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From Venezuela to Cooperstown

Luis Aparicio is the only Venezuelan player with a place in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. But did you know that in the Cooperstown room there are thirteen immortals, who before playing in the major leagues, went through the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League as active players?

They are catcher Roy Campanella, pitchers Roy Halladay, Mariano Rivera, Greg Maddux, Rollie Fingers, Jim Hunter and Bob Gibson, outfielders Andre Dawson and Jim Rice, and infielders Rod Carew and Ryne Sandberg. There are other notable cases, which had managers Sparky Anderson, Tommy Lasorda and Bobby Cox as protagonists, who acted on both stages, but only as managers, although in both cases as strategists and have their badge as immortals.

At this point in time for every player, it is impossible to recognize what will be in his future, even with the obvious talent of a Bob Gibson or a Rod Carew. Only time will tell.

From the outset, to enter Cooperstow, it is along with the achievements expressed in numbers the first requirement. It has no requirement, but what did those mentioned do as they passed through the Venezuelan circuit, at least as a historical reference.

Campanella was the first to reinforce a local circuit squad, the Sabios de Vargas in the 1946 season, the first in the Venezuelan league. He took part in twelve games and batted .358 with 2 home runs and 13 RBIs.

At 25 years old, Campanella had accumulated experience in the disappeared Nagra Leagues, which greatly influenced the conquest of the crown obtained by Vargas.

This first presentation of the future immortals in the LVBP was also seen with pitcher Roy Halladay with the Cardenales de Lara, with pitcher Mariano Rivera with the Tigres de Aragua, with reliever Rollie Fingers with the Tiburones de La Guaira, the pitchers Bob Gibson and Jim Hunter with Oriente and Leones del Caracas, and infielders Rod Carew and Ryne Sandberg with Tigres de Aragua and Águilas del Zulia.

Of the three pilots, the only one to act on the field was Bobby Cox, who acted as infielders with the Cardenales de Lara in the 67-68 campaign. Sparky Anderson was a pilot for the Navegantes del Magallanes in the 64-65 season before being replaced by Alfonso Carrasquel, while Lasorda was the coach of the Leones del Caracas under manager Pompeyo Davalillo, in the 70-71 championship.

And Aparicio, after making his debut in the now-defunct Western League in Maracaibo, made his debut in 54-55 with the Leones del Caracas, at the age of 20. He participated in 40 meetings.

Pete Rose and Barry Bonds are the exceptions.

There are two exceptional cases with sluggers Pete Rose and Barry Bonds, who at this time should be in the Major League Hall of Fame, after their stays in the Venezuelan circuit.

Rose reinforced the Leones del Caracas in the tournament 63-64. Meanwhile, he defended second base, in 44 games he batted .351 with 41 runs scored, 65 hits, 11 doubles and 5 home runs.

With the Navegantes del Magallanes in 85-86, Bonds was in action in 44 challenges. He finished with an offensive average of 244 points and 7 home runs.

It's just that after their notable careers in the majors, they ran into trouble that prevented them from being in Cooperstown as they should have been for a long time. As most know, Rose has the most hits in the major leagues, 4256. Bonds has the most home runs, 762.

Rose for gambling, and Bonds, for taking steroids to improve his performance on the pitch.

Who will be the next?

That other players reach the Major League Hall of Fame, with the same characteristics mentioned in this column today, is a possibility that will continue to be valid, to a greater or lesser degree.

It is only essential that the conditions that allow it are given.

In fact, there is already just around the corner, an option that could happen with the Venezuelan first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Officially, the right-handed slugger has not announced his final retirement from active play, which could take place with his retirement after the 2023 season.

If so, we could see Cabrera immortalized in 2029 and join Luis Aparicio.

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