Luis Ernesto Aparicio Montiel was, with his predecessor Chico Carrasquel, a ground-breaking figure for Venezuelan Major-Leaguers. Today he turns 83 years old.
Playing from 1956 to 1973, he won a Rookie of the Year award, and appeared in two World Series, winning the second in 1966 with the Orioles. He won 9 Gold Gloves and 9 consecutive stolen base titles in an era where defense and speed held more value. He represented the American League 10 times at the All-Star Game.
Small in stature but adroit of mind and fleet of foot, the diminutive Maracucho played in a rougher time, when little guys got taken out on the basepaths and knocked down in the batter’s box. He did more than survive; he flourished. (Coincidentally, Harold “Pee Wee” Reese was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Luis, another small shortstop who played big.)
In 1984, in halting English, he gave what he described as “the shortest (you’re (ever) going to hear in the Hall of Fame ceremony.” A short speech from a short(literally)stop. He’s still the only Venezuelan player enshrined in Cooperstown.
Perhaps one day Omar Vizquel of Caracas, who broke many of his shortstop records, will join him there. Perhaps, too, Felix Hernandez of Valencia will join the ranks. Certainly, Miguel Cabrera of Maracay will.
For now, Luis stands alone. Maracaibo Strong. And so we say, Happy Birthday, Señor Aparicio.