The logo of the Liga Nacional Puertorriqueña: a big sky-blue circle, bordered in red and white, surrounding a smaller circle of darker blue with white borders, superimposed on which is a red-and-white nautical star that hosts the acronym "LNP" in black block letters.

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1872: Two Households, Both Alike in Dignity

April 2nd, 1872
La Guarida, Quebradillas
1

When, on a cloudy northeastern afternoon, these teams began their first tilt of 1872—no longer the only one they would have, courtesy of the doble ciclo newly ratified by the Administrative Council—there was more linking them than simple vicinity.

Last year, they had embarked on their inaugural campaigns by playing each other’s divisions. Quebradillas had convincingly won that first and most hopeful contest, perhaps because they were playing at home. Rincón, for their part, had begun their history as a baseball team with a fourteen-inning tribulation that ended in frustrating defeat.

As disparate as they were, these results put little weight towards the only calculation that mattered: the season’s final reckoning. Both teams finished their first season at the least disappointing record that still represented defeat: 18-20.

Their activities over the winter months gave no reasonable testament of acrified desire for a postseason berth. Combined, they signed four total players, only one of which would log substantial time on the field.

Unfortunately for Rincón, that player was Federico Parra, whose putative promise at second base unravelled within three Quebradillas at-bats. Parra’s glovework in this game included four runs, three of which directly contributed to the opponent scoring. It was nothing short of carnifice.

In fairness, Parra was not alone in contributing detestable defensive performance during this game. Third baseman Quilón Rocha, displaying a consistency that in other circumstances might have been admirable, took up his second season as a professional baseball player in the same way as his first: by committing four errors, all of which set up Quebradillas runs.

Rocha was joined in this heroic display of Christian kindness by the Rincón backstop, Eurípides Vivanco, whose contributions to the Quebradillas offense included two times when he failed to catch a pitch on two successive at-bats, each time allowing a runner to slide home before he could corral the baseball.

C Eurípides Vivanco

A cameo portrait of Eurípides Vivanco, the Ingenieros catcher, in a modern uniform: a white shirt under a dark jersey with shoulder stripes and a dark hat with the Rincón script "R" superimposed. His image is placed on a green background with slashes of various shades of dark gray and black.
  • Born: 12/07/1842, in San Germán, PR.
  • Batted: Right.
  • Threw: Right.
  • Selected: Round 7, Pick 476.
  • Played: Rincón, 1871-73.
  • Retired: 1878.

When Vivanco played his last game, his 85 career passed balls tied for 33rd-most on the list. A year later, he tied for 79th-most. After 1875, he was in sole possession of 93rd. That was the last time he’d appear on the list, which should tell you something about the quality of 1870s blocking.

This game remained within Rincón’s reach far longer than it should have, principally due to two members of their lineup who chose to brave the steep grade of the scoring deficit their colleagues had assembled through defensive incompetence.

RF Víctor Nieves

A cameo portrait of Víctor Nieves, the Ingenieros right fielder, with a small goatee and apple cheeks in full bloom, wearing a modern uniform: a white shirt under a dark jersey with shoulder stripes and a dark hat with the Rincón script "R" superimposed. His image is placed on a green background with slashes of various shades of dark gray and black.
  • Born: 12/07/1842, in Carolina, PR.
  • Batted: Left.
  • Threw: Left.
  • Selected: Round 3, Pick 164.
  • Played: Rincón, 1871-89.
  • Retired: 1889.

There are many, many more things to say about Víctor Nieves than would fit in this box without ruining its purpose as a short highlight. For the moment, suffice it to say that he was one of only three Rincón starters not to join in the travesty his colleagues carried out on this day.

CF Sebastián Núñez

A cameo portrait of Sebastián Núñez, the Ingenieros centerfielder, in a modern uniform: a white shirt under a dark jersey with shoulder stripes and a dark hat with the Rincón script "R" superimposed. His image is placed on a green background with slashes of various shades of dark gray and black.
  • Born: 04/06/1843, in Carolina, PR.
  • Batted: Right.
  • Threw: Right.
  • Selected: Round 6, Pick 461.
  • Played: Rincón, 1871-76.
  • Retired: 1882.

Núñez occupies an important, if particularly pejorative, place in baseball history: he is possibly the only man allowed to start in center field for Rincón without being at least marginally talented at defending the position. By the second half of the decade, he had been thoroughly surpassed.

