Cuba. He began his professional career at the age of 16 as a substitute infielder for Habana in the Cuban League.

His first summer in United States baseball came in 1923 as a first baseman for the Negro leagues' Cuban Stars (East). He played in the Negro leagues from 1923 through 1936 and again briefly in 1945.  Dihigo's career record in twelve seasons in the Negro Leagues was a .307 average and .511 slugging percentage, with 431 hits, 64 home runs, 61 doubles, 17 triples, 227 RBIs, and 292 runs scored in 1404 at-bats. He drew 143 walks and stole 41 bases. As a pitcher, he went 26–19 with a 2.92 ERA, with 176 strikeouts and 80 walks in 354 innings.  

Although a two-time All-Star in the American Negro League, his greatest season came in the Mexican League in 1938, with Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz where he went 18-2 with a 0.90 ERA as a pitcher, while winning the batting title with a .387 average. In another season in the Mexican League, he had a 0.15 ERA. In his Mexican career, he was 119-57 with a .317 batting average. In the Cuban League, he was 107-56 with a .298 average. Dihigo continued his playing career in Mexico into the early 1950s. He was Cuba's Minister of Sport from 1959 until his death, where he was called "The Immortal". In other Latin American countries, he was called "El Maestro", translated as "The Master".  Combining his Dominican, American, Cuban and Mexican statistics results in a lifetime .302 career batting average with 130 home runs (eleven seasons worth of home run totals are missing) and a 252-132 pitching record.  

After retiring, Dihigo became a radio announcer for the Cuban Winter League. He fled Cuba in 1952 to protest the rise of Fulgencio Batista. He managed the Leones del Caracas in the 1953 Caribbean Series but finished last. Dihigo returned to Cuba when Castro took power and was appointed the minister of sports. He taught programs for amateur baseball players that the new government opened.   Dihigo was elected to the American Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. Dihigo was also inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame.   

Along with Willie Wells, Dihigo is just one of two players to be inducted to the American, Cuban, Mexican, Dominican Republic, and Venezuelan Baseball Halls of Fame.  Martín Dihigo's stature as a ballplayer is reflected in this conversation between former Dodgers general manager Al Campanis and broadcaster Jaime Jarrín:  "Al said, 'Jaime, the best player that I have ever seen in my life is Martin Dihigo, but he never came to the Major Leagues,”  Jarrin said. "'After Dihigo, I would put Roberto Clemente above Willie Mays. Those are the two best players I have ever seen in my entire life.” He played in Negro league baseball and Latin American leagues from 1923 to 1936.  He played all nine positions. As a hitter, he led the Negro leagues in home runs in 1926 and 1935. As a pitcher, he once defeated Satchel Paige when he toured Cuba.  Martín Dihigo died on May 20, 1971 in Cienfuegos, Cuba. Known as a humorous, good-natured man as well as a versatile player.  He is buried in Cementerio Municipal Cruces in Cruces, Cienfuegos, Cuba.

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