1872: Preseason / Antetiempo

opening day / inauguración

The season, as Espinosa had expected, had been hard on the men who played.

How could it be otherwise? Many of them had played the game in army camps, within range of Spanish cannon whose danger, somehow, remained unblunted by the lack of ammunition supplied to their crews. Surrounded as they were by the minatory cacophony of creaking metal, they had played a fast game, devoid of unnecessary distinctions: live ball or dead, foul ball or fair—even, in some places, ball or strike.

General Rojas’ men in Arecibo, with their circumscribed little grounds and the Spaniard offense always looming, swung on every pitch. In Ponce, the only balls called dead were those hit into the sea over the hasty battlements that often doubled as walls. In stately Mayagüez, where the players bedecked themselves in colors taken from their Capital Guard companies, the pitcher could trust that runners would not move until the moment the batter made contact.

From all these disparate little games, the Commissioner, and the men who worked under him, had forged a single code, ensuring simultaneously that all the men of the Liga Nacional Puertorriqueña would, for the first time, follow the same rules, and that the adjustment to that single set of rules would be quite steep.

Espinosa could prove it, too. From his perch along La Milicia, he’d quickly assembled a group of reliable seguidores who passed along information on their local teams: men who bruised bones against bases they nearly overshot, crashes between runner and fielder that ended with one or both on the benches with a shot of “fortifying” rum, and a veritable plague of fractured fingers in every possible situation.

The Commissioner hoped the new regulations would reduce injuries on the road, and thereby allow fans to enjoy their favorite players for more of each season. 

Espinosa had agreed. At the time. 

Now, looking at the news from the offseason, he was increasingly convinced there was something more sinister at work.

offseason injuries

While the Gaceta began officially logging injuries to players during the offseason in 1879—or, at least, the injuries their teams were willing to publicize—Espinosa appears to have kept copious notes for the seasons leading up to then.

We present them here, without further comment.

The logo of the Marineros de Barceloneta: a golden B in stencil type on a circle of blue and navy in alternating horizontal stripes, bordered in blue and then gold.

July 13th: Luis Monclova (LF)
“Broke his foot, I am told, sliding at practice […] it is not known what the Industriales are thinking by practicing three weeks after the season has ended.”

The logo of the Maratonistas de Coamo: a pale golden "C" in thick block type on a white circle bordered in pale gold, black, and pale gold again.

July 26th: Rubén González (LF)
“Coamo has refused to disclose the class of injury he suffered, either because he is ashamed of being hurt while fixing a fence, or due to, as the local seguidor informs, the location of said injury.”

The logo of the Rebeldes de Moca: a lowercase "m" in maroon square font, bordered in black on a silver circle with thin maroon pinstripes, bordered in silver and maroon.

August 5th: Ricardo Muñoz (3B)
“Apparently, tripped down a flight of stairs, bruising his knee somewhat heavily. He is expected to return for the season.”

The logo of the Próceres de Barranquitas: a very fancy white "B" on a purple circle bordered in black-gold-black.

August 16th: David Rivera (CL)
“Rivera is truly a man without luck. I am told he has twisted his back upon trying to restrain his dog from chasing down a ball thrown by a neighbor’s child—two months to the day after he reported a ‘dreadful attack of furious vomiting’ which so discomfited him as to need urgent attention from the team doctor, despite Barranquitas being out of the torneo.

The logo of the Mulos de Aguas Buenas: a thick red "A" bordered in white on a black circle streaked with white spots, bordered in white-red-white.

October 9th: Carlos Martínez (3B)
“When the seguidor informed me that Martínez was injured in a fire, I admit, I did not expect to discover, on reading further, that he had strained the muscles of his calf while rescuing his local priest from the flames engulfing the church.”

The logo of the Llaneros de Toa Baja: "TB" in navy informal script font, bordered in white, on a green circle bordered in black and then white.

October 11th: Héctor Zamora (2B)
“Without a doubt, there is a certain amount of difficulty in re-acquiring the ability to sleep in a true bed, but spraining an ankle several months after the season seems, at best, suspicious.”

The logo of the Poetas de Toa Alta: "TA" in black Gothic font, bordered in white, on a purple glossy circle bordered in black-gold-black.

October 15th: Roberto Romero (SS)
“Should most people hear a cat meowing outside their window, they might close the pane. Romero, it appears, chose instead to visit harm on the poor animal by means of a thrown shoe—and in an unusually rapid and precise display of justice, nearly tore his shoulder open.”

