Luis Tiant, Sr.


"Tiant--you know he could pitch! He was the ugliest snaggle-toothed guy. He could rock back and throw to first base and if you weren't sharp, why he'd catch you".
--Negro League third baseman Bobby Robinson


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Negro Leaguer of the Month
September, 2003


Luis Tiant, Sr.
Nickname: Se
nor Skinny
Born: August 27, 1906 in Havana, Cuba
Died: December 10, 1976 in Mass.
Ht: 6'-0", Wt: 165
Batted right and threw left.
Positions: pitcher
Years: 1926-1947

Teams: Alemenderes (Cuba), Cuban Stars, Cuban House of David, New York Cubans, Aguilas Cabaenas (Dominican Republic)

If you ever watched Luis Tiant, Jr. pitch for the Boston Red Sox or Cleveland Indians in the 1960s and 70s, you have an idea how his father of the same name pitched. Junior was the mirror image of his dad, as they both had a dozen different pitches and deliveries; the only difference was the elder Tiant was left-handed.

Tiant Sr. was born and raised in Cuba and was playing with grown men as a teenager. Although he had good speed, he was not overpowering, so he learned to throw from a variety of angles, with a dozen different grips, and a herky-jerky motion to keep batters constantly off-balance and guessing. Tiant also had a mean streak and wasn't adverse to beaning batters who looked too comfortable at the plate. Both Tiants were masters of picking off baserunners with moves that bordered on balks.

Tiant first played in the United States in the early 1930s with various teams advertised as "Cuban," though many players on those teams were not from Cuba.

Tiant was often called the "Cuban Carl Hubbell" for his fine left-handed pitching and awesome screwball.

In 1935, Tiant pitched against the St. Louis Cardinals and the Babe Ruth All-Stars in exhibitions in Cuba, winning all three games and not allowing a home run to the Bambino.

In 1937, Tiant joined Martin Dihigo and the Aguilas Cabaenas team in the Dominican Republic. Tiant went 1-3 on the mound and his team lost to Ciudad Trujillo (featuring Satchel, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and Sam Bankhead) in the championship game.

Luis Tiant pitched in two East-West games, in 1935 and '47. In the '35 classic, Tiant allowed three runs on one hit and two walks but didn't figure in the decision. In the '47 game, Tiant again didn't get a decision as he pitched 2-2/3 innings without allowing a run.

Tiant had one of his greatest seasons at age 40, with a perfect record in league games and leading his New York Cubans to the Negro National League pennant, then a victory in the Negro League World Series against the Cleveland Buckeyes.

After retiring from baseball, Tiant worked as a furniture mover.

In 1975, Tiant was allowed by Cuban president Fidel Castro to visit the United States and watch his son pitch in the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

XXX