Vic Power (baseball)

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Vic Power
Vic Power 1958.JPG
Power in 1958
First baseman
Born: (1927-11-01)November 1, 1927
Arecibo, Puerto Rico
Died: November 29, 2005(2005-11-29) (aged 78)
Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 13, 1954 for the Philadelphia Athletics
Last MLB appearance
October 3, 1965 for the California Angels
Career statistics
Batting average .284
Home runs 126
Runs batted in 658
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Victor Pellot a.k.a. "Vic Power" [1] (November 1, 1927 – November 29, 2005) was the second Puerto Rican of African descent to play in Major League Baseball and the first Puerto Rican to play in the American League. He used the name Vic Power during his 12-year Major League career, but played as Victor Pellot when he played winter baseball in Puerto Rico.[2]

Early life[edit]

Pellot was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, the second child in a family of six. Pellot showed an interest in baseball at a young age, however his father didn't want him to play baseball and would punish him if he caught him doing so. When he was 13 years old, his father died and it was only then that he was able to play the game he loved. His mother moved to the city of Caguas, there he attended and graduated from José Gautier Benítez High School.[3]

In 1946 he started to practice with a local baseball team called the Senadores de San Juan (San Juan Senators) and learned many of his baseball skills. He was later invited to play for the Criollos de Caguas, where he was spotted by a New York Yankees scout. In 1949, he left for the City of Chicago and went to play for a minor league team in Drummondville, Quebec.[3]

Minor Leagues[edit]

Power was signed by the Yankees in 1951, and sent to their Triple-A team in Syracuse, New York. In 1952, Power played for the Kansas City Blues, where he led the American Association in doubles and triples while having a .331 batting average.[4] The next season, Power led the league with a .349 batting average.[4] However, despite his skills he was not invited to spring training neither year.

The Yankees owners at the time, Del Webb and Dan Topping felt that his playing style and personality wasn't suited for the conservative style that they wanted a "black" player to represent as a member of the club.[5] The Yankees also had future Hall of Famer Johnny Mize at first base, and another top prospect, Kansas City teammate Bill Skowron in their farm system. Skowron spent most of the 1953 season at first base, while Power played 121 games in the outfield.[6] Instead, the Yankees decided on Elston Howard to become the first black player in club history. Many blacks and Puerto Ricans protested in front of Yankee Stadium in response to what is believed to have been a racially motivated decision.[7]

Major League Career[edit]

On December 16, 1953, he was traded by the New York Yankees with Don Bollweg, Jim Finigan, Johnny Gray, Bill Renna, Jim Robertson and $25,000 to the Philadelphia Athletics for Loren Babe, Harry Byrd, Tom Hamilton, Carmen Mauro and Eddie Robinson and thus became the first Puerto Rican to play for that team. Suffering from the racial discrimination which was rampant in the nation during that time, he could neither stay with the rest of the team at the same hotels nor be allowed to eat at the same restaurants as his white teammates. The Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955, where he finished in second place in the batting race that season. He is one of only five batters, through August 2009, to have hit both a leadoff and walk-off home run in the same game (having done so in 1957), the others being Billy Hamilton (1893), Darin Erstad (2000), Reed Johnson (2003), and Ian Kinsler (2009).[8]

In 1958, Power was sent to the Cleveland Indians. During his 12-season career, he played with the Philadelphia and Kansas City Athletics (1954–58); Cleveland Indians (1958–61), Minnesota Twins (1962–64), Los Angeles Angels (1964), Philadelphia Phillies (1964) and California Angels (1965).

Before retiring, Power won seven consecutive Gold Glove Awards from when the award was first introduced in 1958 to 1964. He made the American League All-Star team with Kansas City Athletics from 1955-1956 and the Cleveland Indians in 1959 and 1960. He was also voted the Minnesota Twins Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1962. He has the record of having made one or more assists in 16 consecutive games.[9] He shares the record of making two unassisted double plays in one game, and he is one of 11 players to steal home plate twice in one game, and he also shares the record of being assists leader for six years in a row and of double plays in a single game. Among his career totals are the following: 1,716 hits and 126 home runs, and he was only struck out 247 times out of 6,046 at bats.[10]

Name Controversy[edit]

Pellot's choice of name caused resentment and alienation, particularly in his home land of Puerto Rico. In a letter to historian Bill Haber in 1993, Pellot gave his real, full name as Victor Felipe Pellot Pove; Pove being his mother's maiden name and Pellot his father's surname (as is traditional in Hispanic culture; see Roberto Clemente Walker). However, when Maximina Pove was in the first grade, her teacher changed her last name, changing the "v" to a "w" and adding an "r" at the end.[2]

During Pellot's first two professional seasons, in the French-Canadian town of Drummondville, Quebec, Pellot went by his birth name, Victor Pellot. However, Pellot noticed that the mostly French-speaking crowd began to laugh whenever his name was announced. Initially, Pellot surmised that the crowd was laughing because he was black. This turned out to be incorrect, and Pellot soon learned that the real source of the laughter was not his race, but his last name: the similar-sounding word plotte is slang for "vagina" in the Quebec French.[11] In response, he played under the name of "Vic Power." He kept the name after getting promoted to the majors in United States, but retained "Pellot" when playing winter ball in Puerto Rico.[2] The circumstances behind the user of the "Pellot" and "Power" surnames were not known to most winter league fans at the time, and Pellot was occasionally accused of "selling out" to the culture and lifestyle of the US.