Not only is the cruelty behind this injury rather unique, so is the result: Romero was a Toa Alta utilityman who was drafted in the 14th round, played 19 games between second base, shortstop and center field, and went 5-for-13 in the 1871 postseason.

Upon being informed of the nature of Romero’s injury, and that he would be out for eleven months, the Poetas paid him the remainder of his contract. He recovered and promptly retired.

Given the Lilinegros’ success over the rest of the decade, it is presumed the cat was satisfied. 

The logo of the Bucaneros de Arroyo: a navy "A" in fancy font, bordered in gold and brown, on top of a light blue circle studded with brown, bordered in brown-white-brown.

October 19th: Leo Franco (3B)
“Another embarrassment, if we can judge from the fact that Arroyo somehow kept it from the Gaceta—I am reliably informed that it involved a fall in the bath.”

The logo of the Patrulleros de San Sebastián: narrow white "SS" bordered with red on a black circle dotted with navy, bordered in gold.

October 30th: Ramón Villegas (CF)
“Villegas, like Muñoz, fell down a flight of stairs. He is not expected to convalesce for long.”

The logo of the Poetas de Toa Alta: "TA" in black Gothic font, bordered in white, on a purple glossy circle bordered in black-gold-black.

November 20th: Gabriel Pino (1B)
“An assiduous climber, he was in the Cordillera Central with friends when he fell. The damage is less extensive than originally expected, but his knee will need time to return to fighting shape.”

The logo of the Toritos de Cayey: a silver "C" with a black and then a white border on a red circle crisscrossed with gray, bordered in gray-black-gray concentric circles.

November 24th: César Vargas (1B)
“I cannot understand, for the life of me, what possible combination of circumstances that can be described as a ‘train accident’ end with a simple excess of tension in the wrist.”

The logo of the Capitanes de Mayagüez: a red "M" on a navy circle bordered in red.

December 8th: Jesús Montalvo (C)
“Although I see myself forced to admit that my skills in home repair are in no way satisfactory, I remain astonished at the idea that one can injure oneself so shamefully as to beg for secrecy—and yet, even in these pages I cannot bring myself to render the full nature of his injury.”

The logo of the Pescadores de Salinas: a navy blue "S" in a wide middle with thin tails, bordered in white, on a blue circle studded with navy, bordered in navy-white-navy.

December 17th: Alberto Acosta (LF)
“As even the divisional seguidor does not know how Acosta came to lacerate his hand, I am forced to conclude that Salinas does not require its players to disclose the causes of their injuries, which is an interesting principle of their organization.”

The logo of the Cafeteros de Maricao: a white "M" in quirky font bordered in black and then orange, on a brown circle bordered in dark brown and white.

December 28th: Miguel Silvas (RF)
“How Silvas managed to contract a case of heat-stroke in one of the colder Decembers in recent memory, while living in a mountain town, is a matter for further study.” 

The logo of the Montañeses de Utuado: a squarely-built light blue "U" bordered in white and brown on a brown circle, bordered in black and light blue.

February 22nd: Armando Solorzano (RF)
“While all accounts agree that there has been little long-term damage to either Solorzano’s thigh or his pride, I find myself almost prepared to suggest that baseball players should be kept as far away from staircases as possible.”

The logo of the Guabaleros de Comerío: a goofy orange "C" in quirky type, bordered in white and then black, on a seafoam green circle with orange dots, bordered in orange, red, and orange.

March 2nd: Antonio Romero (RP)
“This time, it is a stiff back. The epidemic continues.” 

This is the entirety of the entry—but based on the final comment, we can presume Romero’s injury somehow involved a flight of stairs.

 

 

 

Como esperaba Espinosa, la temporada no había tratado muy bien a los jugadores.

No había alternativa. Muchos jugaron por primera vez en campamentos militares, al alcance de los cañones españoles cuyo peligro, de algún modo, no mermaba por faltarles municiones. Rodeados así de la cacofonía amenazadora de la artillería crujiente, jugaban rápido, sin distinciones extráneas: bola viva o muerta, limpia o sucia—en algunos sitios, ni siquiera importaba dónde estaba la zona.

