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Horacio Martinez

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Horacio Martinez (Rabbit)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 9", Weight 155 lb.

[edit] Biographical Information

Horacio Martinez was one of the first Dominican players in the Negro Leagues (James Riley lists him as the first, but Pedro San and Tetelo Vargas preceded him). A good-field, no-hit shortstop, he made five All-Star teams. He was born in the Dominican Republic in 1912. Sources differ, but the place was Santiago, not Santo Domingo or San Pedro de Macoris.

Martinez debuted in the Negro Leagues in 1935, hitting .253 as the starting shortstop for the New York Cubans. That winter, he batted .255 for Santa Clara in the Cuban Winter League; he manned second base as Willie Wells was at short. Rabbit fell to .137 for the New York Cubans in 1936. In 1936-1937, he hit .300 with 12 steals and a team-high 44 runs as Santa Clara's shortstop. He was three runs behind CWL leader Lazaro Salazar.

Horacio hit .224 for Santa Clara and Habana in 1937-1938. He batted .204 for the New York Cubans in 1940. In the 1940 East-West Game, the slick gloveman started at shortstop for the East and hit second. He went 1 for 3 with a run in a 11-0 win before Buster Clarkson replaced him in the sixth. In 1940-1941, he hit .253 for Habana and was named the Cuban Winter League's All-Star shortstop.

Martinez hit .196 in 1941. He started for the East in the 1941 East-West Game and hit 7th, going 2 for 4 with a double, walk, steal, run and error in a 8-3 victory. In 1941-1942, he batted .209 for Habana. He followed in 1942-1943 by hitting .260 for the same club. In the 1943 East-West Game, he hit 8th and started at short for the East. He was 1 for 2 in a 2-1 loss. He was 5 for 21 for Habana in 1943-1944, backing up Tony Ordenana at short in his last season in Cuba.

In 1944, Rabbit batted .273 for the New York squad. He backed up Pee Wee Butts at short in the 1944 East-West Game, entering in the bottom of the 7th. He did not bat, as Roy Campanella pinch-hit for him in the top of the 8th. Martinez fell to .171 in 1945. He made his final East-West Game, the 1945 East-West Game, backing up Frank Austin at short. He went 2 for 2 with 3 RBI off the bench in a 9-6 loss. Overall, he was an amazing 6 for 11 with 3 walks in his five East-West Games, facing the top blackball pitchers.

In the winter of 1945-1946, he played for Patriotas de Venezuela in the Venezuelan League. He did not manage there, as some sources indicate, but he managed the Dominican national team in the 1944 Amateur World Series (4-3) and 1959 Pan American Games (2-3). He had previously played in Venezuela for Pastora in 1937 and 1938, as well as in Puerto Rico.

Martinez hit .211 in 1946, moving to second with Silvio Garcia at short, then .208 in 1947. He finished his playing career in winter ball in Panama.

After his on-field days were over, Martinez became a scout for the New York Giants. He helped bring in the first wave of Dominican major-leaguers: men like Juan Marichal, Felipe Alou, Jesus Alou and Manny Mota. Other major leaguers he signed were José Vidal, Freddie Velázquez, Rick Joseph, Pepe Frías, Rafael Robles and Elías Sosa.

Later in life, he suffered from Parkinson's before his death at age 79. He made the 2006 Special Committee on the Negro Leagues Election preliminary ballot. In 2010, he was voted into the Latin American Baseball Hall of Fame. He was the first Dominican infielder so honored.

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