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Tetelo Vargas

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Juan Estando Vargas
(aka Juan Esteban Vargas Marcano, Estanto Jose Vargas, Tetelo Vargas)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 160 lb.

[edit] Biographical Information

Tetelo Vargas was one of the top Dominican players in the first half of the 20th Century, starring in his homeland as well as Puerto Rico and the Negro Leagues.

Vargas first came to the USA in 1927 with Alex Pompez's Cuban Stars. He became a starting outfielder in 1929 and hit .484; had he qualified, he would have beaten out Chino Smith to lead the American Negro League.

Tetelo made his Cuban Winter League debut in 1929-1930 and batted .315 with 40 runs for the Habana club, joining Smith and Agustin Bejerano in the outfield. He was third in Cuba in runs behind future Hall of Famers Cool Papa Bell and Willie Wells.

Vargas was 4 for 16 with a homer in Cuba's shortened season in 1930-1931 (the league shut down before '31 began, actually), tying for the league lead with one dinger. He went 7 for 22 in the Campeonato Unico that was played after the regular season ended. It would be over a decade until his next appearance in Cuban ball.

Tetelo hit .300 as the Cuban Stars' starting second baseman in 1931, when he hit leadoff for the team. He would not play in the US again for seven years.

In 1937, the Dominican League drew notice as Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige, Martin Dihigo and other top Negro Leaguers were recruited by Rafael Trujillo's money. Vargas hit .283 to hold his own against some of the top black players of the age.

Vargas hit .313 as an outfielder for the 1941 New York Cubans and .310 in 1942. In the first 1942 East-West Game, he started in center field for the East and went 1 for 3 with a walk in a 5-2 win over the West. In the second game, he was 1 for 2 with two RBI before being replaced by Lennie Pearson in a 9-2 win. He was 1 for 5 in an exhibition against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The speedy Vargas was back in Cuba for the winter of 1942-1943, hitting .257 for Habana with only a .286 slugging percentage. It was his last season on that island. Juan hit .484 for the 1943 New York Cubans to edge Sammy Bankhead for the Negro National League title; Vargas was now 37 years old. In the 1943 East-West Game, the old-timer went 0 for 2 as Henry Kimbro's backup in center field for the East, which lost 2-1.

Vargas led the 1943-1944 Puerto Rican League with a .410 batting average. He hit .259 for the New York Cubans in 1944, his last Negro League campaign. Tetelo hit .382 in Puerto Rican in 1946-1947, .362 in 1947-1948 and .301 in 1949-1950. In the 1950 Caribbean Series, he was just 3 for 23 with a double for Puerto Rico's Caguas club but he led the event with two stolen bases.

In 1953, the 46-year-old batted .350 in the Dominican League to top Ray Dandridge, a future Hall-of-Famer, for yet another batting title.

He was inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 and was part of the initial Latin American Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2010. His number 1 was retired by his Estrellas Orientales club and their stadium, Estadio Tetelo Vargas, is named after him.

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