Although rarely mentioned with better-known Negro League players, Cristóbal Torriente was named to the Negro League’s All-Time outfield in a 1952 Pittsburgh Courier Poll, along with Monte Irvin and Oscar Charleston, ahead of Hall of Famers Cool Papa Bell and Turkey Stearnes. If HOF Manager John McGraw had his way, Torriente would have been playing with the New York Giants. It was often said that with his light complexion, Torriente could have played in the majors, but his hair “gave him away”; McGraw knew he couldn’t sneak him through. Along with Martin Dihigo and Jose Mendez, Torriente is considered among the top Cubans to play in the Negro Leagues and, in fact, Torriente led in every batting category two years in a row (1919 and 1920) and he holds the 20th-century Cuban League lifetime average record at .350. After a three game series in which Torriente outplayed and outhit him, Babe Ruth said “Tell Torriente and Mendez that if they could play with me in the Major Leagues, we would win the pennant by July and go fishing for the rest of the season.” In 1939, Torriente was one of the first group of individuals chosen for the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Torriente’s preferences for high living cost him dearly, as his physical skills deteriorated rapidly and he died of tuberculosios, and in poverty, at the age of 44.
September 30, 2016