Later years[edit]

Power spent his retirement in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. The city built a ballpark, which he could see from the window of his apartment, and named it "Parque Victor Pellot" (Victor Pellot Park), after him. During the summers, he helped youngsters develop their baseball skills in both Puerto Rico and San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic.[4] According to historian Bill James, Pellot was probably a main reason why San Pedro de Macoris became "the world's richest source of baseball talent".[4] According to Pellot, young people would most likely stay away from trouble and have a better opportunity to enter college on sports scholarships if they practiced sports. Pellot also coached, and among his pupils, either as a coach or as an educator of the sport were future Major League Baseball players Roberto Alomar, José Oquendo, Jerry Morales, Willie Montañez and José Cruz.[citation needed] Pellot died on November 29, 2005 in San Juan, Puerto Rico from cancer at the age of 78.

Legacy[edit]

Power has been considered by many Puerto Ricans to be one of the island's greatest baseball players, a legend only surpassed by Roberto Clemente.[5] In 2005, he spoke about his baseball career in the American documentary Beisbol,[12] directed by Alan Swyer and narrated by Esai Morales, which covers the early influences and contributions of Hispanics to baseball. In 2000, the Cleveland Indians honored him by declaring him to be among its 100 all-time greatest players. He was named the 81st greatest first baseman in Major League history by historian Bill James in his book "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract".[4]

Power's unorthodox and often flashy approach to fielding first base proved over the years to be very influential. Although at the time he was often criticized by the press and his peers for fielding the ball using only one hand instead of two, stating it was "flanboyance", this would later become his trademark move.[2][5] More importantly, it anticipated a change in how the position is played: nowadays, virtually all first basemen field the ball one-handed (this because it increases their reach and provides for greater flexibility).

Power is also remembered by baseball historians and fans for his sharp wit and dark, deadpan humor, a lot of which was directed at the racism and segregation he experienced during spring training in the southern United States. One of the more celebrated examples of his dark wit by which Pellot subverted the ugly rejection experienced through institutionalized racism, documented in David Maraniss's biography of Roberto Clemente, has Pellot entering a whites-only (segregated) restaurant while playing for Syracuse. Upon being told by the waitress that the restaurant didn't serve "Negroes", Pellot promptly told the waitress not to worry, that he didn't eat "Negroes".[4]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bjarkman, Peter C. (2005). Diamonds Around The Globe: The Encyclopedia Of International Baseball. Greenwood Publishing group. ISBN 0-313-32268-6. 
  • James, Bill (2003). The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80697-5. 
  • Moffi, Larry; Kronstadt, Jonathan (2006). Crossing the Line: Black Major Leaguers, 1947-1959. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-8316-9. 

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Carle, Bill (2005). "SABR Biographical Research Committee – November/December 2005 Report" (PDF). Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved June 4, 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c d Wolinsky, Russell (July 7, 2004). "Vic Power: "Power to the People"". National Baseball Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on June 8, 2007. Retrieved May 25, 2007.  (Archive.org copy)
  3. ^ a b El Salón de la Fama del Béisbol Latino el sitio de los inmortales del béisbol Latino
  4. ^ a b c d e f James, p. 469
  5. ^ a b c Bjarkman, p. 249
  6. ^ "1953 Kansas City Blues Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved 2012-09-20. 
  7. ^ Kahn, Roger (1976). A Season in the Sun. University of Nebraska Press. p. 5. Excerpt quoted at Google Books. 
  8. ^ Andro, Anthony, "Francisco goes back on DL because of pneumonia," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 7/20/09, accessed 9/16/09
  9. ^ "Assist records by First Baseman by Baseball Almanac". Baseball-Almanac.com. Retrieved June 5, 2007. 
  10. ^ Historic Baseball, Retrieved June 4, 2007
  11. ^ "That One Glorious Season" – Baseball Players With One Spectacular Year; by Richard H. Letarte; Chapter 9; Publisher: Peter E Randall Publisher; ISBN 1-931807-51-5
  12. ^ "Beisbol (2005)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 5, 2007. 

External links[edit]