Los soldados del general Rojas en Arecibo, con sus terrenitos circunscritos y el ataque de la Reina siempre inminente, intentaban disparar cada lanzamiento. En Ponce, las únicas bolas fuera del juego eran las que pasaban por las almenas, levantadas con tanta prisa, para caer al mar. En la majestuosa capital de Mayagüez, donde los peloteros se vestían de colores de sus compañías en la Guardia Capitolina, los corredores no se movían hasta que el bate tocara la bola.

De todos estos juegos separados, el Comisionado y sus hombres forjaron un sólo código, asegurándose que todo equipo de la Liga Nacional Puertorriqueña seguiría las mismas reglas, y simultáneamente que tendrían muchísima dificultad ajustándose a éstas mismas.

Espinosa tenía toda la evidencia necesaria. Empezando por su sede en La Milicia, había juntado rápidamente a un grupo de seguidores confiables quienes le pasarían noticias de sus equipos locales: peloteros que se magullaban los huesos contra las bases que casi sobrepasaban, choques entre corredores y defensores que acababan con los dos sentados en sus bancos con palos de ron “para darles fuerza,” y una verdadera epidemia de dedos fracturados en cada situación posible.

Con los nuevos reglamentos, el Comisionado esperaba reducir las lesiones sufridas durante los viajes, y por ende dejarle a los fanáticos de pelota que disfrutaran sus jugadores preferidos por más tiempo en cada temporada.

Espinosa había estado de acuerdo. 

Ahora, mientras miraba las noticias de la temporada baja, no lograba convencerse de que no había una causa más siniestra.

lesiones de la temporada baja

Aunque sólo fue en el 1879 que la Gaceta registró lesiones sufridas durante la temporada baja por primera vez—o, por lo menos, las que sus equipos decidieron revelar—Espinosa aparentemente tenía notas abundantes para las temporadas anteriores.

Aquí las presentamos, sin más comentario.

The logo of the Marineros de Barceloneta: a golden B in stencil type on a circle of blue and navy in alternating horizontal stripes, bordered in blue and then gold.

13 de julio: Luis Monclova (GI)
“Dicen que sufrió una fractura en el pie intentando un desliz durante prácticas. […] No se sabe qué pensaban los Industriales al practicar tres semanas después del fin de la temporada.”

The logo of the Maratonistas de Coamo: a pale golden "C" in thick block type on a white circle bordered in pale gold, black, and pale gold again.

26 de julio: Rubén González (GI)
“Coamo ha rehusado revelar el tipo de lesión que sufrió, sea porque tiene vergüenza de herirse mientras arreglaba una cerca, o, como dice el seguidor local, por el sitio de la susodicha.”

The logo of the Rebeldes de Moca: a lowercase "m" in maroon square font, bordered in black on a silver circle with thin maroon pinstripes, bordered in silver and maroon.

5 de agosto: Ricardo Muñoz (3B)
“Aparentemente, tropezó descendiendo unas escaleras y se cayó, moretonéandose la rodilla bastante. Se espera que volverá para la temporada.”

The logo of the Próceres de Barranquitas: a very fancy white "B" on a purple circle bordered in black-gold-black.

16 de agosto: David Rivera (LC)
“Rivera es verdaderamente un hombre sin suerte. Me dicen que se torció la espalda tratando de aguantar a su perro cuando éste intentaba perseguir una bola que tiró el hijo de una vecino—y hace exactamente dos meses fue que dijo que había sufrido ‘un ataque terrible de vómito’ que requirió la ayuda del doctor de su equipo, aunque Barranquitas ya estaba fuera del torneo.”

The logo of the Mulos de Aguas Buenas: a thick red "A" bordered in white on a black circle streaked with white spots, bordered in white-red-white.

9 de octubre: Carlos Martínez (3B)
“Cuando el seguidor me dejó saber que Martínez fue herido en un incendio, admito que no esperaba descubrir, al leer más, que se había estirado la pantorrilla rescatando a su cura local de la capilla en plena llamarada.”

The logo of the Llaneros de Toa Baja: "TB" in navy informal script font, bordered in white, on a green circle bordered in black and then white.

11 de octubre: Héctor Zamora (2B)
“Sin duda hay cierta dificultad en readquirir la facilidad de dormir en una cama verdadera, pero torcerse el tobillo varios meses después de la temporada me parece a lo menor sospechoso.”

The logo of the Poetas de Toa Alta: "TA" in black Gothic font, bordered in white, on a purple glossy circle bordered in black-gold-black.

