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      I was down in Havana in 1920 with Babe Ruth and about 12 of the New York Giants.  That's over 50years ago, but I can still recall Torriente. He was a tremendous guy.  Big left-handed hitter -- played the outfield.   I think I was playing third base at that time, and he hit a ground ball by me, and you know that's one of those things -- look in the glove, it might be there. But it wasn't in my glove.   It dug a hole about a foot deep on its way to left field. And I'm glad I wasn't in front of it.   He was a power hitter.  He could hit a ball!  Pretty good?  In those days Torriente was a hell of a ball player.  I'd like to whitewash him and bring him up.

                   - Frankie Frisch

By John Holway

      In the early 1920's Cristobal Torriente, the hefty Cuban, was Rube Foster's power hitter on the great Chicago American Giants.  Speedsters like Jelly Gardner, Jimmy Lyons, Dave Malarcher or Bingo DeMoss would bedevil the opposition with their bunting and running.  "Then," says pitcher Bill Foster, "here comes Torriente, and he would hit the runs in.

      "A big strong fellow, with a good disposition," Foster continues.  "We'd say, ‘Torriente, you gonna get `em?'  He'd say, ‘Me get `em!'   And he would too.  He could get wood on that ball."

      The experts agree.  Cristobal Torriente was one of the three beat black outfielders of all time – Cum Posey says he was the best.

      In picking Torriente on their all-time all-black team in 1952, the editors of the Pittsburgh Courier called him "a prodigious hitter, a rifle-armed thrower, and a tower of strength on the defense."  He had "deceptive speed and the ability to cover worlds of territory, from the right field foul line to deep right center.   He was one of the best bad ball hitters in baseball and could hit equally well to all fields."

       Opposing infielders, like Frank Frisch, were in constant danger when Torriente came up.  He once hit a line drive at Kansas City second baseman Newt Allen.   The ball left the bat like a bullet, struck Allen's shoe without a bounce and almost broke his foot.

       And when Torriente got a ball in the air, it sailed for distance.   "I've seen a lot of home runs," Jelly Gardner says, "but I think Torriente hit the longest one I ever saw.  The American Giants had a fence there over 400 feet, and the ball went out of there on a line.   The fence was about 20 feet tall.   It didn't just get out, it went way  out.  Center field, dead center."

       Chicago shortstop Bobby Williams remembers another Torriente home run in Kansas City.  "There was a clock about 17 feet above the center field fence, and Torriente hit one so terrifically, it hit the clock and the hands just started going around and around.  He got a double on it."

       Besides being a heavy hitter, Torriente was just as fast as the other race horses that were the American Giants' trademark.   He also played a pretty good third base (left-handed!), and could pitch and win a game on occasion.   No wonder the New York Giants were scouting him.  Since he was a relatively light-colored Cuban, he might have passed and gone on to stardom in the big leagues, but his hair gave him away.

          Torriente was born in Cuba in 1895 and first came to the U.S. 18 years later with the Cuban Stars, barnstorming against the best black and semipro teams in the East and Middle West.   In 1918 he joined the American Giants, moving the great Oscar Charleston himself out of the centerfield job and into left.   That fall the Cuban got his first look at big league pitching, slugging out four hits in two games against Picus Jack Quinn and Dave Jones.

       A year later, back in Havana, Torriente played for Almendares against a touring squad of Pittsburgh Pirates. In his first game, against Leon Cadore, a 14-game winner on loan from Brooklyn, Torriente came up in the ninth still hitless, then smashed what one Havana paper called "a phenomenal home run to center field."  Hal Carlson of Pittsburgh held him hitless in the second game, but he went l-for-3 against 17-game winner Jeff Pfeffer in his third contest.  Still, Torriente's club, Almendares, had lost all three games.   In the fourth game, Torriente collected two hits in four at bats against Elmer Ponder, knocked in one run and scored the other as Almendares finally triumphed 2-1.   Facing Ponder s second time, Torri knocked out a double and single in three trips, and Almendares won again 2-1.

      The Pirates were followed to Havana by an All-American squad, led by pitcher Jack Quinn.  Torriente clipped him for a double in four times up to help Almendares’ Adolfo Luque win the opener 3-2.  Two days later Quinn got revenge by s score of 1-0, as Torriente went l-for-3.  Torri went hitless in the third game, another 1-0 thriller won by Quinn.  In the fourth game, however, the Cuban muscleman exploded with a two-run homer to tie the game, and Almendares won it in the ninth 6-4.  Then in the final game, against John "Mule" Watson, Torri cracked smother homer plus a single in a 16-5 rout.   In 11 games that winter, the Cuban strong boy had slugged the big leaguers at a .359 clip.

      A year later Frankie Frisch arrived in Havana with the New York Giants.  the opening game against Almendares went a marathon 15 innings and ended in a 7-7 tie.  Torri got one single in two at bats.  Was this the hit that almost took Frisch’s leg off at third?  If not, it might have been the scorching triple Torri slapped off Pol Perritt two weeks later in leading Almendares to a 6-5 victory.  In his last two games against Perritt, Torriente drilled four more hits in eight at bats.  It had been another good winter.

     Torriente liked his fun off the field too.   “He liked to clown,” says Chicago pitcher Webster McDonald.

"Torriente, Gardner and Jimmy Brown, a catcher – they were the playboys on the club.  Always at the night clubs.  Rube used to take their money away from them, suspend them, when they had a bad day."

      But Torriente didn't have many bad days.  In 1921 he hit .302 and won the Negro world series for the American Giants against Cannonball Dick Redding of the Bacharachs.  In the third and final game, with the series tied one game each, Torri took the mound himself for the first three innings, then slugged one of the longest home runs ever seen in Dyckman Oval, in the Bronx, to win it 6-3.  That same year his homer in Philadelphia's Shibe Park helped give Chicago a 5-2 win over Hilldale, another top club in the East.

       The following year Torriente hit a lusty .409 through June to lead all Chicago Hitters.   Although no further league averages were kept for the next few years, down in Cuba in the winter Torri was running up averages of .310, .364, .326 and .366 against top black and white pitching.

       In 1926 Torri was traded to the Kansas City Monarchs and hit a healthy .371.  He did even better in the playoffs that September against his old mates, the American Giants.  His two doubles in the opening game against Lefty Bill Foster yielded two runs and a 4-3 victory. His sacrifice fly knocked in the winning run in the second game.  He went 3-for 4 against Webster McDonald in the third game, which Kansas City also won 5-0, their third straight.  Although Torri kept hitting -- he batted .407 for the series -- the Chicagoans swept the last four games and the play-off.

      From Kansas City Torriente went to the Detroit Stars as a pitcher.  And then in 1930 he joined Gilkerson's semipro Union Giants, also as a pitcher, at which point he fades out of the history of black baseball.

      "He was a powerful man," muses Dave Malarcher, who first saw the young Torriente knocking down fences in 1916.  "C.I. Taylor said if he was standing on the street and saw Torriente go by, he would say, `There goes a ball club.'  And he was, too."