Books by José Luis Villegas

Released: April 6, 1999

A clutch hit revealing the miseria (—misery—) of the impoverished, lonely, and disdained Latino baseball players, both before and after the two percent of prospects get a chance in the grandes ligas (—big leagues—). Bret¢n and photographer Villegas work for the Sacramento Bee in California and were in a good position to follow the rise of Oakland A's prospect Miguel Tejada, whose dramatic story begins and ends the book. Only Sally Struthers is missing from the picture of abject poverty that first locates teenage Tejada in the bleak barrio of Los Barrancones in the Dominican Republic. This account speaks volumes about the desperate aspirations of the young Latin athletes who strive to "escape from the Third World . . . from a mind-set of poverty, and then have to compete at the highest level of professional sports while learning a foreign language." The language-cultural barrier offers great moments of comic relief: Venezuelan "Chico" Carrasquel nearly starts a riot telling a waitress he needs a f___ (when he means "fork—); Vic Power (really Victor Pellot of Puerto Rico) responds to the icy phrase "Sorry, we don—t serve colored people here" with "OK, I don—t eat colored people." Less funny are incidents like Orlando Cepeda facing signs that read "Speak English—You—re in America" and former MVP Zoilo Versalles dying penniless. Tejada is signed to the Athletics for a mere $2,000. From the first Latin superstar, Cuban Minnie Minoso, to Dominican slugger Sammy Sosa, this book has all the stats and lineup cards to document how hard the climb to the top has been for Latino players, but by the 1997 All-Star game "no fewer than fifteen Latins had been selected." This is an important and well-told story in baseball, which may well foretell a future where the pro rosters are dominated by these talented and hungry young escapees from the barrio. Read full book review >