Dolf Luque

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Adolfo Domingo De Guzman Luque
(The Pride Of Havana)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 7", Weight 160 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Cover of a Cuban magazine showing Luque on the right, likely in 1947

Dolf Luque, The Pride of Havana, pitched 20 years in the majors. He was in two World Series (many years apart), and had a top season going 27-8 with the 1923 Cincinnati Reds. He won two ERA championships and twice led the league in winning percentage. At the end of his major league career, he was the oldest player in the league two years running. He was the first Latino pitcher in the majors and the first to pitch in a World Series. He set the record for wins by a Latino player in the majors, a mark he held for several decades. He also was one of the greatest pitchers in Cuban Winter League history, then managed successfully in that circuit for years. A good hitter for a pitcher, he won a batting title in Cuba as well.

Early Career[edit]

Luque began his professional career in Cuba, but against a major league team, debuting for the Havana Reds in late 1911 when the Phillies came to town. He left the game with a 6-5 lead after 8 but reliever Lico Mederos was unable to hold on in a 7-6 loss to Toots Shultz. [1] He also lost twice that winter to the New York Giants. [2] He debuted in the Cuban Winter League in early 1912 with Club Fé, going 0-4 with a 2.44 ERA (leading the last-place squad in ERA, though Frank Wickware had a much better record) and going 2 for 26 with four walks on offense. [3]

The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues lists him with the 1912 Cuban Stars [4] but neither the Seamheads database nor The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues list him on the team. He was rocked in 1913 with Fé, allowing six hits and five runs (four earned) in 1 2/3 IP, going 0-1. He fared better on offense, splitting third base with Bill Francis and hitting .288/.383/.365 for a 118 OPS+ in a pitcher-friendly loop.

He came to the US with the 1913 Long Branch Cubans, who were owned by a Cuban doctor. [5] He hit .281 and slugged .393 while going 22-5 to lead the New York-New Jersey League in wins. He was 0-3 against the Birmingham Barons when they visited Cuba. [6] Back with Havana in the winter, he hit .262/.311/.286 while backing up Rafael Almeida at the hot corner; he was 2-4 with a 1.83 ERA, 6th in the CWL in ERA.

1914-1916: To the majors[edit]

Moving up to the AAA Jersey City Skeeters, his record was an unimposing 2-10, 4.01. He continued to play the field regularly, producing at a .223/~.273/.330 clip. He was a regular backup to 2B Rudy Hulswitt and also spelled 3B Art Bues. [7] His stint in New Jersey led to his going to the majors; as New York City banned baseball on Sunday due to the Blue Laws, teams often played games in New Jersey on open Sundays. While in an exhibition there, Boston Braves manager George Stallings was impressed by Luque and signed him, making him the first Latin American pitcher in the majors, proceeding Emilio Palmero by a year. [8] While a two-way player in Cuba and the minors, he was strictly a pitcher in the majors. He was 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA for the Miracle Braves.

In 1914-1915, he played for Almendares. He hit .277/.338/.308 while still playing some at 1B, 3B and the outfield, but mostly pitched (8-4, 3.32). Oddly, his ERA+ was 93 compared to a 102 OPS+, meaning he was hitting better than pitching that year. He tied Pastor Pareda for second in the CWL in wins and was third with 44 strikeouts (behind Eustaquio Pedroso and Palmero) but allowed the most hits (98) and third-most walks (43). He was 2-0 with a save and a 1.55 ERA against the New York Lincoln Stars when they visited Cuba.

He spent most of 1915 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, going 15-9 with a 2.96 ERA. His 133 strikeouts were 6th in the 1915 International League (between Bill McTigue and Lore Bader) and he missed the top 10 in wins by one. [9] League ERA leaders are unknown as ERAs have only been calculated for some hurlers. He also pitched two games for the 1915 Braves (3 R, 2 ER). He was 4-2 with a save and a 2.31 ERA against the Indianapolis ABCs when they visited Cuba in late 1915.

In the winter of 1915-1916, he helped Almendares to the title while posting the most wins of his Cuban Winter League career at 12-5, with two saves and a 2.80 ERA. He saw limited action at 2B, 3B and all three outfield slots, hitting .286/.357/.333 for a 97 OPS+. He led the CWL in wins (two ahead of Pedroso), led in saves, was second in IP (122, 26 1/3 behind Pedroso), did not allow a homer, was second in strikeouts (55, 8 behind Pedroso) and was 4th in ERA.

