One of the greatest home run hitters of all time, two of the best fielders at their respective positions, two of the most effective players in the postseason and the reliever who holds the major league record for career pitching appearances were inducted into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in La Romana in the eastern Dominican Republic on Saturday.
Former major lague player and manager Bobby Valentine received the Tommy LaSorda Award in recognition of his career spanning almost 50 years in pro ball, and Phil Regan was recognized for his lengthy career as a manager in the Caribbean leagues.
New York Yankees Dominican slugger Alex Rodríguez received the award for 2015 comeback of the year in the majors, while Venezuelan catcher Salvador Pérez of the championship-winning Kansas City Royals and Mexican first baseman Adrián González, of the Los Angeles Dodgers were selected as theLatinos de Oro for the American and National Leagues, respectively.
'A-Rod, Pérez and González were not in attendance, but Rodríguez accepted the award via a video message. The focus, however, was on the new class of immortals.
Sosa, 47, hit 609 homers and drove in 1,667 runs in his major league career, which spanned 18 seasons with Texas, the Chicago White Sox and Cubs and Baltimore. The "Caribbean Bambino" won the National League MVP award in 1998, when he and Mark McGwire went head-to-head in the most fiercely contested home run record chase of all time and he enjoyed the first of his four seasons with 60 or more homers, an all-time record.
“I thank God for everything he has given me, including this precious opportunity to enter the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Sosa, who received a standing ovation when he was introduced.
“I feel happy to be here in my country, for the love I have received from the fans and for the recognition of our beautiful Latin people,” Sosa added.
Iván Rodríguez, 44, set the standard as a catcher, playing in 14 All-Star games and winning 13 Gold Gloves. The Puerto Rican hit .296 with 311 homers and 1,332 RBIs in 21 years with Texas, Detroit, Washington, the New York Yankees, Houston and Florida.
“We receive this honor with great pride. Latin America has produced many great players and to be considered in that group means a lot,” said Rodríguez, who will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in two years. “I had a good career; after playing for 21 seasons, I've got no complaints,” said Pudge.
Along with Ozzie Smith, Vizquel, 48, was one of the two best defensive shortstops of all time. Vizquel, whose 24-year career was spent with Seattle, Cleveland, San Francisco, the Chicago White Sox, Texas and Toronto, won 11 Gold Gloves and batted .272 with 2,877 hits, 404 stolen bases and 1,445 runs scored.
“It is a great honor to be here with a number of great players whose careers overlapped with mine. I hope this is the first step on the road to Cooperstown, but that's something I can't control no matter how much I long for it,” said Vizquel, who will be on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2018.
Rentería, 39, was the best Colombian MLB player of all time. In 16 seasons he was selected for five All-Star teams, won two Gold Gloves and played in three World Series, winning two of them and being named MVP in the 2010 Fall Classic with the San Francisco Giants.
The shortstop hit .286 with 294 steals and 1,200 runs scored in a career spent with Florida, St. Louis, Boston, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit and San Francisco.
“I feel old,” said Rentería, making reference to the age of his fellow inductees. “I honestly never thought I'd be here on the same stage as Sammy, Vizquel, Pudge and Orosco, who were my heroes before I made it to the big leagues,” Rentería added.
“It means a lot to me. It is a blessing and a reward for all my efforts over the years. Baseball has always been everything to me,” said Hernández, who was a legend on the international baseball scene before leaving Cuba in 1998 to sign with the Yankees.
Hernández, now 50, was a latecomer to the major leagues but enjoyed a very successful career, winning three championships with the Yankees (1998-2000) and one with the White Sox (2005). In his nine-year career in the majors, the right-hander compiled a 90-65 record with a 4.13 ERA in 219 regular season games and a 9-3 record with a 2.55 ERA in 19 playoff games. He also pitched for the New York Mets and Arizona.
'El Duque pitched 10 seasons with the Havana Industriales in Cuba's baseball league and was a member of the Cuban team that won gold at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
Orosco, 58, pitched 24 years in the majors with the Mets and Yankees, Baltimore, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minnesota, St. Louis and San Diego. He holds the major league record with 1,252 appearances and recorded the final out of the 1986 World Series which saw the Mets beat the Boston Red Sox.