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Alfonso Gerard

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Alfonso Gerard (Piggy)

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 180 lb.

Alfonso Gerard was the only native of the Virgin Islands to play in the Negro Leagues, though countrymate Cos Govern had been a famous manager in the early days of black baseball in the US. He was a long-time player in Puerto Rico and appeared in the minor leagues a couple times. A "pesky" hitter, Gerard was noted for a good batting eye, often walking more than he struck out.

Gerard grew up on the island of St. Croix but moved to Puerto Rico in 1938. He played for the Puerto Rican national team on the international stage; the Cuban national team challenged his eligibility and Gerard had to produce a false birth certificate to support his status.

In 1944, Gerard debuted in the Puerto Rican Winter League, hitting .348 for the Santurce Crabbers and leading the circuit with 12 swipes. He shared Rookie of the Year honors with Luis Márquez. Gerard briefly drew the interest of Branch Rickey for his clean living and baseball skills, as Rickey was looking for a player to break the color barrier. Gerard wound up signing instead with Tubby Scales' New York Black Yankees. He hit .333 (according to The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues) or .258 (James Riley) in 1945.

In 1945-1946, Gerard hit .331/~.401/.419 for Santurce, finishing among the top 10 in batting average. He jumped to the Mexican League in 1946, signing with the Tuneros de San Luis and batting .261/~.307/.320 in 40 games in the most famous season in Liga history, when US major leaguers were lured to Mexico by the offer of big money.

"Piggy" hit .308 for Santurce in 1946-1947. He returned to the Negro Leagues in '47 but went just 5 for 39 for New York. Gerard then moved on to the Indianapolis Clowns, where he batted .340. In 1947-1948, he hit .332 for Santurce and scored 52 runs in 247 AB. Gerard batted .262 for the Chicago American Giants in the 1948 season.

Gerard batted .342/~.392/.434 for Santurce in 1948-1949. He finished 4th in the Puerto Rican League in average, a career high. Piggy hit .306 for the 1949 Indianapolis Clowns. In 1949-1950, he hit .274/~.335/.333 with Santurce. Gerard then joined the wave of black ballplayers appearing in Canada. He made his Organized Baseball debut with the Kingston Ponies, batting .333/~.438/.423 with 36 runs in 55 games. When that circuit folded, Gerard signed with another minor league club, the Pittsfield Indians, hitting .258/~.360/.391 in 44 contests.

In 1950-1951, the St. Croix native hit .339 with 49 runs in 251 AB for Santurce. In the 1951 Caribbean Series, Gerard was 1 for 3 for the Crabbers, backing up an all-MLB outfield of Willard Brown, Luis Olmo and Bob Thurman.

Gerard hit .337/~.430/.393 for Trois-Rivières in the Provincial League in 1951, when the league was not part of Organized Baseball. To battle the cold, he sometimes wore a chest protector in addition to his normal uniform. In 1951-1952, he hit .270/~.331/.320 for Santurce. In 1952, the Provincial League returned to Organized Baseball and Piggy batted .303/~.405/.350 between two teams, with 17 steals. Gerard ranked 7th in the circuit in batting average.

During the winter of 1952-1953, Gerard was just 7 for 48 for Santurce. He was again a backup for the Caribbean Series, behind Brown, Thurman and Márquez. He excelled in that role, going 3 for 5 with a triple, 2 runs and 2 RBI to help Santurce win the 1953 Caribbean Series. In the summer of 1953, he played in the Dominican Republic, hitting .282 for the Escogido Lions. He hit .282 in the winter for Santurce. Gerard stayed with Escogido in '54.

In the 1954-1955 Puerto Rican League, the veteran flyhawk hit .333 in 84 at-bats, backing up a superstar cast of Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Thurman. Santurce won the 1955 Caribbean Series. Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History does not list Gerard as playing in the Series, but The Santurce Crabbers by Thomas Van Hyning says Gerard hit a 2-out pinch-hit single off the Almendares Blues down 6-4 in the 9th inning; Don Zimmer then homered to tie it as Santurce rallied to win.

After not playing summer baseball for the first time in over a decade, Gerard batted .335 for the 1955-1956 Crabbers. He slumped to .192 and .245 the next two years to wrap up his career as a player.

Gerard hit .303 for his Puerto Rican career, 8th in league history.

After retiring, Gerard worked as a "bird dog" scout for the San Francisco Giants, who enjoyed a connection with Santurce owner Pedrín Zorrilla. Most notably, Piggy contributed to the signing of Julio Navarro and José Morales. He also worked as a manager for teams back on St. Croix and was in charge of development for the country's baseball program. He retired in 1984. In 1998, he suffered a stroke and his health got worse (he also battled cancer and Alzheimer's) until he died in 2002.

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