Citi-Field, Queens: September 23 is a very special day for Puerto Ricans and also for Dominicans, especially those Dominicans that follow baseball. On this day in 1868 Puerto Ricans rebelled against Spain in what became the first cry for independence for the island nation, also known as: El Grito De Lares. I don’t know outside of the Puerto Rican left who else might recognize this day as it is rarely mentioned. Today I had to do mucho teachable moments with many Boricuas, young and old sharing knowledge. It’s a shame because if we don’t know our past, me might not know where we are going.
Now how does this all relate to sports? Here’s how, today I was at Citi-Field to cover my first major league game. I have not had the interest in covering games at any stadium during this Covid-19 season (That’s another story to be told), however, I broke my promise and went to this last Mets home game. I was motivated by the fact that we still had two of the 2019 LatinoMVP awards that had not yet been given to the winners. These two are for, Seth Lugo NL Relief Pitcher of the Year and Pete Alonso for NL Rookie of the Year.
While walking into the Citi-Field Press Box, I saw a friend, member of the LSWBA and sports photographer, Hector Algarroba. Hector came to me and invited me to take part in a video where we would say something about Ozzie Virgil. I asked, who? Hector explained that today was the anniversary of the first Dominican to play Major League Baseball. He said, “On this September 23rd in 1956, Osvaldo José Virgil Pichardo played his first Major League game with the New York Giants”. He also expressed his disbelief that very little, if anything was being stated anywhere. I agreed with him, since I too had not heard anything as well. We both agreed that it is a real shame that as Latinos we might be the largest minority, but as individuals we are all weak.
It’s hard to understand that with so many Dominican players in the majors and almost double that number of Dominicans covering baseball this was treated as the “best kept secret”. Let’s face it Mi Gente, something should have been done to honor this Dominican born in Monte Cristi in the Dominican Republic, raised since age thirteen in the Bronx and who attended Dewitt Clinton High School. That kid was Ozzie Virgil Sr. who became the first native Dominican to play a big league game.
So while Puerto Ricans need to learn a lot more about the history of September 23rd, so do many in the Dominican community.
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