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In the early 1960s, Baseball feared the rising number of Latinos in the game, but in this area, at least, the game has been a positive example for tolerance.

Harry “Cookie” Lavagetto played second and third base for the Pirates and Dodgers in the 1930s and 40s and remains known for delivering one of the great moments in World Series history, the pinch-hit double that broke up Bill Bevens’ no-hitter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1947 World Series. Ironically, it was his last hit in the majors—not even Ted Williams got a police escort off the field after his last hit. After being cut by the Dodgers, Lavagetto played for some excellent Pacific Coast League teams with his hometown Oakland Oaks, including the 1948 league champions, then went on to a long career as a coach and manager.

Lavagetto was the last manager of the original Washington Senators and the first manager of the Minnesota Twins.  It was in the latter capacity that he gave the 1961 interview, titled “The Challenge from Latin-America” in Baseball Digest. Author Dick Gordon wrote:

While there were only 45 Latins (or seven percent of the of the total) on major league rosters this spring, the number is steadily increasing. And the fact that there are an estimated 500 of them in organized ball already indicates the threat of a Castro etc. “invasion” not by soldiers armed with rifles but by athletes with rifle arms.

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Detroit's Triple-A catcher talks about his unique, and difficult, journey.

When Latin-American and Asian players sign professional contracts, they are typically immersed in English-language classes and, in some cases, assigned translators. Max St. Pierre wasn’t so fortunate. Taken by Detroit in the 26th round of the 1997 draft out of French-speaking Quebec City, the now 30-year-old catcher came into pro ball with neither a support system nor teammates who spoke the same language. What followed was a tumultuous ride through the minor leagues, one which featured not only loneliness but also a battle with alcohol abuse. St. Pierre, who is back with the Tigers organization after a brief hiatus, has his life back in order and is hitting a perfectly-fluent .324/.358/.419 with Triple-A Toledo.

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July 27, 2010 8:00 am

Prospectus Q&A: Julio Borbon


David Laurila

The Rangers' center fielder talks about what it is like to experience both the Dominican and American cultures.

Julio Borbon is a multi-cultural player in a multi-cultural game. The speedy center fielder came to the Rangers via the University of Tennessee, but he spent his formative years in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Borbon talked about his Latin-American upbringing, and the baseball-crazy cultures of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, when Texas visited Fenway Park earlier this month.

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Nate continues to forecast the future by tracing the influx of Latin American baseball players, and what we can expect about their numbers going forward.

Trend: Major League Baseball is becoming more internationalized.

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