Cristobel Torriente

"I've seen a lot of home runs, but I think Torriente hit the longest one I ever saw. The American Giants had a fence there over 400 feet, 20 feet tall, and the ball went out of there on a line. It didn't just get out, it went way out. Center field, dead center."

--Negro League outfielder Jelly Gardner*

*Quoted from "Blackball Stars" by John Holway

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Negro Leaguer of the Month
January, 2004

Cristobel (also spelled Cristobal) Torriente

Born:1895 in Cuba
Died: 1938 in New York City
Ht:5'-10", Wt: 190
Batted left and threw left
Position: outfield
Years: 1913-1933

Teams: Cuban Stars, All Nations, Kansas City Monarchs, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Gilkerson's Union Giants, Atlanta Black Crackers, Cleveland Cubs

Although his name is rarely mentioned by today's baseball historians, Cristobel Torriente was named to the Negro League's All-Time outfield in a 1952 Pittsburgh Courier Poll, along with Monte Irvin and Oscar Charleston, ahead of Hall of Famers Cool Papa Bell and Turkey Stearnes. Irvin and Charleston are also in the Hall of Fame; Torriente is not. Cum Posey, longtime owner of the Homestead Grays went a step further and named Torriente the best outfielder he ever saw!

Torriente grew up in Cuba and built his muscular body by carrying heavy artillery while serving in the army.

Torriente's first top teams were in Cuba: the Havana Reds and Almendares Blues. In 1916, at age 20, Torriente lead the Cuban League in triples, homers and stolen bases while hitting over .400.

Torriente was known as a fun teammate, and was very flashy, wearing a bandana around his neck and bracelets on his powerful wrists.

In 1918, Torriente joined the Chicago American Giants, under Rube Foster, and was the sole power hitter in a lineup of speed merchants. The following year, Oscar Charleston joined Chicago, but he couldn't move the great Cuban from the centerfield spot.

In the fall of 1920, the New York Giants, with Babe Ruth added, ventured to Cuba for a three-game series. In the third game, Torriente blasted 3 homers off George "Highpockets" Kelly and a double off Ruth himself. Kelly, who only pitched one game in the Majors (which he won), made the Hall of Fame as a first baseman.

For the series, Torriente batted .378 to Ruth's .345, out-homered the Babe 3 to 2, and Almendares won 2 of the 3 games.

In his prime, Torriente batted from .350 to .400, and also was an active base-stealer. Torriente was a rare home run hitter in the deadball era, and once the game changed to the tighter-wound ball, his viscous line-drives were sometimes dangerous! Many of the left-handed slugger's home runs cleared the left-center field fence--another rarity for a home run hitter.

Defensively, Torriente played shallow like Tris Speaker and could run down anything hit his way. He also possessed a strong arm, which he also used to pitch.

In the late 1920s, Torriente signed with the Gilkerson's Union Giants and became one of their best pitchers. In a pinch, Torriente could also play shortstop, second or third base, despite throwing left-handed.

Available statistics show Torriente winning 4 games without a loss as a Union Giants' pitcher in 1929, and batting .361 with a 20-5 pitching record in 1931.

Torriente was inducted into the Cuban baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, its inaugural year. In Cuba, Torriente, Martin Dihigo and Jose' Mendez are considered the best natives to ever play in the Negro Leagues.

Torriente died in his early 40s, reportedly from alcohol abuse.