Saturday, May 13, 2023

Fast As A Shark

A little curveball today kids, or maybe just a frisbee slider.  Poring through various eBay listings of late, I came across an image from the 1967 "Topps "Venezuelan set of Luis Aparicio. Luis Aparicio, Sr. that is, father of Luis Aparicio Jr., the Hall-of-Fame shortstop.

Now, he is not a new name, nor is his legacy as a player, manager and foundational pillar of  Venezuelan baseball lost on me. I've been delving into the various winter leagues and tournaments that sprang up in earnest following World War 2 and for some reason I just decided to take a look at the man you see here:

I've covered the "3 in 1" 1967 Venezuelan "Topps" set a few times here, and the specific Venezuelan Winter League subset as well and it's a wonderful issue, with all sorts of ins and outs. The 138 subject VWL subset offers a substantial look at the wide array of players and coaches who participated in 1967-68.  Obviously, Aparicio is one of the coaches.

Luis Aparicio Ortega (the mother's name comes after the father's name) was born on August 28, 1912 in Maracaibo (an oil rich city in Zulia state) and was an athletic kid who gravitated to football (soccer), playing as a Forward for several talented teams in Venezuela. He also played baseball, founding a local team with his brother Ernesto, and that was the sport he made his own. Aparicio would soon become renowned as the slickest fielding shortstop in Venezuela.

In 1931 Luis, Sr. played in his first National Baseball Series and would be a perennial participant.   In the mid-1930's he became the first Venezuelan born player to appear for a team outside of the country and in 1946 was a founder of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, both playing and the managing, permanently cementing his already notable status as a scion of baseball in his home country. stadium in Maracaibo is named after him in honor.

After retiring from active play in 1953, where he had Luis, Jr. pinch hit for him in the season opening game for Gavilanes, Aparicio remained a manager, essentially gravitating to where his son played and in 1962 found himself at the helm of the newly rebranded Tiburones de la Guaira, or as we would know them in English, the Sharks. We see him with the team on his 1967 card.

Aparicio, Sr. moved on to another newly founded team in Zulia, known as the Aguilas (Eagles) in 1969 and died of a heart attack on January 1, 1971. He was elected to the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.

Here's the reverse of his 1967 card:

It reads, according to Google Translate, as follows:

"Luis the Great of Maracaibo filled a golden age of Venezuela baseball since it debuted in Caracas by the Concordia in the early years of the 30's. Your man has been brilliantly linked to the history of baseball actively until he retired in November 1953, bequeathing in his son Luis Ernesto a worthy representative of fervor and the mystique that he sowed. Professionally he played for Magallanes and Vargas, he works as a coach in La Guaira."

My grammar is off but you get the idea. The Concordia (Eagles) were a well known team from Caracas that in 1934 had players such as Martin Dihigo and Josh Gibson join Aparacio and other Latin American players, laying waste to all teams that faced them, not only in Venezuela but Dominican Republic and Puerto Rican tournament play (twice) as well, truly a legendary squad.

I love the look of the VWL cards in this hard to complete set!

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