, I have been debating between the superiority of “panic” or “reverie”. Fortunately, I lived these two experiences in my own skin, which, although painful at the time, left me with a deep happiness for having lived them.
I remember the Caribbean Series (Serie del Caribe) held in February 1995 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which I was fortunate to attend and witness at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium, home of the Senadores de San Juan.
An enthusiastic crowd was proud of the Puerto Rican team which they called the "Dream Team". Everyone was talking about the team they had assembled for this series, and some people said that this team was the dream team of all time, which I think it is something not far from reality.
The San Juan Senators
(the 1994-995 Puerto Rican champion) presented a stunning team with the best players of the island, players well known as Carlos Delgado
(Blue Jays), Carmelo Martínez
, Roberto Alomar
(Blue Jays), Rubén Sierra
(Athletics), Rey Sánchez
(Cubs), Carlos Baerga
(Indians), Bernie Williams
(Yankees), Juan "Igor" González
(Rangers) and Edgar Martínez
(Mariners) as designated hitter (DH). The spectacular pitching staff was headed by starters like Ricky Bones
, Doug Brocail
, Eric Gunderson
, Chris Haney
and one of their best closers of all time, Roberto Hernández
Such was the offensive power, that Rey Sanchez (Ss) was the ninth at bat despite having been the batting leader of the season with .348 average.
I arrived at the stadium, extremely excited. Chatting with the people in line to buy our tickets for our family group, people asked me if I was from Venezuela, and some of them told me that they had heard a lot about Omar Vizquel and Ugueth Urbina, two Venezuelan players well known. Vizquel for being a multiple gold glove winner and Urbina (Photo Below) ranked as one of the best prospects in minor league.
While we were entering at the stadium, one of the staff approach us and told us that the owner of Santurce, Mr. Reinaldo “Poto” Paniagua, invite us to watch the game from the team's VIP Cabin.
So we went up to this cabin, beneath the roof of the stadium with my brother, my wjfe and my son Berny Rodz and watched the game from this amazing spot. Undoubtedly, that opportunity make even more grateful this experience. While we were on the VIP, we were fortunate to share with former MLB players such as Tany Perez (Reds) and Ivan de Jesus.
The first game against the "Dream Team" was a real “nervous breakdown spread over nine innings”, as Robert Earl Wilson would say.
Venezuela was well represented by the Leones del Caracas, an excellent team managed by Pompeyo Davalillo, and whose lineup featured: Curtis Goodwin (Orioles), Roger Cedeño (Dodgers), Luis Sojo (Mariners), Omar Vizquel (Indians), Edgar Alfonso, Carlos "Café" Martínez (Angels), Carlos Hernández (Dodgers), Eduardo Pérez (Braves), Miguel Cairo (AA), Bob Abreu (AAA), Roberto Petagine (Astros), Omar Daal (Dodgers), Juan Carlos Pulido (Twins), Ugeth Urbina (AA)....
The game started right on time. After the two national anthem the Puerto Rican team jumped into the field and Venezuela came up to bat. The “play ball” was heard and the Venezuelan CF Curtis Goodwin arrived at first with a single. Then advanced to third on a pair of rollings and, scored on a leadoff hit by Luis Sojo. Unbelievably, Venezuela manage to open the score in the 1st inning against this great team.
Sadly, the joy was short-lived. The Puerto Ricans evened the score 1 to 1 right away. Then, the game remained tied until the bottom of the 6th inning when the “Dream Team” took the lead with 1 run scored by Roberto Alomar on an RBI Single by Carlos Baerga.
Venezuela strikes back on the 8th, on a single by Miguel Cairo, moved to second by a scarify hit by Goodwin and RBI sigle by Roger Cedeno.
The game remained tied. The closer Ugueth Urbina (P), had entered in substitution of Juan Carlos Pulido (P) in the bottom of the 9th
with the game 2-2. was pitching millimetrically away from the strike zone.
In the bottom of the 10th. A single by Carmelo, a base on balls and a hit-by-pitch filled the bases for Carlos Delgado's at-bat. In a hard battle against Urbina, who was pitching milimetrically away from the strike zone, the Puerto Rican batter managed to take a walkoff Base-on-balls.
Final score 2-3 for Puerto Rico. Despite having batted eight hits against PR, the Venezuelan fans left that game proudly in pain.
The following day, the Puerto Rican "Dream Team" defeated the Dominican Republic, with a solid attack of 17 hits and 16 runs. The pitcher from Dominican Republic, Jose Rijo commented after the game:
"I was looking for an easy batter so I could breathe, but with the Puerto Rican lineup it was impossible".
Puerto Rico won the series undefeated, winning all 6 games played.
Roberto Alomar lead batting average with .560 and was named MVP, followed by Bernie Williams .417, Juan "Igor" Gonzalez .375, Edgar Martinez .370, Rey Sanchez .333, Carlos Delgado .300...The team crushed the Caribbean Series with an average of .346, with 10 home runs. The pitcher were as well very solid with an ERA. of 2.46 with 38 strikeouts.
Once the Caribbean Series ended, I took my flight back to Venezuela. During the flight I began to meditate on the series that had just ended; on Urbina's bases on balls; the disaster of our pitcher’s Era, until I came back to the sad reality, it was impossible to beat that Puerto Rican team. I had never seen a baseball team like this Dream Team before.
During the hour and a half flight from San Juan to Caracas, I went back in time 40 years before and I remembered the VII Caribbean Series held in Caracas, Venezuela.
The Series took place on February, as usual, of 1955 when I was just 10 years old.
... it will continue next Friday, February 4th
Written by: Lalalo Rodriguez Cedeño
Photo credits: Lalalo Rodriguez Cedeño