The First and only Latino All Star Game that was ever played was at the Polo Grounds as the last professional game ever played there.
Polo Grounds III was formally known as Brotherhood Park built in 1890 with a capacity of 34,000 (1911) 55,000 in Coogan’s Bluff located in the Western shore of the Harlem River in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan in New York City. The access to the Polo Grounds was through the Bushman steps and the John T. Bush stairway. Today both entrances remain but the train station entrance closest to the Polo Grounds is blocked as the stadium is no longer there as NYCHA projects were built on the site.
Coogan’s Bluff overlooked the Polo Grounds from 1890 until April 1964. In 1957 the New York Giants moved to San Francisco as New York City had not shown any interest in the building of a new ballpark for the Giants in New York. Since the beginning of the 18th century upper Manhattan’s New York’s fans of the New York Giants Baseball club would assemble at Coogan’s Bluff right on top of West 155th street in upper part of Manhattan facing the Bronx where the original Yankee Stadium stood.
I attended games with my dad at the Polo Grounds. We mostly attended games when the teams with the Latino players were in town, as my dad was an avid Giants baseball fan. My dad, who was from Puerto Rico, was a huge baseball fan who influenced me and my brother Ray during our youth growing up in East Harlem in New York City. My dad played himself in his native Vieques and Ceiba Puerto Rico as a left handed hitter and it proved good for him. I attended my very first game at the Polo Grounds and also Yankee Stadium in 1961 the year Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record. I was of course taken in by the crowds at the Polo Grounds as the New York Mets were now the new tenants of the Polo Grounds.
I grew closer to being a Yankee fan because of the interlocking NY on their hats, something I had never seen before, while I also fell in love with the Yankee pin stripes. The first Yankee player I ever saw was none other than Ryan Duran, a Yankees relief pitcher who wore eyeglasses and made me wonder how a player can play baseball wearing glasses. As I grew older, I began to follow the San Francisco Giants with the likes of Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and the Alou Brothers and Willie Mays.
However, back to the Latino All Star Game itself. Band Leaders Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and La Lupe performed for the crowd of 14,235 as the Latino Players participated in the Charity Game at the Polo Grounds on October 12, 1963. The National League defeated the American League 5-2 as it was the last professional game to be played at the Polo Grounds. The game stands today as a testimony of how far we have gone as Latinos as they are some of the best paid for their outstanding skills in all areas of Major League Baseball. We have come a long way but we still have a way to go into the future. I am optimistic and confident that Latinos will continue to break down barriers in this new century and beyond.
Here is the list of the participants of the 1963 Latino All Star Game at the Polo Grounds New York City.
Felipe Alou – Dominican Republic – San Francisco Giants – Outfielder/ First Baseman
Ruben Amaro – Philadelphia Phillies – Infielder
Luis Aparicio – Venezuela – Chicago White Sox – Shortstop
Joe Azcue – Cuba – Cleveland Indians – Catcher
Ed Bauta – Cuba – St. Louis Cardinals – Pitcher
Cuno Barragan – United States – Chicago Cubs – Catcher
Julio Bequer – Cuba – Minnesota Twins – Pitcher / First Baseman
Leo Cardenas – Cuba – Cincinnati Reds – Shortstop/ Third Baseman
Roberto Clemente – Puerto Rico – Pittsburgh Pirates – Right Fielder
Joe Christopher – United States Virgin Islands – New York Mets – Outfielder
Vic Davalillo – Venezuela – Cleveland Indians – Outfielder
Mike De La Hoz – Cuba – Pinch Hitter, Second Baseman, Third Baseman
Chico Fernandez – Cuba – Detroit Tigers – Shortstop
Tony Gonzalez – Cuba – Philadelphia Phillies – Outfielder
Julian Javier – Dominican Republic – St. Louis Cardinals – Second Baseman
Hector Lopez – Panama – New York Yankees – Outfielder
Al Mc Bean – United States Virgin Islands – Pittsburgh Pirates – Pitcher
Roman Mejias -Cuba – Boston Reds – Outfielder
Aurelio Monteagudo – Cuba -Kansas City Athletics – Pitcher
Tony Oliva – Cuba – Minnesota Twins – Outfielder
Joe Pignatano – United States – New York Mets retired as player but Mets coach – Catcher
Vic Power – Puerto Rico – Minnesota Twins – First Baseman
Pedro Ramos – Cuba – Cleveland Indians – Pitcher
Diego Segui – Cuba – Kansas City Athletics – Pitcher
Felix Torres – Puerto Rico- Los Angeles Angels – Third Baseman
Zolio Versalles – Cuba – Minnesota Twins – Shortstop
Gabriel “Tito” Avila, Jr.
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