1916-1918: Summers in Louisville[edit]

After having brief tastes of the majors in 1914-1915, the right-hander would spend a couple summers strictly in the high minors. In 1916, he joined the Louisville Colonels and went 13-8 with a 2.64 ERA, hitting .289. That winter, he CWL season started late due to a player dispute over pay. Playing for the Orientales, he was 4-4 with a 1.84 ERA and hit .355/.355/.516. He led in strikeouts (39, 13 ahead of Palmero), tied Palmero for the win lead, led in losses (one ahead of Palmero), led in complete games (6), had the most shutouts (2), won the batting title (.014 ahead of Jacinto Calvo) and easily led in slugging (no one else was over .439). Note that the Seamheads database does not list him as playing enough to qualify for the batting title, but he is listed as such in the Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History and A History of Cuban Baseball. [10]

Luque was 2-4 with a 2.39 ERA for Louisville in 1917, then began 1918 11-2 with a 2.00 ERA for the club. That convinced the Cincinnati Reds to buy his contract later in the year and he would not return to the minors.

1918-1929: Reds mainstay[edit]

He was 6-3 with a 3.81 ERA for the 1918 Reds and hit .321/.424/.464. He pitched in an independent league in Cuba's Oriente province in 1918-1919 rather than in the Cuban Winter League. [11] He was a dependable reliever for the 1919 Reds as they had the franchise's best performance of the Deadball Era. He went 10-3 with three saves and a 2.63 ERA (107 ERA+). He tied for second in the 1919 NL in saves, one shy of fellow Cuban Oscar Tuero. He was the first pitcher from Latin America to appear in a World Series, throwing five shutout innings (one hit, six strikeouts) as the top hurler for the Reds when they won the 1919 World Series. [12]

Luque returned to the CWL in 1919-1920, now as player-manager for Almendares. He guided them to a title at 21-5 and went 10-4. He tied José Acosta for the league lead in games pitched (15) and led in wins, two ahead of Acosta. He ran into trouble, though, when he attacked umpire Sirique González and was suspended for three games as a result. [13] For the 1920 Reds, he posted a 13-9, 2.51 record with two saves, pitching both as a starter and reliever. He also hit .266/.347/.313, posting a better OPS than four of the Reds' starting position players. He was 6th in the 1920 NL in ERA (between Dutch Ruether and Bill Doak), 3rd in WHIP (behind Babe Adams and Wilbur Cooper) and easily allowed the fewest hits per 9 IP (7.28, further ahead of #2 Ruether than Ruether was ahead of #10).

In 1923 with Havana he was a teammate of Pop Lloyd, Martin Dihigo and Cristobal Torriente. He pitched for 22 seasons in Cuba, winning over 100 games. A source said he led the Cuban league in batting one year.

After his playing career ended, Luque was a New York Giants coach from 1935 to 1938 and again from 1941 to 1945.

Aged 43, Luque was the oldest player ever to get his first postseason win. Dennis Eckersley and Kenny Rogers were 42 and 41 respectively.

Luque was a controversial individual. He once slugged Casey Stengel in the mouth after someone on Stengel's team had insulted Luque. Much later, when Luque was managing in Cuba and Tommy Lasorda was on his team, Lasorda said that Luque pulled out a gun in response to one of the other pitchers who was begging off pitching due to a sore arm. The pitcher changed his mind: "All you gotta do is give me the ball", he said then, and went out to pitch a two-hitter.

He was elected to the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame as part of its 2011 class.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL ERA Leader (1923 & 1925)
  • NL Wins Leader (1923)
  • 2-time NL Winning Percentage Leader (1919 & 1923)
  • 3-time NL Shutouts Leader (1921, 1923 & 1925)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 3 (1921, 1923 & 1925)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (1923)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1923)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 9 (1920-1928)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (1921 & 1923)
  • Won two World Series with the Cincinnati Reds (1919) and the New York Giants (1933)

Year-by-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Playoffs Notes
1946 Pericos de Puebla Mexican League 52-46 3rd none
1947 Pericos de Puebla Mexican League 63-56 3rd none
1948 Azules de Veracruz Mexican League 43-43 5th none
1950 Águilas de Mexicali Sunset League 98-47 1st Lost League Finals
1951 Havana Cubans Florida International League 68-71 5th
1952 Águilas de Mexicali Southwest International League -- -- replaced by Virgilio Arteaga
1953 Tecolotes de Nuevo Laredo Mexican League 43-33 1st none League Champs
1954 Tecolotes de Nuevo Laredo Mexican League 56-24 1st none League Champs
1955 Tecolotes de Nuevo Laredo Mexican League 53-47 2nd Lost League Finals
1956 Leones de Yucatán Mexican League 55-63 3rd none

Further Reading[edit]

Related Sites[edit]

  • Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History by Jorge Figueredo, pg. 95
  • ibid., pg. 96
  • Seamheads database for Cuban Winter League stats unless otherwise listed
  • The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues ed. by James Riley, pg. 498
  • A History of Cuban Baseball by Peter Bjarkman, pg. 42
  • Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, pg. 105-106
  • The International League: Year-by-Year Statistics by Marshall Wright, pg. 185
  • A History of Cuban Baseball, pg. 42
  • The International League: Year-by-Year Statistics, pg. 188-192
  • A History of Cuban Baseball, pg. 114 and Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, pg. 123
  • Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, pg. 126
  • A History of Cuban Baseball, pg. 42
  • Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, pg. 130-132