Vidal López Ascanio (El Muchachote de Barlovento)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Born April 19, 1918 in Río Chico, Miranda Venezuela
- Died February 20, 1972 in Caracas, Distrito Capital Venezuela
López starred in the years before the Venezuelan League was formed, appearing in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Cuba in addition to playing in Venezuela. In 1940-1941, he went 12-5 for Cienfuegos in the Cuban Winter League, completing 16 of his 20 games. He also hit .243 as the team's backup outfielder. He led the league in wins, two ahead of Gil Torres, and in complete games. He and Torres were named the league's All-Star pitchers. He also took part in a historic 1-0 win over Santa Clara and René Monteagudo; the game was only 1 hour, 9 minutes long, the all-time CWL record. It was his lone season in Cuba, but was also notable in a couple other ways: he was only the second Venezuelan to play in the CWL (after Alex Carrasquel) and was only the third non-Cuban Latino to pitch in CWL history (after 1920s-1930s Panamanian Oscar Levis and Carrasquel).
Vidal played in Mexico from 1943-1945. He went 16-12 with a 2.08 ERA in 1943, also hitting .304/.378/.436 with 20 doubles in 78 games as an outfielder for Monterrey. He led the Mexican League in ERA (.55 over Daniel Ríos) and tied for 5th in wins with three Cuban greats: Agapito Mayor, Manuel García and Martin Dihigo. In 1944, he again was a two-way star for Monterrey, batting .280/.393/.446 with 23 steals, 11 home runs and 60 RBI in 85 games while posting a 13-14, 3.78 record. He tied García for fifth in wins and tied Silvio García for third in dingers. He was eight steals shy of Silvio García, the league leader. With Monterrey in 1945, he struggled on the hill (0-1, 7 earned runs in 7 IP) and batted .270/.357/.351 in limited action.
When the Venezuelan League was formed in 1946, he played for the Navegantes del Magallanes, also managing them part of the year. He hit only .216/?/.321 while he pitched for the final time (a 3.00 WHIP and 9.00 ERA in 3 innings showing his arm was gone). He did finish 4th in the new circuit in RBI (23). In 1946-1947, he improved to .317/?/.542 with 6 home runs and 25 RBI in 36 games. He tied for 4th in RBI, was third in doubles (9), led in homers and was second to Marvin Williams in slugging.
During 1947-1948, López batted .374 and slugged .532, driving in 29 runs in 39 games while again managing Magallanes part of the season. He was 4th in slugging (after Luke Easter, Henry McHenry and Roy Campanella), first in average (9 points ahead of Adolfredo Gonzalez), tied for 5th in doubles (10), tied for 4th in home runs (4) and second in RBI (trailing Dalmiro Finol). In 1948-1949, the veteran drove in 29 runs in 29 games while hitting .372 with a .500 slugging percentage and again being a part-time manager. He led in RBI, 3 ahead of Finol, lost the batting race by one point (to Alfonso Carrasquel) and finished 6th in slugging. He was 2 for 8 for Cerveceria Caracas in the first Caribbean Series, held in 1949.
During 1949-1950, the Rio Chico native hit .355/?/.645 with 14 doubles, 9 home runs and 43 RBI in 49 games while managing part of the year (Lázaro Salazar was the other skipper for the Navegantes). He led in slugging (six points ahead of Jim Pendleton), was second in average (32 points shy of Pendleton), ranked second in doubles (two behind Howard Easterling), tied Easterling for the home run crown and led in RBI as well (3 ahead of Easterling, 6 ahead of Finol). In the 1950 Caribbean Series, he was player-manager for the Navegantes, going 4 for 15 (all his hits being doubles) with a team-high 4 RBI. He led the Series in doubles and tied Mike Guerra and Monteagudo for 4th in RBI.
The hard-hitting ex-pitcher batted .359/?/.553 with 5 home runs and 36 RBI in 35 games for the Magallanes club in 1950-1951 as they won another pennant. He tied Pendleton for 7th in RBI, tied for 7th in home runs (everyone with more played in the majors or Negro Leagues during their careers) and was second to Johnny Davis in slugging among players with 100+ AB. He went 3 for 6 as a backup outfielder in the 1951 Caribbean Series, getting as many hits as one of the Venezuela's starting outfielders, Eddie Knoblauch. It was his final Caribbean Series.
Vidal's career headed downward after that. In 1951-1952, the 33-year-old hit .248/?/.356 for the Navegantes, followed by a 14-for-62 campaign with two home runs in 1952-1953. In 1953-1954, he was 2 for 17 with a double, then ended things by going 0 for 2 in 1954-1955.