Cristobal Torriente

Position: Outfielder; Pitcher
Teams Include: Cuban Stars, All Nations, Chicago American Giants, Kansas City Monarchs, Detroit Stars, 1913-1928

Cristobal Torriente was nicknamed "The Cuban Strongman" because of his broad shoulders and his ability to carry a ball club on them. C.I. Taylor, legendary manager of the Indianapolis ABCs, once said that if he were standing on a street and saw Torriente go by, he'd say, "There walks a ball club!" The powerful lefty was fast, too.

Torriente and Babe Ruth went head-to-head in a game in Havana, Cuba, in 1920.
Torriente and Babe Ruth went
head-to-head in a game
in Havana, Cuba, in 1920. Ruth
went 0-for-4 while Torriente smashed
three home runs -- including
one off Ruth.

At 17, Torriente (1893-1938) joined the Cuban army. Because of his physical strength, he was assigned the task of loading guns onto mules. In his free time, he blasted balls around the ballyard. Within two years, he had signed with the Cuban Stars to play in the United States.

He did so for the next 15 years, then spent the winters playing back home in Cuba. He was a tough hitter in both climates. In Cuba, he ripped .401 in 1915 and .402 in 1916. From 1919 through 1925, he routinely batted in the .350 range and led the league in power numbers as well (although the huge size of the parks limited the totals).

Torriente led in every batting category two years in a row (1919 and 1920). He even holds the 20th-century Cuban League lifetime average record at .350. In 1939, he was one of the first group of individuals chosen for the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame.

As a member of the Chicago American Giants from 1918 to 1925, Torriente was no less potent. In the first three years of the newly formed Negro National League, he powered the Giants to consecutive titles, with batting averages of .411, .338, and .342. That team had plenty of ability. With Oscar Charleston and Jimmy Lyons joining Torri in the outfield, they formed one of the fastest and best defensive units of all time. Even Charleston could not unseat Torriente from center.

It was often said that with his light complexion, Torriente could have played in the white major leagues, but his hair "gave him away." Along with Martin Dihigo and Jose Mendez, Torriente is considered among the top Cubans to play in the Negro Leagues.

Unfortunately, Torriente's preferences for high living cost him dearly, as his physical skills deteriorated rapidly. He died in poverty. The Special Committee on Negro Leagues elected him to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Here are Cristobal Torriente's Negro League statistics*:


*Note: Torriente's career statistics are incomplete.

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