These two stalwarts—neighbors in the outfield, roommates at the boardinghouse, fellow carolinenses—combined for a dozen plate appearances, over which they managed eight hits, including a double and a base on balls; and scored six runs, though they were unable to push a single teammate across home plate. By themselves, Nieves and Núñez accounted for almost half of Rincón’s offensive output in this game.

Such efforts might have borne real product, had the rest of their side been a smidgen more attentive on the field—or had Quebradillas not employed its own pair of resolute bats.

LF Diodoro Cornejo

A cameo portrait of Diodoro Cornejo, the Corsarios left fielder, in a slightly modernized home white: a white jersey with a collar defined by a dark stripe, over a black undershirt, and a hat with a white front panel and dark sides bearing the old Quebradillas logo. His image is placed on a white background with slashes of various shades of brown.
  • Born: 03/30/1841, in Guaynabo, PR.
  • Batted: Right.
  • Threw: Right.
  • Selected: Round 3, Pick 186.
  • Played: Quebradillas, 1871-79.
  • Retired: 1879.

Like many of his fellow escogidos, Cornejo knew how fortunate he was to have a few years of baseball ahead of him before he would need to find a “proper” job. Quebradillas selected him to take full advantage of his coming thirties, during which his bat was briefly just as serviceable as his glove in left field.

1B Ricardo Espinoza

A cameo portrait of Ricardo Espinoza, the Corsarios first baseman, in a slightly modernized home white: a white jersey with a collar defined by a dark stripe, over a black undershirt, and a hat with a white front panel and dark sides bearing the old Quebradillas logo. His image is placed on a white background with slashes of various shades of brown.
  • Born: 08/23/1846, in Utuado, PR.
  • Batted: Right.
  • Threw: Right.
  • Selected: Round 10, Pick 751.
  • Played: Quebradillas, 1871-85.
  • Retired: 1885.

Though Espinoza’s bat won him mention here (and he would eventually author the fortieth six-hit game in LNP history), his glove stood out at a time when a first baseman’s defense was considered antithetical to the demands of the position, making him another example of Quebradillas’ interesting philosophy.

Cornejo and Espinoza each took six turns at the plate. Of these, the only time they did not both make it to first, whether by base hit or error, was in the third inning, when Rincón’s Zabulón Matías had not yet surrendered to the onslaught of his own team’s fielding gaffes.

The other five times, Espinoza successfully advanced Cornejo at least one base, including when he whipped a well-placed line drive into short center field that Núñez, perhaps exhausted from his own efforts at the plate, was not prepared to corral.

By then, both pitchers had been replaced, in defiance of the unofficial code that insisted men on a baseball diamond finished what they started, even long after it had lost any semblance of a labor worth continuation.

For the second year in a row, Rincón had called on Rómulo Quintana, their only proper second-bench arm, who had been outduelled by Isabela the year before. For the second year in a row, he, too, would see his effort grind to a discordant and horrible halt, due to his fielders’ inability to keep hold of the baseball.

When Quebradillas chose to replace Filóxenos Cardona, who had incurred all but one of the runs on his pitching line through his own bad decisions, they once again demonstrated their commitment to precise roster construction.

RHP Epifanio “El Buque” Cisneros

A cameo portrait of Epifanio Cisneros, the Corsarios pitcher, in a slightly modernized home white: a white jersey with a collar defined by a dark stripe, over a black undershirt, and a hat with a white front panel and dark sides bearing the old Quebradillas logo. His image is placed on a white background with slashes of various shades of brown.
  • Born: 02/09/1841, in Carolina, PR.
  • Batted: Right.
  • Threw: Right.
  • Selected: Round 1, Pick 49.
  • Played: Quebradillas, 1871-76.
  • Retired: 1878.

Despite being the presumptive ace of the Quebradillas rotation, Cisneros had another year to go before he would become a pitcher worthy of his status as a primerito. He was, however, the perfect choice here: in 1871, when he was one of only three pitchers to start every game for his club, his only shutout came at Rincón’s expense.

Quintana had managed to hold Quebradillas to a single reach-on-error in the eighth, and despite Núñez and Nieves’ best efforts, Rincón had preserved the slimmest possible lead. He only needed three outs to scrape together the mirror image of last year’s defeat: a one-run win, and in regulation time.

The first two Quebradillas batters hit into what should have been perfunctory outs. Instead, successive dropped balls immediately put runners on the corners—and Quintana’s putative win, so likely at the beginning of this inning, into nightmarish unlikelihood.

