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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Tetelo Vargas

Born: 1906
Died 1971
Teams: Cuban Stars (1927-31); Venezuela (1930s);  New York Cubans (1938-39, 1941-44); Mexican League (1952-53); Puerto Rico (1940s)
Positions: RF, LF, CF, SS, 2B
Nickname: The Dominican Deer

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 24, 2005 at 05:27 PM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 24, 2005 at 05:44 PM (#1792988)
Moving the discussion of Vargas to his newly created thread. Here's a response from Gadfly:


Vargas is one of a bunch of odd players that I had never really tried to rank. Mickey Welch is probably the only one of these guys that gets any votes (I still haven't worked out any kind of good system for 19th Century pitchers, but I like Mullane better anyways). But the Dominican Deer is one hell of a player and I know enough about him to rank him.

Vargas (b.1906-d.1971) played forever. He turned pro in 1923 and played until 1955. In the late 1920s, he was hitting .380 with power and speed in the Negro Leagues. He spent most of the 1930s in Venezuela before returning to the Negro Leagues in the 1940s (still a great hitter). He became a fixture in the Puerto Rican League in the 1940s, playing against
the usual suspect Negro Leaguers.

And playing extremely well.

Vargas even won the Dominican Summer League Batting Championship once. In 1954. At the age of 48. With a bunch of Major League caliber Negro and Latin players in the same League.

Vargas is extremely comparable to Cool Papa Bell. He was incedibly fast, though not as fast as Bell. He played forever and would have played in the Majors for at least 20 years. He was great defensively (early on he played shortstop before becoming a CF). In my opinion, Vargas was a better hitter than Bell, though it's close (and only because Bell became a switch-hitter).

Vargas and Bell (and Oms) are all very similar (Oms being an even better hitter than Bell or Vargas but not as fast or as valuable defensively). In the end, I could see no reason not to group Tetelo Vargas with the other two.
   2. Paul Wendt Posted: October 21, 2008 at 01:39 AM (#2990560)
JTM, more housekeeping
- here is another player page that is not catalogued, in this case "Latino Stars"

- for me the link to 1954 is now routed to the Hall of Merit home page

- if you list this page, I will copy some of the 1954 discussion here, when available
   3. Alex King Posted: June 18, 2011 at 06:06 PM (#3856802)
I've been looking through Vargas's stats (at least what I can find between various websites and BR's Bullpen) and trying to create some MLEs for Vargas, and right now he looks like he could be ballot-worthy. Does anyone have any more information on Vargas that is NOT available online? I'd greatly appreciate more statistics, as Vargas may have slipped through the cracks here.
   4. Nate the Neptunian Posted: June 18, 2011 at 10:14 PM (#3856858)
I don't, unfortunately. Seems like Vargas spent a decent amount of his prime playing on a traveling team in Venezuela. I'm not sure there are any English language sources that provide statistics for that, online or off. Google doesn't turn up any books that look like likely candidates, anyway. I do have Peter Bjarkman's Diamonds around the Globe: The Encyclopedia of International Baseball, but it's not as useful for our purposes as its title makes it sound. It's an interesting book, but it's a historical survey, with little in the way of comprehensive stats. It mentions Vargas here and there, but the stats it cites, such as Vargas hitting .410 in the Puerto Rican Winter League in '44, and .355 in the Dominican Summer League in '53, are relatively well known.

Interestingly, the pre-Integration (well, sort of) Dominican player Bjarkman is highest on isn't Vargas, but the pitcher Diomedes Olivio. He includes more stats for him than any other Dominican player. Hmm, looking now those aren't on his thread here, Wiki, or BR Bullpen. I guess I should post them on his thread for posterity's sake.
   5. Alex King Posted: June 18, 2011 at 10:23 PM (#3856863)
Seems like Vargas spent a decent amount of his prime playing on a traveling team in Venezuela.

Over in the Dihigo thread (I think) Gadfly mentioned that Vargas was likely the best or second best player on that team, after Alejandro Oms. Can you post Bjarkman's comments on Vargas (even subjective evaluations would be helpful)?
   6. Nate the Neptunian Posted: June 18, 2011 at 11:14 PM (#3856889)
Sure. Here's the main section on him:

Juan "Tetelo" Vargas (b. April 11, 1906; d. 1971). Juan "Tetelo" Vargas never played in the big leagues, but that doesn't diminish his stature among long-in-the-tooth Dominican fanatics, who still often rate him among the nation's top handful of sports icons. The slender, wiry outfielder and shortstop of the 1930s and 1940s is without a doubt the most accomplished Dominican native never to have spent a single day in the majors. This anomaly was of course due to the racial-segregation policies of organized baseball, which also sidelined the immortal Cuban Martin Dihigo and the incomparable Puerto Rican Perucho Cepeda. In the Caribbean winter leagues and the black-ball venues of the Negro National League, Vargas more than held his own against any of the greatest Cubans and Puerto Ricans, or against the visiting white big leaguers that he regularly faced year in and year out. Vargas began his Negro leagues career as a reserve shortstop with Alejandro Pompez's 1927 Cuban Stars, and by the early 1940s he was an outfield fixture for the New York Cubans. During winter months in the 1940s, he also starred in Puerto Rico, hitting as high as .410 in 1944. In 1946, at the astounding age of 46, he hit .355 in the summer Mexican League, then returned to Dominican parks for winter action and edged Ray Dandrige for a last-hurrah batting title. Tetelo Vargas played baseball at the highest levels in a half-dozen countries for more than a quarter century and few played any better, either inside the lily-white major leagues or outside--where the pay and recognition was sparser but the competition was every bit as tough and then some.

There are a few other brief mentions of him throughout the book, but it doesn't look like anything else too interesting. There also seems to be a mistake, or some confusion at least, with the last BA cited. Vargas, going by the birth date given earlier in the paragraph, would "only" have been 40 in '46. Also, in the Dominican League Record Book section (which starts with '51), it shows Vargas hitting .355 in the '53 Summer League, when he would have been 46, the same BA that is cited above for the Mexican League in '46. BR's Bullpen, on the other hand, says he hit .350 in '53, but doesn't cite a source. And the Mexican batting leaders for '46 don't mention Vargas, but then Claro Duany apparently hit .364 that year, so it wouldn't either way.

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