Indians and Red Sox great Luis Tiant was the subject of more than 100 baseball cards during his 19-year career in the Major Leagues.
But, sometimes, a simple baseball card, or even 108 of them, isn’t enough to tell the story of a player’s journey.
Not when that player leaves his home country just as a dictator clamps down to isolate the island nation from the rest of the world.
And not when that player toils in the anonymity of losing teams in Cleveland, and then in the shadow of bigger names in Minnesota.
And not when that young man overcomes an unceremonious release at the hands of the Atlanta Braves before ever throwing a pitch in the National League to become one of the superstars of a resurgent Boston Red Sox franchise.
And certainly not when a “down” year in 1975 still produces 18 wins and helps his Sox reach the World Series, where Tiant hurled 24 innings in three starts, going 2-0.
No, not then.
Find ‘El Tiante’ on eBay (affiliate link)
Find ‘El Tiante’ on Amazon (affiliate link)
So, in 1976, Doubleday released El Tiante — The Luis Tiant Story, written by Tiant and Joe Fitzgerald.
It detailed Tiant’s journey from Cuba to Cleveland to Boston, and related how he spent fourteen years separated from his parents, beginning in the summer of 1961 as tensions swirled around the Bay of Pigs incident.
Of course, at age 35, Tiant still had plans for his story, had more flesh to add … and he did, including another 20-win season with Boston (1976) and 71 more big league victories overall.
In the end, Tiant’s record stood at 229-172, with 3.30 ERA and more than 65 WAR, making him one of the greatest starting pitchers not enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
So, is Cooperstown yet in El Tiante’s future?
Don’t count against it, not with the reconstituted and active Veterans Committees, and not with a legion of 1970s fans pushing to make sure their heroes get the recognition they deserve.
And if that call does come someday, you can be sure plenty of folks will be dusting off those old books, looking for a bit more of The Luis Tiant Story.
Hobby Holiday Hots
That 1975 World Series was a classic, and the Red Sox team that *almost* pulled it off was amazing. You can find plenty of amazing mementos around that club on eBay, too, like this signed tribute to Game 6:
Check out the full listing here (affiliate link).