Before Fidel Castro and his Communist regime shut off the supply line in
the early 1960s, Cuba sent a steady stream of players to baseball's
One of the best was Adolfo Luque, a right-handed pitcher who spent 11 V2
years with the Cincinnati Reds. Luque joined Cincinnati after being
purchased from the Louisville minor league club midway through the 1918
the following 11 years, he won 154 games.
Known as the elder statesman of Cuban baseball, Luque first came to the
United States in 1912, imported by Dr. Hernandez Henriquez who owned the
Long Branch, New Jersey, team of the New Jersey-York League. It was
while he was with the Long Branch team that Luque was spotted as a hotshot pitcher.
Major league baseball, during this era, was not played in New York City
on Sundays. To help pay their travel expenses to New York, visiting major league teams would
play exhibition games on Sundays against the Long Branch team. The money
came easy. The victories did not.
The major leagues had to contend with Luque and he beat them with
regularity. George Stallings was manager of the 1914
Boston Braves, the team known as the Miracle Braves because of their
rise from last place on July 4 to the National League pennant. He was so
impressed with the Cuban's pitching that he signed Luque late in the
The strapping Cuban pitched in seven games that year and in only three
the following year before he was shipped off to the minor leagues.
wound up in Louisville in 1918. After he won 11 of his first 13 games,
the Reds purchased Luque from the Louisville Colonels. It was to be one
of the best buys the Reds ever made.
The Reds won their first National League championship in 1919 and Luque
played a major role. Pitching in a relief role, he won 10 games and lost
only three and then he worked five scoreless innings in two World Series
appearances. Dolf Luque was well on his way to becoming a Reds standout.
1923 he had the best one-season performance in club history. He won 27
games, lost only eight and posted an earned run average of 1.93.
Although Bucky Walters would later tie his 27 victories in 1939, that
number stands today as the most games ever won in one year by a Reds
Luque was a tough man and wouldn't give in to the hitter. Few ever dared
to crowd the plate.
When he hit a batter, it was on purpose.
Luque's temper was as fierce as his fastball. He had fights on the
field, in the dugouts and in the clubhouse. One of his most famous
confrontations came in Cincinnati when the Reds were playing the New
There was an overflow crowd at Redland Field, Cincinnati's home park
which later would be called Crosley Field. Because of the large crowd,
fans were allowed to stand on the field and the player benches were
moved out in front of the dugouts. The bench jockeys didn't even have to
yell to get Luque's attention that afternoon.
Bill Cunningham, a reserve outfielder, was riding Luque the toughest
that day. Ross Young was at bat when Luque decided he couldn't take
Cunningham's insults anymore. Dolf put his glove on the pitching mound,
ran to the Giants bench and took a mighty swing at Cunningham.
But Cunningham ducked. The man who was decked by Luque's flying fist was
Casey Stengel - the same Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel who became the famous Yankee manager.
free-for-all ensued. When the umpires finally restored order, Luque was
ejected from the game. But a moment later Luque was back on the field.
This time he had a bat and was heading for the Giants bench. Four
policemen intervened and led a struggling Luque from the field.