We in Latino Sports like to highlight individuals in sports who might not be receiving the media attention that they deserve, and the forgotten sports figures that very few know. In this piece, I want to shed some light on a Puerto Rican baseball player who gave up the opportunity for glory and money in the majors for his passion of fishing in his native barrio of San Anton, in Ponce, Puerto Rico
Luis “Mambo” de León is a former MLB pitcher from Barrio San Antón who has spent a lifetime linked to his hobby of fishing, for which he almost gave up his dream of reaching the Majors.
Luis Antonio de León Tricoche, AKA Mambo, was born on August 18, 1958, in Ponce. He is the pride of his neighborhood of San Antón, who with great respect call him “the Millionaire of San Antón”. His “Millionaire” nickname comes from being the first ever resident from the small coastal barrio known as San Anton in Ponce to receive a million dollars for playing professional baseball.
He played AA baseball with the Ponce Cubs and managed to play in a world championship. He debuted in professional Puerto Rican baseball with the Leones de Ponce in 1978, he stayed with the team for seven seasons before being transferred to Mayagüez.
In the Major Leagues he debuted on September 6, 1981, with the San Diego Padres. His most memorable moment was his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was called to pitch for the first time as a reliever against the LA Dodgers. As he explained, “The stadium was packed. When we first arrived it was empty, but later in the game I had never seen that many people and cars anywhere. I was in the bullpen and in the eighth inning I heard them call out my name. I was so nervous that my knees were shaking. I tried to just focus on my job to just pitch. I faced three beasts, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey and Dusty Baker and I struck out all three.”
His long career includes the St. Louis Cardinals from 1982 to 1985, the Baltimore Orioles in 1987 and the Seattle Mariners in 1989. His major league records are 17 wins and 19 losses, 32 saves and 248 strikeouts in 334.3 innings with an ERA of 3.12.
De León is the Puerto Rican pitcher who has had the most appearances in the Caribbean Series, with 12, accumulating a record of 4-2, with an ERA of 3.09 in 61 innings.
The Indios de Mayagüez retired his number 23, and he has been inducted into the Mayagüez Sports Hall of Fame, the Ponceño Sports Immortals Gallery, and the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame along with Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga and Candy Maldonado
The following video is an interview with Luis de León by Puerto Rico’s daily, El Nuevo Dia. The interview is in Spanish.
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