Note: This page discusses Negro League, Mexican League and Cuban League star Manuel García. For the Spanish star of the same name, click here.
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 8", Weight 185 lb.
Manuel García pitched professionally from 1926 to 1949, improving with time as he struggled for years before emerging as a star in his last decade. He threw a quick fastball, a big curveball and a drop. His unusual nickname came from the fact that batters "seemed drugged by his pitches" according to John Holway.
García debuted in 1926 with the Cuban Stars (West). He went 2-2 for the Almendares Blues in the 1926-1927 Cuban Winter League season. He was 3-7 for the 1927 Cuban Stars, then was 2-2 for two teams in the CWL in the 1927-1928 season. Manuel was only 1-10 for the 1928 Cuban Stars as the youngster was still far from successful. That winter, he was 2-5 for Almendares followed by a 4-4 season in 1929-1930.
Cocaina won his first game in the 1930 Cuban Winter League and went 3 for 4 at the plate with two doubles, but the season was cut short due to a dispute between the clubs and stadium administrators. A special second season was added and Manuel was 0-2. García was 1-1 for the Cuban Stars (East) in 1931.
At age 26, Manuel finally was beginning to emerge as a good pitcher in the 1931-1932 winter season, going 4-0 for Almendares; he hit .364 and would be sometimes be used as an outfielder when not pitching throughout his career. Unfortunately for the developing hurler, the political situation in Cuba collapsed and the Cuban Winter League was on hiatus for a while. He went 2-5 for the New York Cubans in 1935 in the Negro Leagues. García was 3-5 for a champion Santa Clara team in the 1935-1936 winter season; the team went 31-9 when other pitchers got the decision. He did hit .273 as the 4th outfielder. In his last year in the USA, Cocaina was 0-1 for the New York Cubans; overall, he weas a very poor 6-23 in the Negro Leagues.
Manuel joined the Dominican League in 1937 and went 5-3 with Estrellas Orientales, hitting .254. In the 1937-1938 winter league season, he was just 3-4 for a 44-18 Santa Clara team; he was a regular outfielder for once, hitting a solid .304 with 32 RBI, tying Lazaro Salazar for second on the club behind Sammy Bankhead.
In the 1940-1941 Cuban Winter League, García was just 4-5 for Santa Clara, hitting .234. He made his debut in the Mexican League that year and the 35-year-old veteran was 4-3 with a 3.41 ERA for the Veracruz Eagle; he batted .316/~.355/.444. Manuel was 3-5 for the Havana Reds in the 1941-1942 winter league and did not play in the field for once.
García had one of his busiest years ever in 1942, going 19-14 with 22 complete games and 279 1/3 innings, allowing 302 hits and 120 hits for the Puebla Parrots. He also batted .275/~.355/.420 with 44 RBI in 193 AB, only striking out 9 times. Despite turning 37 during the 1942-1943 CWL, he was at his best, making the league All-Star team with Tommy de la Cruz as the top hurlers. He went 10-3 and led the league in both wins and winning percentage. He helped his own cause with a .340 mark at the plate for Havana.
In the 1943 Mexican League season, García batted .288/~.321/.342 for Puebla and went 16-12 with a 4.45 ERA. The 1943-1944 winter league season would be even better than his previous year as he won 12 in a row for Havana at one point and threw the first no-hitter ever at La Tropical Stadium on December 11. He joined Martin Dihigo as the CWL All-Star pitchers and tied Sandy Ullrich for the league lead in victories. His three shutouts also led the league, and he hit .431 at the plate. Back in Mexico, he had a .281/~.336/.370 season at the plate and 13-10, 4.24 on the mound with Pueblo.
García remained hot in winter ball, going 8-5 with a 2.80 ERA and 22 walks in 119 innings for Havana in the 1944-1945 season and his 9 complete games tied Terris McDuffie for the CWL lead. 40 years old by season's end, Cocaina still hit .259.
Moving to the Tampico Lightermen in the 1945 Mexican League, Manuel batted .270/~.340/.389. He was 18-11 on the mound with a 3.59 ERA. He was third in the Liga in wins behind Agapito Mayor and Daniel Ríos. He fell to 5-5 for Havana in the 1945-1946 Cuban Winter League and did not play the field. That fall, he lost an exhibition game to the 1946 Senators. In Mexico in 1946, he hit only .227/~.264/.277 for Tampico. He was 14-10 with a 2.76 ERA, a much better figure than many American visitors, including Sal Maglie.
García made the CWL All-Star team for the third time in 1946-1947 and tied a record with four seasons of 10 or more wins. He went 10-3 and led the league in winning percentage, one win behind leader Adrian Zabala. Manuel tied Paul Calvert and Jorge Comellas for the shutout lead (3) and led the league in ERA (2.03) as the 41/42-year-old showed he could still dominate - in fact, more than he ever had in his 20s or early 30s. His last year in Cuba was the 1947-1948 year, when he was 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and only 8 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings for the champion Havana team. He ranked among the all-time leaders in seasons pitched (17, tied for fifth), games pitched (222, 10th), complete games (93, fifth, behind Dihigo, Dolf Luque and two Deadball Era pitchers, José Muñoz and Carlos Royer), wins (85, fifth behind Dihigo, Luque, Royer and Zabala and ahead of Munoz and Jose Mendez) and losses (61, 7th). He was elected into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 by the exile community.
García still played two more years in Mexico, batting .316/~.381/.421 for Pueblo and Tampico in 1948 and going 4-3, 3.86 on the hill. In 1949, at the old age of 43, Cocaina hit .296/~.374/.342 for Veracruz and the Nuevo Laredo Owls; as a pitcher, he went 8-5 with a 4.37 ERA. Overall, he was 96-68 with a 3.83 as a pitcher in Mexico and hit .281/~.339/.374 at the plate in 8 seasons there.
Sources: The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics by Pedro Treto Cisneros, Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History by Jorge Figueredo, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway