--John McGraw, quoted in "Smoke the Romance and Lore of Cuban Baseball" by Mark Rucker and Peter Bjarkman. Click here to order book.
--Chicago Defender Newspaper
Leaguer of the Month
gets most of the press when the topic of great Cuban baseball players
comes up, but Jose' Mendez was nearly as talented.
Going into the 1914 season, there weren't many pitchers better than Mendez, but the 27 year old hurt his arm and had to stop pitching on a regular basis. What did he do then? He became one of the best shorstops in baseball.
Mendez was lucky enough to meet J.L. Wilkinson, the eventual owner of the Kansas City Monarchs, around this time and he signed with him to play for the famous All-Nations team which also featured star pitchers Plunk Drake and John Donaldson, as well as fellow Cuban superstar Crisobel Torriente.
After several seasons barnstorming the Midwest with the All-Nations, Wilkinson brought Mendez to the Monarchs where he probably achieved his greatest fame. From 1920-1926 Mendez managed, pitched occasionally, and played shortstop for the Monarchs a true testiment to his skills as a fielder when you consider the Monarchs also carried Dobie Moore, one of the top handful of shorstops in Negro League history.
With Mendez at short the Monarchs won pennants in '23, '24 and '25. In 1924 the Monarchs beat the Hilldale Giants of Darby, PA in the first Negro League World Series. In that series he rediscovered his pitching magic by hurling in 4 games, winning two without a loss. In the deciding game Mendez went the distance in a shutout win, despite being warned by doctors not to play following surgery.
1928 Mendez died of pneumonia at the tender age of 41. He was elected
into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.