Espinoza took the batter’s box, and in those days, with no announcers or commentators, and certainly no electronic way to keep track, perhaps no one remembered what had happened all but one other time Espinoza had faced a Rincón pitcher.

Perhaps Quintana remembered. If so, he nonetheless selected his best pitch and threw, at least attempting to prolong Espinoza’s plate appearance and perhaps trick him into making the kind of mistake that would, at long last, allow for a cheap out.

Espinoza expected it, swung into the pitch, and let Rincón’s desultory fielding do the rest. The game ended when Cornejo, following on Cipriano Hernández’s heels, launched himself onto home plate ahead of Núñez’s inexplicably slow throw from shallow center.

At the end of 1872, buoyed by the addition of a second pitcher and thirty-eight more games to the season, both Quebradillas and Rincón found the stability that granted each of them their first berths in the postseason.

In the Serie Preliminar that year, Rincón was unceremoniously swept from the postseason by a dominant Adjuntas side; Quebradillas, for their part, who had taken advantage of a weak division to enter the postseason with a mere 41-35 record, acquitted themselves well against Toa Altaand lost, nonetheless.

Had both teams won this first series, they would have met in the Serie Eliminatoria. That contest remained to be fought.

In 1873, it was Rincón that took advantage of a weak division to enter the postseason with a 40-37 record . . . and promptly slaughtered its opposition within Liga Hostos, staking their claim to the pennant championship on the strength of a 10-2 postseason record.

Unfortunately for them, there they would face the only team better than them. Quebradillas had not only managed a 47-29 record in the season; they had gone 10-1 in the torneo, completing two sweeps on their way to the pennant round.

Perhaps it was surprising at the time that, between a team that had taken until September to discover its full capabilities and one that had remained a dominant force, buttressed by a roster replete with talent and obviously buoyed by the winds of fate, it was the practiced opponent who won, although it is probable most observers expected Rincón to last more than five games.

Quebradillas went on to win the 1873 Campeonato Nacional against Río Grande, who supplied them with more defeats than the entirety Liga Hostos had managed by taking them to the whole nine games.

Like many of the Liga Nacional Puertorriqueña’s earliest champions, they found their success impossible to repeat.

Unlike many of those champions, who at least salved their early exits from the aleous postseason with the security of division banner after division banner, Quebradillas tumbled out of the hallowed ranks the very next season. Through the rest of the nineteenth century, they would endure long droughts without October baseball, and never again make it past the Serie Eliminatoria.

Rincón, too, had been vouchsafed a profound exploration of those same beatific stations by the gods of baseball.

They would remember what they had seen, and when Nieves and Núñez and Vivanco and the rest returned to the drudgery of offseason work, it was with the impatience of men who knew they had a new mission in their lives.

Final Box Score,
as reported in the 1872 Almanaque

123456789RHE
The logo of the Ingenieros de Rincón: a black cursive "R" bordered in white and then red, on a green circle streaked with black lines, bordered in black and then white.302300040121813
The logo of the Corsarios de Quebradillas: a blue "Q" in a segmented modern font, on a white circle with brick patterns in black, bordered by blue and then brown.10222310213126

If there is one defining quality of the early Liga Nacional Puertorriqueña, it is the consummate velocity with which they adapted to what was then the modern world of baseball, and their disseminatory instruments were no exception: after only one year, the box scores used in the Almanaque and other publications had doubled in complexity. They now acknowledged the different reality of this new sport by counting base hits in addition to outs made and runs scored, and also incorporated a full suite of fielding statistics: putouts, assists, and errors.

RINCÓN

o.

r.

h.

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a.

e.

QUEBRADILLAS

o.

r.

h.

p.

a.

e.

Sustaita, short302151Cornejo, left253700
Núñez, center234411Espinoza, first313900
Nieves, right134300P. García, right120100
Riverón, first332621Brito, third, second222002
Galicia, left322400Rivera, second, center, third401131
Parra, second112314I. Hernández, short111151
Rocha, third301004de León, center301301
Salazar001000Medina, center100000
Solís, third000010Recio, catcher211011
Vivanco, catcher400101Cardona, pitcher200010
Matías, pitcher300200L. García, pitcher100000
Quintana, pitcher200001Cisneros, pitcher100000
C. Hernández010000
TOTALS251218241013TOTALS23131222106
  1. Title from Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare. ↩︎

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