Francisco Luis Coimbre Atiles
(Pancho, Frank, Al)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 8", Weight 180 lb.
When the Puerto Rican League was formed in 1938, Coimbre led the league in doubles with 14. He came to the US in 1940 and hit .320 as a starting outfielder for the New York Cubans, hitting second in the order. He batted .401 in the winter of 1940-1941, 5th in the league, just ahead of Buck Leonard, Lenny Pearson and Josh Gibson.
Moving to cleanup in 1941, Pancho batted .353 for the New York Cubans, 4th in the Negro National League behind Bill Hoskins, Henry Spearman and Monte Irvin and right ahead of Roy Campanella. In the 1941 East-West Game, the 22-year-old played right field and hit second for the East. He went 0 for 5 and made an error but scored twice in a 8-3 win. That winter, he hit .372, 4th-best in Puerto Rico behind Gibson, Willard Brown and Perucho Cepeda while his 17 doubles tied for second, one behind Leonard. He did not strike out all winter long.
Pancho did not play in the USA in 1942. In 1942-1943, he led the Puerto Rican League with a .342 average and shared MVP honors with Luis Olmo. He again did not strike out, having gone two straight winter ball seasons without a whiff, presumably a record. Back in the Negro Leagues in 1943, he batted .440 for the New York Cubans, 4th in the NNL behind Tetelo Vargas, Sammy Bankhead and Josh Gibson. He hit .376 that winter in Puerto Rico.
In 1944, Coimbre batted .357 as one of the top batters in the NNL once again. He hit third for the East in the 1944 East-West Game, sandwiched between Hall-of-Famers Cool Papa Bell (1), Ray Dandridge (2), Buck Leonard (4) and Josh Gibson (5). The right fielder was 0 for 5, though, in a 7-4 loss.
Coimbre hit .425 in the 1944-1945 Puerto Rican League for his second batting title, .047 ahead of Marvin Williams. He spent the summer of 1945 in the Mexican League, hitting .346/~.401/.494 for the Pericos de Puebla with 26 doubles and 85 RBI in 89 games; the bat control expert only struck out in 8 of 358 at-bats. He was 4th in the Liga in RBI behind Cubans Claro Duany, Roberto Ortiz and Silvio Garcia.
Pancho batted .333 in the 1945-1946 Puerto Rican League. He spent his final summer in the Negro Leagues in 1946, then hit .333 in the following winter and .323 in 1947-1948. He managed the Puerto Rican national team in the 1947 Amateur World Series (winning Silver, their best finish to that point) and 1948 Amateur World Series (repeating at Silver). He was now 39 years old and got his final crack at US ball that year. He hit .312 and slugged .469 for the Sherbrooke Athletics while going 2-0 on the hill.
Coimbre hit .336 in 1948-1949 with only one strikeout in 239 AB.
He hit .377 in his Negro League career, fifth-best all-time behind Chino Smith, Larry Doby, Lazaro Salazar and Artie Wilson. In the Puerto Rican League, he batted .337 with only 29 strikeouts in 1,915 career at-bats. He once had a 22-game hitting streak, longest in the Puerto Rican League at the time.
Roberto Clemente said that Coimbre was a better player than himself.
Coimbre scouted for the Pittsburgh Pirates from his retirement in 1951 until 1976. He also coached for the Ecuadorian national team that won the 1966 South American Championship among other work in Ecuadorian baseball. His son Francisco Coimbre Jr. played in the minors. Coimbre Sr. died tragically in a fire at his house in 1989.
Pancho was a candidate in the 2006 Special Committee on the Negro Leagues Election but did not make the final round of ballots. He was voted into the inaugural Latin American Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2010, though.
- The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley
- Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester
- The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics by Pedro Treto Cisneros
- The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway
- Colon Delgado, Jorge, President SABR/Puerto Rico Chapter
- Puerto Rico and Baseball: 60 Biographies ed. by Edwin Fernández and Bill Nowlin (Coimbre bio by Joseph Gerard)