"Players of Latin American heritage have a deep passion for the game of baseball, and have made immense contributions to the national pastime," said Commissioner Bud Selig. "This program was created to reflect those contributions and to honor the indelible mark they have left on the game. It is my distinct honor to congratulate each of the 12 players that comprise the final 'Chevrolet Presents the Major League Baseball Latino Legends Team.' "
More than 1,600,000 votes were cast both online and in participating Chevrolet dealerships nationwide as part of the program. Dodgers Spanish broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, a Hall of Famer, began the ceremony by welcoming the fans. Actor Edward James Olmos introduced each player to the crowd during the bilingual ceremony.
"It's a great honor being selected to this Latino Legends team. It's a special day," former third baseman and designated hitter Edgar Martinez said. "So many great players have come out of Latin America and being around them today is something I am proud of. The group is amazing."
The Major League Baseball Latino Legends team commemorates the storied history and immense contributions that players of Latin American heritage have made to the Majors over the years.
As part of the program, a ballot comprised of 60 Latino players, representing seven countries and territories, was voted on -- via ballots in English and Spanish -- at participating Chevy dealerships and at MLB.com.
"What we did is set the table for [current Latin players] and, hopefully, they can set the table for a lot of the other young kids coming up," Hall of Fame infielder Rod Carew said. "I think the Latin American player has really got his due and is recognized."
As of Opening Day 2005, 204 players born in Latin American countries were on Major League Baseball rosters, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the overall MLB player base. The Dominican Republic had 91 players, followed by Venezuela with 46 and Puerto Rico with 34.
"My dad would be very proud of this," said Luis Clemente, the son of the late Roberto Clemente. "He would probably try to include everybody who was not included because he was so fair to everyone. This is a great day for Latinos in baseball."
Said Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal: "Tonight is a very good night and I'm happy for that. It is an honor for all of us. Latinos have made a big contribution to baseball. I know they will keep doing that in the future."
Ivan Rodriguez, Puerto Rico, Catcher (1991-current): A 12-time All-Star now with the Tigers, Rodriguez won 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards and was selected to play in nine straight All-Star Games starting in 1992. He was named the 1999 AL Most Valuable Player after hitting .332 with 35 home runs and 113 RBIs. He finished that season with 199 hits. He has played in at least 100 games per season 12 times since 1992.
Albert Pujols, Dominican Republic, First Base (2001-current): Only 25 years old, Pujols' best days could be ahead of him. Arguably one of the best hitters in the Major Leagues, the right-handed slugger hits for average and power and is always among the top candidates for the NL's Most Valuable Player Award. He hit 37 home runs and drove in 130 runs as a rookie with St. Louis in 2001.
Rod Carew, Panama, Second Base (1967-1985): An 18-time All-Star, Carew won seven batting titles and hit .300 or better -- including a .388 mark in 1977 -- in 15 consecutive seasons. He was named the AL MVP in 1977 and AL Rookie of the Year in 1967. With 3,053 hits, Carew is one of three players from Latin America with at least 3,000. Roberte Clemente and Rafael Palmeiro are the others. He is one of seven players from Latin America in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Edgar Martinez, Puerto Rico, Third Base (1987-2004): Martinez could be regarded as the greatest designated hitter in baseball history, but he spent the first part of his 18-year career with the Mariners at third base. Martinez walked away from baseball in 2004 with 309 home runs, 514 doubles, a .312 career batting average and a .418 career on-base percentage. A seven-time All-Star selection, Martinez arguably had his best year in 1995, when he led the league in hitting (.356), on-base percentage (.479), runs (121), and doubles (52). He also won the Roberto Clemente Award in 2004.
Alex Rodriguez, Dominican Republic, Shortstop (1994-current): Regarded as one of the best all-around players in the game, Rodriguez shined as a shortstop before moving to third base for the Yankees prior to the 2004 season. Rodriguez was named the AL's MVP in 2003 and he became the youngest player ever to reach the 400-home run plateau in 2005. A two-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop, Rodriguez is a nine-time All-Star.
Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rico, Outfielder (1955-1972): With his induction in 1973, Clemente was the first Latin American to be selected to the Hall of Fame and the only player to be exempt from the mandatory five-year post-retirement waiting period. Clemente spent 18 seasons with the Pirates, recording 3,000 hits, 240 home runs and 1,305 RBIs. A 12-time All-Star selection and 12-time Gold Glove winner, Clemente won his only MVP award in 1966 and collected four batting titles in the 1960s. He also helped the Pirates claim the 1971 World Series title.
Manny Ramirez, Dominican Republic, Outfielder (1993-current): Ramirez spent eight seasons in Cleveland before his current five-year stint with Boston. A nine-time All-Star, seven-time Silver Slugger and winner of the 2004 World Series MVP award, Ramirez earned the batting title in 2002 with a .349 average and led the league in slugging percentage in 1999, 2000 and 2004.
Vladimir Guerrero, Dominican Republic, Outfielder (1996-current): After eight seasons with Montreal, Guerrero won his first MVP award with the Angels in 2004 by hitting .337 with 39 home runs and 129 RBIs. He has hit over .300 in every season since 1997, reaching the 200-hit mark three times and leading the NL in that category (206) in 2002. A seven-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger, Guerrero stole 138 bases through his first nine seasons to go along with 273 home runs and 828 RBIs.
Pedro Martinez, Dominican Republic, Starting Pitcher (1992-present): A three-time Cy Young Award winner, Martinez won for the first time in 1997, while with the Expos, and in 1999 and 2000 with the Red Sox. Martinez entered the 2005 season with the Mets with a .705 winning percentage -- the best among pitchers with 200 or more decisions. In 1999, he became the first pitcher in history to have 300-strikeout seasons in each league.
Juan Marichal, Dominican Republic, Starting Pitcher (1960-1975): Giants great Marichal compiled 243 wins and a 2.89 ERA. He started 451 games and completed 244 of them, pitching 52 shutouts. He was inducted into Cooperstown in 1983, the first player from the Dominican Republic to enter the Hall of Fame.
Fernando Valenzuela, Mexico, Starting Pitcher (1980-1997): In 17 big-league seasons, Valenzuela compiled a 173-153 record and a 3.54 ERA for the Dodgers, Angels, Orioles, Phillies, Padres and Cardinals. He threw a no-hitter for the Dodgers in 1990 and ranks among the all-time leaders in nearly all of the franchise's pitching categories.
Mariano Rivera, Panama, Relief Pitcher (1995-current): Regarded as one of the most reliable closers in baseball history, Rivera ranks inside the top 10 in career saves. Before becoming the Yankees full-time closer in 1997, the right-hander set a club record in 1996 for the most strikeouts by a reliever with 130. Rivera, who saved 40 or more games in a season five times and 50 or more twice, led the Yankees to world championships in 1996 and 1998-2000, while winning the 1999 World Series MVP. The seven-time All Star has finished five seasons with an ERA under 2.00 while never completing a season with an ERA above 3.00.