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Wilfredo Sánchez

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Wilfredo Sánchez González (El Hombre Hit)

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

Wilfredo Sánchez was a three-time Cuban Serie Nacional MVP and won five batting titles. He was the brother of Fernando Sánchez (a fellow MVP in Cuba and national team teammate), Armando Sánchez, Arturo Sánchez and Felipe Sánchez.

Sánchez burst onto the Cuban scene at age 20 for Henequeneros. In 1968-1969, he led the Serie Nacional in average (.354), hits (140) and triples (13). He set a new record for three-baggers, since unmatched (through 2010). He also set a new hit record, which lasted 30 years until broken by Michel Enríquez. Wilfredo was named MVP for the first time.

In 1969-1970, he starred with teammates Félix Isasi and Rigoberto Rosique to earn the nickname "Los Tres Mosqueteros - The Three Musketeers". He paced the league in average (.354), hits (98), runs (46) and steals (34). He became the first two-time MVP in Serie Nacional history as well as the first player to win batting titles in consecutive seasons. It would be 36 years before Yulieski Gourriel was the next player to take the MVP two straight seasons. He then led the Serie 10 Millones (1970) in average (.367), hits (116) and runs (47).

Sánchez debuted for the Cuban national team in the 1970 Central American and Caribbean Games, helping .394 as Cuba won Gold; he stole five bases to tie for the lead. Cuba also took Gold at the 1970 Amateur World Series, in which Wilfredo batted .413. His 19 hits were two shy of leader Abel Leal and he tied Félix Isasi and W. Perez for the most runs (12).

In the 1971 Pan American Games, he batted .333, tied for the lead with two triples and tied Armando Capiró for the RBI lead (10) to power Cuba to Gold. He hit .364 in the 1971 Amateur World Series, won by the Cubans. He wrapped up 90 hits to pace the 1971-1972 Serie Nacional. He hit .414 in the 1972 Amateur World Series, leading with 22 runs and 29 hits as Cuba won Gold. He tied Capiró and Manuel Estrada for the most triples, three.

"El Hombre Hit" paced the 1972-1973 Serie Nacional with 95 hits for Matanzas. In the Cuban All-Star Series that year, he led with 12 hits. He batted .364 in the 1973 Amateur World Series, which he led with nine steals for the victorious Cubans.

The lightweight flyhawk batted .275 in the 1974 Central American and Caribbean Games but led with four steals to help Cuba win Gold. Playing for Citricultores, he led the 1974-1975 Serie Nacional with 14 stolen bases. He fell to .190 in the 1975 Pan American Games but Cuba still claimed a Gold Medal; brother Fernando joined him on Cuba's squad.

Wilfredo hit .365 for the 1975-1976 Citricultores for his third Serie Nacional batting title; he also led the loop in hits (62) and stolen bases (12). He then led the 1976 Series Selectivas with 66 hits, 6 triples and 18 swipes for Matanzas. He batted .381 in the 1976 Amateur World Series, won by Cuba.

On March 16, 1977, Sánchez became the first player to top 1,000 hits in the Serie Nacional. He paced the 1977 Series Selectivas in average (.381) and base hits (85). In the 1978 Central American Games, he hit .286 and Cuba won a Gold Medal. He hit only .235/.316/.353 with 3 steals in four tries in the 1978 Amateur World Series, backing up Capiró in left as his brother Fernando took a star role as a starting outfielder. Cuba won Gold.

In 1978-1979, the Jovellanos native hit .3774 to edge Agustín Arias in the closest Serie Nacional batting race of the 20th Century for his 4th title. He also led with 80 hits and became the first three-time MVP in the Serie Nacional. He was named MVP the year after his brother Fernando took that honor. 14 years later, Omar Linares matched the 3 MVP total, while Alfredo Despaigne also got his third 33 years later which is unsurpassed through 2012. He then had 81 hits to lead the Series Selectivas. He hit only .231 in the 1979 Pan American Games, as Cuba won Gold. He batted .333 in the 1979 Intercontinental Cup; Cuba again won Gold.

The left-hander led with 80 hits in the 1980 Series Selectivas. He concluded his national team career by going two for eight in the 1980 Amateur World Series; Cuba had taken Gold in all 14 events for which El Hombre Hit played with them.

At age 33-34, he still had wheels, leading the 1981-1982 Serie Nacional with 15 stolen bases. He hit .385 for the 1983-1984 Citricultores for his fifth batting crown, covering a period of three different decades. On January 19, 1985, he got his 2,000th hit, off Osvaldo Duvergel; he was the first to 2,000 just as he had been the first to 1,000. He reached the plateau only three months before Sergio Quesada got there too.

Overall, Wilfredo Sánchez hit .331/.380/.394 in 19 years in Cuba. He stole 339 bases but was thrown out running 192 times. Not a slugger, he only cracked 16 career home runs in 6,565 AB. He drew an unimpressive 503 walks but only struck out 310 times, indicating a free-swinging style, but one accompanied by a good batting eye.

Through 2009, El Hombre Hit still ranked among Castro-era Cuba's all-time leaders in at-bats (12th), hits (2,174, 5th behind Antonio Pacheco, brother Fernando, Linares and Luis Ulacia), triples (69, 6th, one behind Amado Zamora), steals (5th behind Enrique Esteban Díaz, Victor Mesa, Eduardo Paret and Ulacia) and times caught stealing (5th behind the same quartet).

He later was technical commissioner of the Cuban Baseball Federation.

Primary Source: A History of Cuban Baseball by Peter Bjarkman

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