Tag: puerto rican

Greater Hartford’s Own Jose Birriel

Jose A. Birriel was born on November 14, 1964 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a young man Birriel showed great athletic ability, especially as a left handed batter and first baseman. The Boston Red Sox signed him at 18 years old. In his first year as a professional Birriel banged 10 home runs, 56 RBI and a .351 average for Elmira of the New York Penn League. The following season he led the Florida State League in fielding percentage, assists, putouts and double plays while hitting 16 homers for the Winter Haven Red Sox.

Hartford Courant excerpt, July 2, 1988.

By 1986, Jose Birriel was called up to the Double-A New Britain Red Sox. He quickly earned a reputation as a top defensive first basemen in the Eastern League. In 1987, Birriel had a breakout season with 10 home runs, 57 RBI, a .292 batting average, and a .991 fielding percentage in 117 games played. Birriel spent 7 years in the Boston Red Sox organization. During this time, he was selected to 4 minor league all-star games, set the all-time club record for most runs batted in, and on occasion, the lefty also showed a knack for pitching.

Jose Birriel, First Baseman, Society for Savings, 1990.
Hartford Courant excerpt, June 29, 1990.
Hartford Courant excerpt, June 29, 1990.

Birriel was eventually promoted to Triple-A with the Pawtucket Red Sox in 1988. However he was only given 21 at bats and had 2 hits. He was released from the Red Sox that same year. The following summer Birriel was living in Hartford and joined the Society for Savings ball club in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. As a member of Tom Abbruzzese’s team, Birriel hit 6 home runs in 62 at bats and was named an all-star. Birriel played a final season in the Mexican League in 1991 before ending his baseball career.

New Britain Red Sox hat.
Jose Birriel career stats, Baseball-Reference.com.


Roberto Clemente Mural at Hartford’s Colt Park

On November 1, 2018, a new mural commemorating the legendary Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder, Roberto Clemente. was completed at Hartford’s Colt Park. Artist, Corey Payne of West Hartford, painted the mural to resemble Clemente’s 1968 Topps baseball card. The project was sponsored by RiseUP, a community support and wellness organization who partnered with the Friends of Colt Park and their Roberto Clemente Celebration Committee. As an important figure in Puerto Rican history, the community in Hartford has also named the Colt Park’s main softball field after Clemente.

While in Pittsburgh for the entirety of his career, Clemente’s baseball career ranks among the best of all time. He was a 5-tool player who dominated his era. In addition to the Most Valuable Player Award, Clemente received 12 Gold Glove Awards, 4 National League batting titles, 12 All-Star Game selections and 2 World Series Championships,. He also achieved the rare feat of recording 3,000 hits. Perhaps the highlight of his career came in 1971, when he earned the World Series MVP Award for his performance against the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles. Clemente batted .414, hit two home runs, and turned in several standout defensive plays to lead the Pirates to one of the most surprising results in World Series history.

There’s also the record of Roberto Clemente the humanitarian. It is written in cornerstones of schools, hospitals, and other public buildings, inscribed on monuments and statues, struck on coins, imprinted on collectibles and book covers — it is simply his name, Roberto Clemente — evidence of his impact beyond baseball. Clemente became known for his philanthropy and his fierce pride in his Puerto Rican heritage. He had unusual capacity to bear a much larger identity—not just for Puerto Rico but for all of Latin America. It was a responsibility he embraced with dignity and admirable grace. He saw his career in baseball as a way to help Latin Americans, especially underprivileged Puerto Ricans, make their lives better.

“Always, they said Babe Ruth was the best there was. They said you’d really have to be something to be like Babe Ruth. But Babe Ruth was an American player. What we needed was a Puerto Rican player they could say that about, someone to look up to and try to equal.”

– Roberto Clemente
Clemente with his family, 1970.

Clemente’s philanthropy was not calculated to gain public or private recognition. He simply wanted to help people in need. For some, his generosity was financial; with others he freely shared his chiropractic knowledge — learned as a result of his own back injury in 1954; and for many others, particularly children, Clemente’s kindness came as free lessons in the game of baseball. Clemente always cared about children. Despite his busy schedule, he made time to hold baseball clinics for kids, especially for those from low-income families. He dreamed of building a “Sports City” where Puerto Rican youth would have access to baseball facilities, coaching, and teaching. It was another way of working towards a healthier, happier, Puerto Rico.

“Everyone knows I’ve been struggling all my life. I believe that every human being is equal, but one has to fight hard all the time to maintain that equality.”

– Roberto Clemente
Clemente tips his cap after hitting his 3000th career hit, 1972.
One of three exquisite statues erected outside of PNC Park, Roberto Clemente stands between the Center Field entrance and the Roberto Clemente Bridge.

Along with being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, Clemente earned the following awards from Major League Baseball:

1960 Player of the Month Award

1961 Gold Glove Award, National League Outfielders

1961 Silver Bat Award (Bud Hillerich Award)

1962 Gold Glove Award, National League Outfielders

1963 Gold Glove Award, National League Outfielders

1964 Gold Glove Award, National League Outfielders

1964 Silver Bat Award (Bud Hillerich Award)

1965 Gold Glove Award, National League Outfielders

1965 Silver Bat Award (Bud Hillerich Award)

1966 Gold Glove Award, National League Outfielders

1966 Most Valuable Player Award

1966 Sporting News Player of the Year Award

1967 Gold Glove Award, National League Outfielders

1967 Player of the Month Award

1967 Silver Bat Award (Bud Hillerich Award)

1968 Gold Glove Award, National League Outfielders

1969 Gold Glove Award, National League Outfielders

1969 Player of the Month Award

1970 Gold Glove Award, National League Outfielders

1971 Gold Glove Award, National League Outfielders

1971 The Babe Ruth Award (World Series MVP)

1971 World Series Most Valuable Player Award

1972 Gold Glove Award, National League Outfielders

2002 Frank Slocum Big B.A.T. Award

2003 Presidential Medal of Freedom

2006 Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award

Source: Beyond Baseball: The Life of Roberto Clemente