15 de octubre: Roberto Romero (CC)
“La mayoría de la gente, si oyen a un gato maullar por la ventana, la cierran. Parece que Romero prefirió intentar hacerle daño al pobre animal con un zapato tirado—y casi se desgarró el hombro entero. Me consta que es una demostración rápida y precisa de la justicia.”

No sólo es única en las notas de Espinosa la crueldad que proporcionó esta lesión, sino también su resultado final: Romero era un multipuesto de Toa Alta que fue seleccionado en la ronda 14 y tuvo 19 juegos entre segunda base, campocorto, y el bosque central. Logró una línea de 5-13 en el torneo del 1871.

Cuando los Poetas supieron de la clase de lesión de Romero, y que no podría volver por once meses, le pagaron el resto de su contrato. Se recuperó y se retiró inmediatamente después.

Dado el éxito de los Lilinegros por el resto de la década, se presume que el gato quedó satisfecho.

The logo of the Bucaneros de Arroyo: a navy "A" in fancy font, bordered in gold and brown, on top of a light blue circle studded with brown, bordered in brown-white-brown.

19 de octubre: Leo Franco (3B)
“Otra vergonzosa, si se puede juzgar por el hecho que Arroyo lo ha mantenido completamente secreto—me han soplado que tuvo algo que ver con una caída en el baño.”

The logo of the Patrulleros de San Sebastián: narrow white "SS" bordered with red on a black circle dotted with navy, bordered in gold.

30 de octubre: Ramón Villegas (GC)
“Villegas, como Muñoz, se cayó por un tramo de escaleras. No se espera que tome mucho su recuperación.”

The logo of the Poetas de Toa Alta: "TA" in black Gothic font, bordered in white, on a purple glossy circle bordered in black-gold-black.

20 de noviembre: Gabriel Pino (1B)
“Pino, quien es alpinista asiduo, estaba en Cordillera Central con varios amigos cuando se cayó. El daño es menor de lo que se pensó originalmente, pero su rodilla necesitará tiempo para volver a su forma anterior.”

The logo of the Toritos de Cayey: a silver "C" with a black and then a white border on a red circle crisscrossed with gray, bordered in gray-black-gray concentric circles.

24 de noviembre: César Vargas (1B)
“Por más que quiera, no logro entender cómo existe una combinación de circunstancias que se pueda describir como un ‘accidente ferrocarrilístico’ y termine con un exceso simple de tensión en la muñeca.”

The logo of the Capitanes de Mayagüez: a red "M" on a navy circle bordered in red.

8 de diciembre: Jesús Montalvo (R)
“Aunque me veo obligado a admitir que no soy muy práctico, sigo asombrado con la idea de que alguien se puede lesionar tan vergonzosamente que pide mantener la herida secreta—y sin embargo, hasta en estas páginas no me atrevo a revelar los detalles que conozco sobre la misma.”

The logo of the Pescadores de Salinas: a navy blue "S" in a wide middle with thin tails, bordered in white, on a blue circle studded with navy, bordered in navy-white-navy.

17 de diciembre: Alberto Acosta (GI)
“Como ni siquiera el seguidor divisional sabe cómo Acosta logró lacerarse la mano, tengo que concluir que Salinas no les pide a sus jugadores aclarar las causas de sus heridas. Es una filosofía muy interesante.”

The logo of the Cafeteros de Maricao: a white "M" in quirky font bordered in black and then orange, on a brown circle bordered in dark brown and white.

28 de diciembre: Miguel Silvas (GD)
“Se necesita estudiar cómo Silvas, quien vive en las montañas, logró insolarse durante uno de los diciembres más fríos en los últimos años.” 

The logo of the Montañeses de Utuado: a squarely-built light blue "U" bordered in white and brown on a brown circle, bordered in black and light blue.

22 de febrero: Armando Solorzano (GD)
“Aunque todos están de acuerdo que ni el muslo de Solorzano ni su orgullo han sufrido mucho daño a largo plazo, me encuentro a punto de sugerir que se prohíba a todo pelotero bajar o subir escaleras.”

The logo of the Guabaleros de Comerío: a goofy orange "C" in quirky type, bordered in white and then black, on a seafoam green circle with orange dots, bordered in orange, red, and orange.

2 de marzo: Antonio Romero (LR)
“Esta vez es una rigidez de espalda. Sigue la epidemia.” 

No escribe más—pero a causa de ese comentario final, podemos suponer que la lesión de Romero tuvo algo que ver con un tramo de escaleras.

Comment away! / Dale, ¡di algo!

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