Martin Dihigo: Virtuoso in a Vacuum.

He was born of humble circumstances in Matanzas, Cuba on May 25, 1905. He grew up to be a 6’4″, 190 lb. professional baseball player who, batting and throwing right,  handled all nine field positions with exceptional skill. Most of those who saw him seem to agree that pitcher and second base were his best positions.

Dihigo never had a chance to play in the old white big leagues because of the color line, but he eventually earned his way into the baseball halls of fame of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, and Cooperstown by 1977, or by six years after his death at age 66 on May 20, 1971 in Cienfuegos, Cuba.

He was Martin Dihigo. He played baseball so well that stars like Buck Leonard, Johnny Mize, and Monte Irvin hint that he may have been the greatest baseball player that ever lived.

Dihigo was the consummate five-tool, do-it-all guy. He hit for power and average – and “they” say he could run, throw and catch with the best of the rest in the white majors and Negro leagues.

Here’s where it always gets tough when it comes to making an objective case for greatness based upon performance records of Negro leaguers. Record-keeping in the Negro leagues was often spotty and, because of segregation, it’s impossible to use data that shows how Negro leaguers have performed in direct competition with the white major leaguers of that their era over the long season. We are left with the testimonials of others as to their greatness and to the statistics we can find for the sake of drawing our own conclusions.

In the matter of Martin Dihigo, all I know is that I’ve never run across anything in writing that ever came close to describing him as anything less than phenomenal in all phases of the game. I decided to place my trust in these massive anecdotal references and to select Martin Dihigo as my all time third baseman. I only placed him on third base because I had the other bases covered well. Dihigo probably could have made the team at virtually any position. That’s how good these testimonial remarks imply that he was.

Martin Dihigo posted a .307 batting average and a .511 slugging average over the course of his twelve season career in the Negro League. His greatest year as a pitcher, however, came as a 1938 Mexican Leaguer when he won 18, lost 2, and posted a 0.90 earned run average, From the early 1920s through 1950. Martin Dihigo performed in the Negro American League and every baseball league that existed in Latin America, gathering all-star and MVP awards as though they were a bag of sunflower seeds. He may as well have performed in a vacuüm tube. Few observers of any credible power in the white media saw him play and, as we know, there is little moving film material and no electronic tape or digital moving photo record of Negro League action from back in the day.

Fortunately for Martin Dihigo, the few who did see or play with or against Martin Dihigo never forgot what they saw. To them, his eye-witness advocates, we say thank you for telling us all about a guy who may have been the greatest all round baseball player of all time.

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