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Although the celebrations surrounding the 3rd annual Exaltations to the Salon de la Fama del Beisbol Latino began on Thursday the 9th of February with the inauguration of the Fan Cave in the Marina Casa de Campo and the welcome dinner at the Casa de Campo villa of Roberto Wiell, it wasn’t until the Friday evening that the Dominican Republic’s most famous baseball legends made an appearance. Spotted at the Honorary Chairman’s dinner hosted by Alfy Fanjul were Dominican baseball legends Pedro Martinez, Don Felipe Rojas Alou, Tony Peña and Osvaldo Virgil, who enjoyed a fantastic evening with the numerous other Latin baseball heros.
Don Felipe Rojas Alou and his wife with Pedro Martinez
As the first Dominican baseball player to play regularly in the major leagues, Don Felipe is heralded in the Dominican Republic as a true baseball legend. His major league baseball career started in 1958 and ended in 1974 during which time he played for the Milwaukee / Atlanta Braves, Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Brewers as well as the Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants who he later managed, winning NL manager of the year in 1991. Don Felipe Rojas Alou was exalated into the Salon de la Fama del Beisbol Latino last year in 2011 and this year returned to see the unveiling of his statue during the “Paseo de los Inmortales.”
Another great success story for Dominican baseball is Pedro Martinez is an eight-time All-Star, three-time Cy Young Award winner, and 2004 World Series champion and has the highest ERA+ (earned run average) in Major League Baseball history. Pedro is a modern day idol for young Dominican’s all over the country.
Hosted at Casa Grande, the Fanjul family’s Casa de Campo estate, the evening brought together Casa de Campo villa owners (and fans of baseball) with the Salon de la Fama del Beisbol Latino luminaries and their friends and families, who enjoyed talking about their passion (baseball of course) as well as enjoying drinks and dinner under the stars.
Jessica Steinbrenner with Claudio Silvestri
One of the evening’s guests of honor was undoubtedly Jessica Steinbrenner, whose father George Steinbrenner owned the New York Yankees for 37 years, from 1973 to his death in July 2010, the longest in club history, during which time, the Yankees earned seven World Series titles. In honor of her father considered “The Boss” of baseball , Jessica was seen at Casa Grande wearing a New York Yankee’s World Series ring around her neck, whilst a number of other New York Yankee’s players such as Bernie Williams were seen wearing these rings on their fingers.
As the evening progressed, the Casa de Campo VIP guests were thrilled to meet, greet and have their photo taken with the many baseball luminaries in attendance. I personally was particularly impressed and interested by all the stories these baseball legends had to tell – many of who were the trailblazers of Dominican and Latin baseball, paving the way for the raising stars of Latin baseball today.
Quiet an inspiration – Minnie Miñoso and I
During the evening I met Osvaldo (Ozzie) Virgil, the first Dominican baseball player to play in the Major Leagues as well as Minnie Miñoso from Cuba, who was one of the first black player to make it to the Major Leagues and the first black player to play for the Chicago White Sox. Minnie, whose success in the major leagues spans more than 30 years, had a particularly moving story to tell…
RH: How does it feel to be part of the Salon de la Fama del Beisbol Latino?
Minnie: There are no words, I feel something that I have no words to describe, to express the satisfaction that I feel. I am incredible lucky, in my childhood my family had to cut sugar cane and clean floors and still didn’t have $50 pesos to buy a shirt. I thank the sport. Baseball has been very very very very very good for me and a thank all the fans. Baseball gave me the opportunity to be the most happy man in the world.
And yes he was incredibly happy!
Rafael Avila, Ozzie Virgil, Alfy Fanjul and Tommy Lasorda
One of the founders of the Salon de la Fama del Beisbol Latino, but also a “Latin American baseball scout”, Rafael Avila is credited with Dominican baseball stars to the Major Leagues, before 1970 there were just 24 Dominican baseball players who had ever played in the Major Leagues (included Ozzie Virgil and Don Felipe) and now Dominican players account for more than 10% of all major leaguers – an accolade largely credited to Avila who recognized the natural ability of Dominican players.
Also one of the founders of the Salon de la Fama del Beisbol Latino, Tommy Lasorda is one of the most famous names in Latin baseball, a former Major League baseball player, member of the National Baseball hall of Fame and former manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The following photos were taken during this inspiring evening celebrated at Casa Grande in Casa de Campo: