Roberto Antonio (Cherubini) Marcano
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 165 lb.
Bobby Marcano was a 5-time All-Star in Nippon Pro Baseball in 11 seasons there, establishing one of the longest careers by a gaijin in the 20th Century. Marcano began his professional career in 1969, appearing for the GCL Reds (.237/~.372/.355), the Sioux Falls Packers (.289/~.407/.378) and Tampa Tarpons (1 for 7, 3 walks).
In 1970, Bobby struggled big-time as an 18/19-year old in AA, managing just a .156/~.237/.246 year for the Savannah Indians. With the '71 Jacksonville Suns, Marcano improved to .245/~.309/.384 but struck out 131 times. He tied Marlan Murphy for the Southern League lead with 8 triples. In 1972, Bobby hit .250/~.294/.419 with the Elmira Pioneers and .271/~.324/.404 for the Portland Beavers. In '73, still just 21/22, he put up a good year at AAA (.257/~.311/.437 for the Salt Lake City Angels) while moving from second base to third base. A utility man for the Salt Lake City team the next year, he hit .317/~.372/.489 but did not get a call-up from the California Angels. Only 23 by year's end, he then went to Japan, where he continued to develop.
Marcano hit .298/.324/.522 his first year with the Hankyu Braves, hitting 23 homers. He made the Pacific League All-Star team and also was picked for the Best Nine at second base. He was 7th in the PL in average, was one of four players to tie for the lead with six triples and won the Gold Glove at 2B. A fairly patient hitter in the early part of his career, his walk totals had fallen somewhat in the US but plummeted in Japan (14 in '75 and under 20 his first five years in Japan). He would later advise other foreigners like Leron Lee to go up there swinging as Japanese umpires would not give gaijin the close calls. In the 1975 Japan Series, he hit .346/.393/.500 in a fine effort to help the team to its first Japan Series title ever.
In 1976, Bobby batted .271/.295/.469 and won his second Gold Glove. He produced at a .357/.419/.536 clip in the 1976 Japan Series with six runs and 8 RBI in Hankyu's 7-game win. '77 was similar (.269/.305/.482) and he made the Best Nine. He helped Hankyu to a third straight Japan Series victory, their last - manager Toshiharu Ueda said the team's glory years would not have been possible without Marcano. In the 1977 Japan Series, he batted only .105/.150/.158 as his postseason heroics could not hold.
Marcano had clearly his best season in 1978. At age 26/27, he put up a .322/.346/.574 line with 27 homers, 94 RBI and 280 total bases. He led the PL in slugging, total bases and RBI, won his third Gold Glove and made his third Best Nine. He was third in the league in average. He hit .346/.414/.654 in the 1978 Japan Series but Hankyu lost in seven games, ending their fine run. In '79, Bobby batted .299/.329/.554 with a career-high 32 homers and 97 RBI. He was 5 homers behind leader Bobby Mitchell, 7 RBI behind leader Hideji Kato and made his final Best Nine and won his last Gold Glove. He was miles behind slugging champ Charlie Manuel.
In 1980, the Venezuelan infielder had a .294/.328/.517 season and made his last All-Star team (to that point, he had only missed in '77). Marcano put up a .266/.316/.405 line in '81, only hitting 13 homers after topping 20 his first six years in NPB. In decline, he managed a similar .267/.314/.430 year in 1982 with 15 HR.
Marcano moved to the Yakult Swallows in 1983. He homered 25 times in a brief resurgence and batted .271/.308/.489 and hit his 200th home run - at that point, one of the highest figures by a foreign player in NPB. In 1984, Roberto hit .300/.343/.444 for Yakult, then he followed with a .299/.331/.466 season to wrap up his career.
Overall, Bobby hit .287/.322/.488 in Japan, with 232 homers. He was arguably the top Pacific League second baseman during his time with Hankyu. After retiring, he scouted and translated for the Yomiuri Giants for several years. His children grew up in Japan, so the Marcano household was one fluent in the language. Only four years after he retired, Bobby died of cancer.
Dan Briggs recalls Marcano as a great singer, doing a wonderful Julio Iglesias rendition in a karaoke performance.