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Ralph Onis

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Manuel Dominguez Onis
(Curly)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Ralph Onis (pronounced "Oh,niece") was a catcher 17 years (1924-1940); ten in semipro/independent ball (1924-1930;1933-1935); eight in the minors (1931-1932;1935-1940) and a cup of coffee (1935). Onis was born on Saturday, October 24, 1908, in Tampa, FL, the only child of a tobacco wetter in a local cigar factory and his wife. He dropped out of George Washington High School in Tampa in 1924 at age 15. He drove a street car for Tampa Electric and played semipro ball until 1931, when he was signed as an amateur free agent by Wilbur Good, manager of the Johnstown Johnnies of the Mid-Atlantic League, on the advice of his good friend, Al Lopez.

He thus broke into Organized Baseball at age 22 with Johnstown (1931-1932) but was released. He played with the Cuban Stars (1933-1934) and Jacksonville in the Florida-Georgia League (1934). Once again pulled out of obscurity by Lopez, Onis was 26 years old when he broke into the big leagues on April 27, 1935, with the Brooklyn Dodgers for his only MLB game. In his debut with the Dodgers, he played opposite Babe Ruth, who was also playing his first National League game. Onis went 1 for 1 (a single) but the Babe was 0 for 3. Nonetheless, Onis was done in MLB, finishing with a batting line of (1.000/1.000/2.000). Ruth didn't last too much longer.

He returned to the minors with Dayton in the Mid-Atlantic League (1935) and Allentown in the New York-Pennsylvania League (1935-1936). In 1936, he was suspended 30 days and his pay withheld for getting into a fight with future American League umpire Bill Grieve.

He moved up to Sioux City in the Western League (1937); Ft. Worth in the Texas League (1937-1938); Leesburg in the Florida State League (1938-1939); Hartford in the Eastern League (1939); and Orlando in the Florida State League (1940). In 1940 he was player-manager for Orlando and was named to the League All-Star team. Although he had a contract with the Washington Senators as a player-manager in their organization for the following season, he had to quit when Lou Klein slid into him and broke his knee, causing two operations, an inability to squat and a limp which he carried to his grave.

This ended his baseball career at age 31. In 1936, his best year in the minors, he had 0 home runs and 64 RBI at .293. Overall in the minors, had 14 home runs and 354 RBI.

After baseball, he returned to Tampa Electric as a streetcar conductor and stayed there until 1942 when he caught on as a Tampa city fireman. A secure job under his belt, he married Zoraida Diaz in 1942 with whom he sired a daughter and grandson, who became an attorney. Onis served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II (BN). Eventually he became a fire inspector in the Fire Marshall's Division until he retired in 1960. Coming out of retirement three years later, he worked as a clerk for Hillsboro County until 1975.

He had black hair, his ancestry was Cuban and his principal hobby was fishing. He died at age 86 in Tampa on January 4, 1995 and is buried at Centro Asturiano Cemetery in Tampa. Surviving him were his widow Zoraida, his daughter and his grandson.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • Named to Florida State League All-Star team, 1940

[edit] Quotes

"I was raised with Al Lopez and he got me into professional baseball. He was with the Dodgers, and he told Mr. Wilbur Good about me. Mr. Good was the manager of the team in Johnstown PA, and Al told him to sign me."

[edit] Further Reading

  • Richard Tellis: Once Around The Bases, Triumph Books, Chicago, 1998, pp. 21-28.

[edit] Sources

Principal sources for Ralph Onis include newspaper obituaries (OB), government Veteran records (VA,CM,CW), Stars & Stripes (S&S), Sporting Life (SL), The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs (none) (WW), old Baseball Registers (none) (BR) , old Daguerreotypes by TSN (none) (DAG), Stars&Stripes (S&S), The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase (PD), The Baseball Library (BL), Baseball in World War II Europe by Gary Bedingfield (GB) and The Texas League: A Century of Baseball by Bill O'Neal and independent research by Walter Kephart (WK) and Frank Russo (FR) and others.

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