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60 years since first Dominican MLB signing

When Osvaldo Virgil made his debut with the New York Giants, he became the first Dominican to play in Major League Baseball in the United States. To date 688 Dominican players have followed. Virgil’s debut was on 23 September 1956, 60 years ago.

Fellow players Juan Marichal and Felipe Rojas Alou met with Osvaldo Virgil to commemorate the historic date.

According to report in Listin Diario, Virgil lives in his native city of Montecristi and is in good health at the age of 84. Virgil told reporters that his father, Henry Virgil, from the Turk & Caicos Islands, immigrated to the north coast of the Dominican Republic where he established his family.

Because his father was opposed to dictator Trujillo, the family would leave the country to settle in the Bronx, New York in 1945. Virgil went to the DeWitt Clinton High School and was drafted into the army in 1950, receiving military training at the Parris Island Academy in South Carolina. He served in the marines until 1952 and says that the training has served him well in life.

He said he joined professional baseball in 1953, and was signed into the New York giants at the age of 24.

Osvaldo Virgil has been married twice and has five children. One of his sons, Ozzie reached the Major Leagues as a catcher.

He recalls that in his first game he went 4-0 at bat. In his next game he hit 4-3 with an RBI and a run scored, including his first double, all against pitcher Robin Roberts of the Philadelphia Phillies, a member of Cooperstown Hall of Fame.

He recalls playing with the legendary Juan Marichal, Jesús Alou, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Manuel Mota, Gaylord Perry, Brooks Robinson, Al Kaline, Hoyt Wilhelm, Willie Stargell, Jim Bunning and Willie McCovey.

A report in El Caribe lists the teams that Virgil played for as the New York Giants (1956-1957), Detroit Tigers (1958, 1960-1961), Baltimore Orioles (1962), Pittsburgh Pirates (1965) and San Francisco Giants (1966-1969).

After he retired as a player, he spent 19 years working as a coach for the San Francisco Giants, Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres.

Felipe Rojas Alou says that Osvaldo Virgil opened the door for more Dominican players. “When they found out that this country could produce ballplayers, they started to sign more players like Julián Javier, Ruddy Hernández and Juan Marichal.”

In the Dominican baseball league, Virgil has played with the Escogido (he was batting leader for the 1956-57 season), the Aguilas Cibaeñas, for which he also served as manager. He also managed the Azucareros del Este in La Romana. Abroad he managed the Leones del Caracas, Tigres de Aragua, Tiburones de La Guaira and Cardenales de Lara in Venezuela.

Osvaldo Virgil was inducted into the Dominican Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 and was immortalized in the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Currently he works as a special assistant to the New York Mets and makes frequent trips to the Mets Baseball Academy in Boca Chica.

Source: DR1, Listindiario

Sep 24, 2016

Category: DR News |

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Last updated October 22, 2016 at 2:00 PM
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