Luis Garcia (minors01)
(Redirected from Luis "Camaleón" García)
Luis C. García Beltran
(Camaleón, El Caballo de Hierro)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 180 lb.
Luis García belongs to two baseball Halls of Fame and has been a finalist for a third.
García debuted at age 19 with the 1949 Concord Nationals, hitting .241/?/.302 while playing second base. In the 1950 Caribbean Series, the youngster hit .211 for the Navegantes del Magallanes while slugging .422. He led his team with three doubles and was the only Magallanes player to either homer or steal a base during that Caribbean Series.
Luis spent 1950 with the Tijuana Potros, hitting .265/~.303/.300 while playing the outfield. He played for Magallanes in the 1951 Caribbean Series and led the Series with six strikeouts while batting .238/?/.429 with 5 runs, 4 RBI and a home run in six contests.
During the summer of 1951, the Camaleón hit .273/?/.314 in 33 games for Tijuana. That winter, he was 0 for 13 for Cervecería Caracas in the 1952 Caribbean Series. In '52, he batted .288/~.388/.467 for the Aberdeen Pheasants. He had 9 triples, 15 home runs, 15 stolen bases, 97 RBI and 101 runs. He tied for second in the Northern League in runs scored, four behind leader Joe Caffie. Moving to his future position of third base, he led the loop in assists (314) and putouts (154) at the hot corner. He hit nearly as well as Hank Aaron, the brightest name to come out of the 1952 Northern League.
García missed the 1953 Caribbean Series, the only one he would not appear in during a six-Series stretch from 1950 to 1955. He split 1953 between the Tampa Smokers (.304/~.398/.465 in 81 G) and Charleston Senators (.246/~.331/.307 in 74 G), driving in 91 runs between the two stops while also making his AAA debut at age 23. He would never make it to the major leagues, though.
The Camaleón starred in the 1954 Caribbean Series; playing for Pastora de Occidente, he hit .348/?/.565 with 9 RBI in six games. He led the Series in RBI and led Pastora in average and slugging despite a lineup loaded with major leaguers like Wally Moon, Johnny Temple and Ed Bailey.
Luis spent 1954 with the Havana Sugar Kings, batting .222/?/.291 in a rocky AAA season. In the 1955 Caribbean Series, he was 6 for 21 with two doubles, a steal, two runs and two RBI for the Navagantes. Back with Havana in 1955, he improved to .293/?/.407 and led the club with 12 home runs, two ahead of Ray Noble. It would be his last stint in the International League or any loop with clubs in the US.
García moved to the Mexican League in 1956 and hit .293/.356/.407 for the Leones de Yucatan. He was 2 for 13 with a double and RBI for Caracas in the 1957 Caribbean Series. With Yucatan in '57, he batted .302/.356/.443. He moved to the Petroleros de Poza Rica in 1958 and put up a batting line of .264/.421/.596 with 19 home runs and 71 RBI in 371 AB.
Luis was excellent for Oriente in the 1959 Caribbean Series, hitting .417 with 5 runs, 3 doubles, a triple, 3 RBI, a .667 slugging percentage and a steal. He tied Jesús Mora for the Series lead in average and hits (10) while tying Jim Baxes for the most two-baggers.
For Poza Rica in 1959, the veteran third baseman batted .326/.372/.539 with 87 runs, 26 home runs and 93 RBI. In 488 at-bats, he only struck out 28 times. He finished 3 homers behind Mexican League co-leaders Aldo Salvent and Marvin Williams. A player-manager, he skippered the Petroleros to the pennant.
Camaleón was 8 for 24 with two doubles, a home run, 5 runs and 5 RBI for the Rapinos in the 1960 Caribbean Series. He led his club in runs and RBI in his 8th and final Caribbean Series; he was still only 30 years old. The Carúpano native was not slowing down yet, hitting .346/.407/.539 in 1960 with 36 doubles, 17 home runs, 97 RBI and only 23 strikeouts in 460 AB. In 1961, he batted .328/.437/.571 with 22 home runs for Poza Riza.
García's batting line in 1962 read .339/.397/.551 and he had 31 doubles and 20 home runs. In his last season with Poza Rica, 1963, he hit .338/.386/.489. Switching to the Veracruz Eagle for 1964, Luis batted .299/.361/.503 with a career-best 29 home runs and 108 RBI. He ended his Mexican League career by fading to .280/.342/.390 for Veracruz in 1965; he also spent part of the year in the Mexican Southeast League, hitting .318 for Puerto Mexico Portenos.
In 1966, he wrapped up his career as a player by batting .261/.388/.378.
Retiring after 10 seasons in Mexico, García had hit .322/.384/.507 with 171 home runs in 4,181 AB. He had 396 walks to 279 strikeouts. Through 2000, he was tied for 19th in league history in average among players with 3,000+ AB, even with Luis Arredondo and Daniel Fernandez.
While individual season data is unavailable for Venezuela, Luis's career statistics in the Venezuelan League are impressive. He was among the all-time leaders (through 2006) in seasons (22, 5th), at-bats (3,543, 4th), hits (1,058, 4th in hits behind Vic Davalillo, Teo Acosta and Cesar Tovar), games (959, 5th), doubles (183, 3rd behind Davalillo and Tovar), runs (531, 2nd to Robert Pérez) and extra-base hits (265, 2nd to Davalillo).
García was voted into the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, part of the 4th enshrined class; he was the second Venezuelan ever picked, following Tony Armas Sr. The other three members of his class had almost spent at least a decade in the major leagues.
Finally, the Camaleón has been a finalist on the Veterans Commitee ballot for Mexico's Salón de la Fama in 2005 (losing out to Ralph Garcia), 2007 (losing to Benjamín Cerda), 2009 (losing to Salvador Colorado, 2011 (losing to Jimmie Collins) and 2013 (Juan Suby and Alfredo Mariscal were voted in). No Venezuelans have made Mexico's Hall of Fame through 2013, with only players from the USA, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico having been enshrined.
He died of complications following a stroke.