By Yusseff Díaz
A look back at one of the legends of the Negro Leagues, one of the most overlooked pitchers in the history of the game, Luis Tiant Sr.
Luis Eleuterio Tiant or Luis Tiant Sr., the father of ex-Boston Red Sox great Luis Tiant, was a great pitcher in his own right. The lefty was a pitcher in the Negro leagues from 1928-1947. He also pitched in the Dominican, Mexican and Cuban Professional leagues.
In the Negro Leagues, he pitched for the Havana Red Sox, New York Cubans, and Cuban Stars West. Bill James rated Tiant’s screwball as the seventh-best all-time. During his time in the Negro Leagues, he was a two-time all-star.
The younger Tiant would often say that his father was a better pitcher than he was and vice versa. Nicknamed “Sir Skinny” because of his slight build Luis Sr has a similar pitching motion to his son.
Hall of Famer Monte Irvin when asked said that Tiant Sr. would have been a star in the Major Leagues. He was also known for being a tough pitcher, he once beaned Ted Page in the head after he got hit off the Cuban’s curve in his first at-bat. Page had a bald spot to mark where he was hit by the ball for the rest of his life.
In 1935 with the Cubans he shutdown the Babe Ruth all-stars 6-1 in Manhattan’s Dyckman Oval, an exhibition game in which he only gave four runs. One of the hits was a double by the bambino himself in the first inning.
Tiant was the ace of the Cubans in his three stints with the ball in the 30s and 40s. In his last active year in professional baseball in 1947 with Havana, he went 10-0 and went out with a bang as the team crowned itself champions of the Negro circuit.
During his career, he compiled a record of 28-30, earned run average of 3.99, struck out 273 and pitched eight shutouts.
In 1975 he threw out the first pitch of Game 1 in Fenway Park, a game in which his son shut down the Big Red Machine in a complete game 7-1 victory. Sixteen months after he returned to the US he passed away in Milton, Massachusetts.
Tiant might not be as lauded as his son but if you let people tell it, he might have been a better pitcher.
Havana Red Sox (1928)
Cuban Stars West (1930–1932)
New York Cubans (1935–1936, 1939–1940, 1943–1947)
2× All-Star (1935, 1947)
Negro League World Series Champion (1947)