Santiago Mederos Iglesias (Changa)
- Bats Left, Throws Left
Santiago Mederos was a Cuban National League baseball pitcher during the 1960s and 1970s.
In the 1967-1968 season, Mederos played with Industriales and tied Carlos Gálvez for the league lead in shutouts with eight. This marked a record that has still not been broken; it was the Year of the Pitcher, which likely helped. Norge Vera would tie the mark over 30 years later. In 1968-1969, while playing with La Habana, the 24-year-old tied Rolando Macías for the league lead in wins with 17, Emilio Salgado and Óscar Romero for the league lead in games started with 25 and Roberto Valdés with the league lead in shutouts with six. Perhaps most impressively, he led the league with 208 strikeouts, setting a new league record, 8 more than Manuel Alarcón's old mark; Mederos's standard would hold for over three decades. He also set the single-game strikeout record, whiffing 20 Camaguey batters on January 30; Faustino Corrales surpassed him 31 years later. Also that season, he won the Serie Nacional Most Valuable Pitcher honor and was named to the league All-Star Series (wherein he led the tournament in innings pitched with 18 2/3 and strikeouts with 17). He would be the only La Habana hurler to win Most Valuable Pitcher honors until José Ibar in 1994-1995 became the second.
The following season, Mederos led the league in innings pitched (136 2/3), complete games (13) and strikeouts (143) while pitching for the Industriales. He pitched in the Serie 10 Millones, playing for Habana and tying Valdés and Alfredo García for the series lead in complete games with nine. He went 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA in the 1970 Central American and Caribbean Games as Cuba won the Gold Medal. He fanned 21 Mexican batters in one rout. He went 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA in the 1970 Amateur World Series, helping lead the Cuban team to victory over the United States in the final game of the tournament. He started the 5-3 win and was relieved by Alarcón; the US hurler was Rich Troedson.
In 1970-1971, he pitched for Occidentales in the All-Star Series and was one of four pitchers to complete a game. In the 1971 Amateur World Series, he went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA overall, throwing a two-hit shutout against an All-Star team from all the other nations. He led the event in ERA and Cuba won another Gold. He had a 0.00 ERA and no decisions in the 1972 Amateur World Series, another tournament won by Cuba. He would not pitch for the national team in 1973-1974.
The hard-throwing lefty continued to shine in 1974-1975. He recorded his 1,000 career strikeout while pitching for the Agricultores, also leading the league in innings pitched (91 2/3) and strikeouts (92). In that year's Series Selectivas, he led the series in complete games (10) and innings pitched (119 2/3) while pitching for Habana. He also performed well in the 1975 Pan American Games, going 1-0 with a 1.37 ERA as Cuba won a Gold. He was 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in the 1976 Amateur World Series; Cuba got their sixth Gold in six international events.
In 1977-1978, Mederos had the best won-loss percentage (.778) in the Series Selectivas after posting a 7-2 record with Habana. He had his only bad tournament in the 1978 Central American and Caribbean Games, with a 22.50 ERA; Cuba still won a Gold. In the 1978-1979 All-Star Series with Selección, Mederos had eight strikeouts, leading the tournament. He died of extensive burns from an auto accident on December 15, 1979, a few miles outside of Havana. He was the second national team hurler to die in a vehicular incident in the 1970s, following Huelga.
Overall, Mederos went 123-67 with a 1.97 ERA and .197 opponent average in 253 games (220 starts) over 15 seasons in his tragically-shortened career. He fanned 1,420 in 1,628 2/3 IP. As of 2010, he still ranked among Castro-era Cuba's leaders in shutouts (41, 5th behind Braudilio Vinent, Rogelio García, Omar Carrero and Jorge Luis Valdés), winning percentage (10th) and ERA (6th, behind Huelga, Roberto Valdés, Manuel Hurtado, Juan Pérez Pérez and Walfrido Ruiz.
Two of Mederos' pitching records fell in 2000-2001. First, his single-season strikeout record of 208 was surpassed by Maels Rodríguez, who recorded 263 Ks. He also held the record for most strikeouts in a nine innings game with 20, until Faustino Corrales broke that record with 22 on December 20.