Silvio García y Rendon
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5'11", Weight 190 lb. (listed at 6'1", 195# in an alternate source)
Silvio García began his career as a pitcher and shortstop. In 1936 he had his first successful season as he went 10-2 in the Cuban Winter League, trailing Ray Brown and Martin Dihigo in wins but batting just .234. Used mostly as a position player in the 1937 in the Dominican Republic, García hit .297 and went 0-2 on the mound; his average was a bit worse than Santos Amaro and Sammy Bankhead and a bit ahead of Tubby Scales and Lazaro Salazar. He led the league in hits and doubles that year.
García went to a third country in three years in 1938, joining the Veracruz Eagle and again going 10-2 on the mound; he allowed 80 hits in 112 and a third innings, striking out 88 while waking 22 and posting a 1.68 ERA. He was second in the Mexican League in ERA, trailing only Dihigo. He also hit .349/~.390/.491.
Some sources list García as leading the Puerto Rican Winter League in ERA in 1.32 but others say it was Cocaina Garcia. Either way, Silvio had injured his arm by 1940 and was no longer pitching regularly.
In 1940, García hit .314 in the Cuban Winter League, only two points behind league leader Lazaro Salazar. Garcia had a big year in '41, returning to Mexico and playing for the Mexico City Red Devils; he batted .366/~.385/.518 - he was fourth in average behind Wild Bill Wright, Josh Gibson and Ray Dandridge, 9th in slugging but not among the OBP leaders as he drew just 11 walks in 101 games. He led the Liga in 159 hits, tied for third with 102 runs, was in the top 10 in doubles (29), triples (11) and steals (15).
Returning to Mexico City for the '42 campaign, Silvio hit .364/~.435/.536, stole 21 bases and led the Liga with 83 RBI. He was 4th in the league in average and tied for 5th with 11 homers. He drew 44 walks, the most in his 7 seasons in Mexico. He slipped in 1943, batting .301/~.350/.399 though he was still 4th in RBI. García split the 1944 season with Mexico City and Veracruz Blues and batted .314/~.380/.485. He led the Liga with 31 steals and tied for third in homers (11) and RBI (83). He won another stolen base crown for the Blues in '45 (40 steals) and hit .350/~.404/.557; his 86 RBI were good for third place and he was second with 15 homers.
In the meantime, García was continuing to star in winter ball in Cuba. He hit .351 to lead the league in 1941, was third (.303) in '42 (and was 8 for 21 against the Brooklyn Dodgers in an exhibition series) and .344 in the 1946 Cuban Federation, second in the circuit. He also won a batting title in 1950-1951 (.347). Overall he hit .282 in Cuba from 1931 through 1954.
In 1946 Silvio also added the USA to his country resume, batting .350 for the New York Cubans, fifth in the Negro National League (between Hall-of-Famers Larry Doby and Monte Irvin). He hit .324 for New York in '47 and helped Cuba to the Negro World Series title. He appeared in all four East-West Games in those two years, going just 1 for 10 with three errors.
García returned to the Mexican League at age 33 and hit .295/~.350/.362 for the Red Devils. His career stats in Mexico were .335/~.386/.484 with 130 steals in seven years.
Too old to be considered a prospect when the majors integrated, he went to play in the minors instead, signing with the outlaw Provincial League, a Canadian league welcoming to black players. In 1950 the Provincial joined Organized Baseball and Garcia had a huge year for the Sherbrooke Athletics. The Cuban veteran hit .365/~.435/.608 and became the very rare Triple Crown-winning shortstop when he led the league in homers (21), doubles (29) and RBI (116). He only struck out 12 times in 411 at-bats while drawing a surprisingly high 50 walks. García also led the league's shortstops in fielding (.945) and stole 19 bases.
García remained productive in 1951 - at age 36 he hit .346 (fifth in the league) with 12 homers and 82 RBI. He went to the low-offense Florida International League for his final season in 1952 and .283/~.355/.359 when the league average was .235 while leading third basemen in fielding (.962). He was around fifth in average and led his Havana Cubans with 40 RBI.
It is hard to guess how García would have done in the majors - he generally showed good contact, power and speed for his leagues and had great defensive skills (Leo Durocher said that Marty Marion "can't carry his glove") but had poor plate discipline. He had several very good years as a young pitcher but burned his arm out quickly. Tommy Lasorda said that García was one of the toughest hitters he ever pitched to. In various years, he led his league in hits, RBI, homers, steals and average. García was arguably the top Cuban shortstop of the 20th century and only racism kept him from the majors.
There is a story that Branch Rickey had originally considered García as a candidate to break the color line in Major League Baseball; when García was questioned as to how he would respond to racist remarks, he supposedly said he'd kill the individual. That supposedly ended that opportunity.
Sources include Invisible Men by Donn Rogosin, The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics by Pedro Treto Cisneros, The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, 1951 and 1953 Baseball Guides, Pat Doyle's Old-Time Professional Baseball Player Database, Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester and The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley