Antonio Muñoz Hernández
(El Gigante del Escambray)
- Height 6' 3", Weight 220 lb.
- Bats Left. Throws
First baseman Antonio Muñoz is the all-time Cuban league leader in walks. He won eight home run titles during his career and was MVP of the Amateur World Series twice. He led the league nine times in walk and was the first player in Serie Nacional history to have hit 200 home runs and later, 300 home runs. He played four decades in Cuba (1960s-1990s)
Muñoz made his splash first in the 1970 Serie 10 Millones, in which he led the way with 9 triples. In the 1970-1971 Serie Nacional, he led with 19 doubles. In the 1971-1972 Serie Nacional, he scored 51 runs, the most, and led in walks (55) and intentional walks (18).
Antonio tied Elpidio Mancebo for the walk lead in the 1972-1973 Serie Nacional with 62. He led the Serie Nacional in numerous areas in 1973-1974 - runs (54), homers (19), RBI (68), walks (66) and intentional walks (15). He was named Serie Nacional Most Valuable Player for his efforts.
In the 1975-1976 Serie Nacional, the left-handed slugger led the way with 13 home runs and 35 RBI. He was hit by six pitches, tying for the lead. In the Selective Series, he hit 12 home runs and scored 45 times to lead the way in 1976. He hit 12 doubles, tying Capiró for the lead. He batted .308 in the 1976 Amateur World Series, his worst mark in five times going to that event.
The Giant of Escambray led the 1976-1977 Serie Nacional with 35 walks and tied three others, including Barbaro Garbey for the lead with four sacrifice flies. During the 1977-1978 Serie Nacional, Antonio led in walks (54) and intentional walks (17). In the 1978 Selective Series, he scored 55 runs, the most of any player.
Muñoz had his first major performances for the national team in 1978. He led in home runs during the 1978 Haarlem Baseball Week. In the 1978 Central American and Caribbean Games, he set the all-time record by hitting an amazing .714, going 20 for 28. In the 1978 Amateur World Series, he batted .406/.487/1.188 with 14 runs, 18 RBI and 8 home runs in 10 games. He led the tourney in RBI and tied Tim Wallach of the US for the most runs. He had as many homers as the next two players - Wallach and Ernesto Lopez - combined, setting the all-time Amateur World Series/Baseball World Cup home run record, a mark that stood for 31 years until Justin Smoak broke it in the 2009 Baseball World Cup. He was named Series MVP.
In the 1978-1979 Serie Nacional, he drew 72 walks, 13 intentional, to lead the league in both categories. In the 1979 Selective Series, he led in runs (52), homers (25) and RBI (67). The home run mark was three shy of Pedro José Rodríguez, Sr.'s record. The 30-year-old batsman hit .314 in the 1979 Pan American Games, surprisingly his best mark in three Pan American Games. He hit .184 for the winning Cubans in the 1979 Intercontinental Cup, the only time he hit under .380 in four Intercontinental Cups in which he was a starter.
Muñoz continued to crush Cuban pitcher in the 1980 Selective Series, leading with 18 homers and 67 RBI. He dominated in the 1980 Amateur World Series, winning his second straight Amateur World Series MVP award. He hit .400 and led the way with 19 RBI. His 7 home runs tied teammate Luis Casanova for the lead, falling one shy of Muñoz's own record from 1978.
The Giant of Escambray led the 1980-1981 Serie Nacional with 47 walks but was even better in the 1981 Selective Series, which he led in hits (82), runs (51), home runs (18) and RBI (64). In the 1981 Intercontinental Cup, Muñoz hit .429 but Cuba went down to a shocking 6-5 defeat in the Gold Medal game to Team USA, the only Cup it failed to win from 1979 (its first Cup) through 1995.
The aging slugger led the 1981-1982 Serie Nacional with 11 intentional walks. He hit .333 in the 1982 Central American and Caribbean Games, tying for the tourney lead in runs (6) while hitting the most doubles (4).
Muñoz led the 1983 Selective Series in hits (77), homers (14) and RBI (65), his last time leading either the Selective Series or Serie Nacional in any major offensive category other than walks. He batted .386 in the 1983 Intercontinental Cup, leading the way with 14 RBI and making the All-Star team at first base as Cuba returned to its winning ways after the 1981 upset.
Muñoz again starred in an Amateur World Series with the 1984 event. He batted .424/.500/1.000 with 10 runs, 4 doubles, 5 homers, 6 walks and 15 RBI in nine games. He was 4th in homers behind Casanova, Pedro José Rodríguez and Roberto Bianchi. He tied Casanova for 4th in RBI, trailing Bianchi, Lourdes Gourriel and Barry Bonds. On the final day of the competition, the Cuban cleanup hitter was 4 for 4 with a double, two homers and five RBI in Cuba's 10-1 rout of Team USA while Bonds was hitless for the US.
Antonio paced the 1984-1985 Serie Nacional with 63 walks. In the 1985 Intercontinental Cup, he hit .393 and tied Paul Meyers for the most doubles (6). He was honored as the Cup's All-Star first baseman that year.
Muñoz did not lead either Cuban league in any category in 1986, the first time in 16 years that that had happened. He hit .375 in the 1986 Central American and Caribbean Games and .385 in the 1986 Amateur World Series. In the 1987 Intercontinental Cup, he made his final appearance for the national team, going just 1 for 7 in a backup role.
In the 1987-1988 Serie Nacional, Muñoz led in walks (52), intentional walks (11) and sacrifice flies (5), though he turned 39 during the campaign. Two years later, he tied three others, including Omar Linares, for the intentional walk lead in the Occidental Zone of the Serie Nacional.
Muñoz hit .302/~.439/.535 overall in the Cuban leagues. Through the 2003-2004 season, he ranked among the all-time leaders in seasons (24, first), plate appearances (8,377, first), at-bats (6,676, ninth), runs (1,281, fourth behind Linares, Orestes Kindelan and Victor Mesa), doubles (355, third behind Javier Mendez and Antonio Pacheco, homers (370, tied for fourth with Rogelio Martinez, trailing Kindelan, Lazaro Junco and Linares), total bases (3,569, fourth, trailing Kindelan, Linares and Pacheco), slugging (.535, tied for 7th with Pedro Luis Rodríguez), RBI (1,407, second to Kindelan), walks (1,551, first, 224 over Linares) and intentional walks (273, first). Despite the high walk totals, Muñoz was not among the top 10 in strikeouts, indicating a great batting eye. He had retired as the all-time leader in runs, doubles, homers, total bases and walks.
In A History of Cuban Baseball, Peter Bjarkman repeatedly quotes a 1970s Sports Illustrated writer as comparing Muñoz to Tony Perez. A better comparison would appear to be Frank Thomas, given his combination of walks, power and average, a mix of talents which Perez lacked.