Puerto Rico Goes to Cuba, Wins 1953 Caribbean World Series

When Alva Lee “Bobo” Holloman began his major league career on May 6,1953 by pitching a no-hitter for the St. Louis Browns against the Philadelphia A’s,  the baseball world was shocked.

But for those who followed Holloman the previous winter in the Puerto Rican League, his success was hardly surprising.

Pitching for the Santurce Crabfishermen, Holloman led the league with a 15-5 record. In the traditional playoff involving the first and second place finishers, the Crabs took on its long time antagonist the San Juan Senators in the best of seven. Holloman pitched a complete 13-inning game to best the Senators, 7-5, and wrap up the series, 4-2. Future New York Giants catcher Valmy Thomas tripled in the winning runs with two on.

During game five, among the many fans were Rachael and Jackie Robinson who were visiting San Juan at the time. Robinson watched his teammate Brooklyn Dodgers’ teammate Junior Gilliam as the Crabs trounced the Senators 15-5. Negro League slugging star Bob Thurman’s grand slam home run and three hits provided the winning runs. The all time Puerto Rican League home run record belongs to Thurman with 117.

The Crabs Puerto Rican League victory assured the team a place in the Caribbean World Series in Havana. The four member countries and the teams representing them were Puerto Rico (Santurce), Cuba (Havana), Panama (Chesterfield) and Venezuela (Caracas). At the time, the Havana Reds were called the “Yankees of Cuba” because of its outstanding roster that included Sandy Amaros, Camilo Pascual, Lou Klein and Bob Usher. Reds’ manager Mike Gonzales said his squad was “at least” the equivalent to AAA.

Holloman dominated as the Crabs swept the double round robin series 6-0. He won the second and sixth games by scores of 7-4 and 9-2. Other Crabs’ pitchers who contributed were future Major Leaguers Ruben Gomez and Cot Deal. The Crabs twice topped Havana en route to becoming the first two-time Caribbean Series winner.

When Holloman reported in the spring, the unconvinced Browns sent him to Syracuse before calling him up in May. Holloman’s time in the bigs was short. After his no-hitter, Holloman struggled. Then, after he mopped up in the second game of a July 19 double header against the Washington Senators and gave up six earned runs in 1.2 innings, a frustrated Bill Veeck sold “Bobo” to the International League’s Toronto Blue Jays.

When the season ended, Holloman returned to Santurce but pitched poorly and compiled a 0-2 record.

With his career over, Holloman returned to Georgia to drive trucks just as he had done in his pre-baseball days. Holloman battled alcoholism for years before giving up drinking in in 1972. Sobriety helped Holloman enjoy his racetrack, golf and stock market passions. In 1987, Holloman died of a sudden heart attack in Athens.

One Reply to “Puerto Rico Goes to Cuba, Wins 1953 Caribbean World Series”

  1. Holloman’s case, as well as countless others, confirms my sense that there was pervasive alcoholism that existed amongst the players I watched during that “Golden Era” of baseball, and probably in earlier years, too. Alcoholism is almost always passed on through the genetic process, so players like Holloman probably came from families where alcoholism existed.
    The late 60s spawned major changes in societal acceptance of the problems associated with excessive drinking, and the pattern changed to player use of steroids and performance enhancing drugs. One does, however, question if one vice was traded in for another, perhaps even more damaging, failing which besets the current state of major league baseball.

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