Leaguer of the Month
Francisco "Pancho" Coimbre
Born: Jan. 29, 1909 in Coamo, Puerto Rico
Died: Nov. 4, 1989 in Ponce, Puerto Rico
Ht:5'-8", Wt: 175
Batted right and threw right
Teams: Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Dominican Republic,
Negro Leagues: New York Cubans
there ever a better baseball player to come from Puerto Rico
than Roberto Clemente?
not, but Pancho Coimbre came mighty close. Clemente, who grew
up watching Coimbre in his homeland, said many times that
Pancho was a better hitter than he was, and available stats
show that there might be some truth to this assertion.
1939-1942, Coimbre didn't strike out in Puerto Rican League
play, during the 1948-49 winter
season he struck
out once in 239 at bats, and in 13 seasons in Puerto Rico struck
out only 29 times (an average of 2.2 times a season!). What makes
this feat even more incredible is that Coimbre was a slugger!
In his best seasons, Coimbre usually batted from .330-.425,
and slugged over .500. Coimbre won two Puerto Rican batting titles,
came in second once, and was in the top 10 almost every season.
Like Clemente, Coimbre had a touch of regalness, always carrying
himself with confidence and class, and was a leader on and off
his years with the Ponce Lions, Coimbre helped the team
to five championships, batting a combined .367.
Ponce's best team may have been its 1941-42 club,
which also boasted Howard Easterling, Sam Bankhead and Raymond
and Puerto Rican pitcher Juan
was a tremendous athlete, and was a track star of some acclaim
in Puerto Rico, specializing in sprints and the high hurdles.
used his blazing speed to lead the league in stolen bases with
46 in 1941-42, despite a the season being about half as long
as a Major League
the 1942-43 season Coimbre batted .342 and won the league MVP,
the 1944-45 season Coimbre batted an incredible .425!
During his Puerto Rican career, Coimbre's
biggest rival as the top player on the island was Perucho Cepeda,
a hard-hitting shortstop and the father of Hall of Famer Orlando
.337 career average in Puerto Rico has been bested only by
Hall of Famer Willard Brown.
Besides playing in Puerto Rico, Coimbre played
in Mexico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and, of course,
the Negro Leagues.
played several seasons with the New York Cubans in the Negro
National League, never batting below .330, and besting
.400 twice. He was selected for two East-West All-Star games.
Despite the stars
on the East's
batted third, in
the middle of four Hall of Famers: Cool Papa Bell batting first,
second, Buck Leonard cleanup and Josh Gibson batting
fifth. In 10 East-West at bats, Coimbre failed to hit safely--one
of the few times in his life he struggled at the plate.
Coimbre played all outfield positions, but, like
Clemente, was most suited for right field where he could show
off his incredible arm.
After the 1951 season, Coimbre retired and was hired by the Pittsburgh
Pirates as a Major League scout, a job he kept for 25 years.
When Roberto Clemente was left unprotected by the Brooklyn Dodgers
Pirates to draft him, which they did, uniting the two greatest
players in Puerto Rican history.
Coimbre, a Puerto Rican Baseball Hall of Famer,
died in a house fire in 1989 at age 80.