Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Salon de la Fama member Ruben Amaro dies at 81

Former major league infielder and Veracruz native Ruben Amaro passed away last Friday at the age of 81.  A member of Mexican baseball's Salon de la Fama, Amaro was the first Mexican player to win a Gold Glove as a shortstop for manager Gene Mauch's Philadelphia Phillies in 1964.  Following his retirement as a player, Amaro went on to spend over two decades in the Philadelphia organization as a minor league manager, coach and scout.  In a 2009 interview, he said "I would really like very much to be buried with the Phillies uniform."

The following is a profile on Amaro that first appeared about ten years ago in the old Viva Beisbol newsletter:

While baseball in the United States has its Boone and Bell families with three generations of ballplayers, Mexican fans can point to the Amaro family as their own version of a baseball family tripartite.  The Amaros are a little different, though.
First came Santos Amaro, a brilliant Cuban-born outfielder who roamed the gardens of Mexican League ballparks for 17 seasons between 1939 and 1955, batting .317 and eventually being elected to the Salon de la Fama in 1977.  Ruben was born in Veracruz on January 6, 1936.  Of the three ballplaying Amaros, Ruben had perhaps the best career, playing 940 games of major league baseball over 11 seasons.  His son, Ruben Junior, who was born in 1965 at Philadelphia while dad was with the Phils, went on to play in the majors for eight seasons with California, Cleveland and his hometown Phillies (twice), hitting .235 in 485 games between 1991 and 1998.
Ruben Amaro Mora eventually grew to stand 5’11” tall and weigh 170 pounds.  Primarily a shortstop, he was capable of playing at all four infield positions and even played one game in the outfield in 1964 for Philadelphia.  Most of Amaro’s career was spent with the Phillies, although he broke in with St. Louis in 1958, batting .224 in 40 games.  Amaro was traded to the Phils in late 1958 for Chuck Essegian and, after another year of seasoning in the minors, went on to spend the 1960’s in MLB.  He was a favorite of manager Gene Mauch in Philadelphia, and although he didn’t carry a strong bat (his best year was 1964 when he hit .261), Amaro’s versatile glove work gave him steady work as a utility infielder during his six years with the Phils.  He did play 132 games at short in 1961 and hit .257, but he lost his job to the younger Bobby Wine.
After the 1965 season, Amaro was dealt to the Yankees for shortstop Phil Linz.  He spent all or part of the next three campaigns in New York pinstripes, batting .223 as the regular shortstop for Ralph Houk’s Yankees in 1967.  His light bat led Houk to bring Tom Tresh in from the outfield to play short in 1968 and sell Amaro to the California Angels for cash prior to the 1969 season.  Playing all four infield spots for Bill Rigney in Anaheim, Amaro hit .222 over 40 games in 1969 for what proved to be his last season in the majors.  In all, he compiled a career batting average of .234 in the big leagues, with eight career homers and 211 runs scored for his four teams.
While Amaro never played in the Mexican League during the summer, he did spend a few winters in the Mexican Pacific League with Hermosillo, Obregon and Culiacan, and also played winter ball in Veracruz.  After retiring as a player, Amaro stayed in the game as a scout, coach, manager and director.  He won a pennant and Caribbean Series while with the Zulia team in Venezuela.
Ruben Amaro and Ruben Amaro Junior were the first Mexican father-son combination in major league baseball.  Ruben Senior made his MLB debut on June 29, 1958 for the St. Louis Cardinals, but spent the majority of his career with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Ruben Junior played his first big league game in 1991 for the California Angels.  Like his father, he spent a large part of his playing days with Philadelphia, which was his birthplace on February 12, 1965.
Ruben Amaro will be remembered as a smooth and versatile infielder who was gifted enough to fill a utility role for a number of accomplished managers in the major leagues.  He joined his father Santos in the Salon de la Fama in 1986, becoming part of the first father-son combo to be voted into the Salon.