Were it not for immigrants, baseball would be a far less lively game. When the starters were announced for the 2019 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, five of the National League starters were Hispanic, as were four of the American League starters. And NL starting pitcher Mike Soraka is Canadian.

Baseball truly is the great Americas pastime.

Just as urban playgrounds all over the U.S. account for the fact that 40% of players in the National Basketball Association are African-American, sandlots all over the Caribbean explain why 30% of MLB players are Hispanic.

When I was a kid in the 1950s, it was closer to 6%. Of course back in 1959, when I was 10, and at the height of my passion for baseball, there were only 16 major league teams. Most kids collected baseball cards that we stored in shoe boxes. We’d trade cards and select our own all-star teams in an analog forerunner of fantasy baseball.

Between 1959 and 1962 MLB actually played two All-Star games each season, in hopes of raising more money for the players’ association. Having half the number of teams probably contributed to the quality of the players of the era.

The rosters of the 1959 All-Star teams included 20 future Hall of Famers, among them Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Al Kaline, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Stan Musial and Ted Williams. I doubt the 2019 All-Star games will produce 20 future Hall of Famers, in part because this year is a young crop, with 31 first-time All-Stars.

The Latin players on the ’59 team included Minnie Minoso, Louis Aparicio, Orlando Cepeda, Pedro Ramos and Vada Pinson.

When I was a kid I think I knew just about every player in the major leagues. Perhaps because it’s a young group and because some of the players play in small, remote markets, I confess there are players on the current teams who I have never heard of. Ketel Marte? Nolan Arenado? Easy to forget there are MLB teams in Arizona and Colorado.

Over the years MLB has done everything it can to inspire fan interest in the All-Star game, surrounding it with home run derbies and old-timers games. Between 2003 and 2016 the league that won the All-Star game was given home field advantage for the World Series.

This year’s Red Sox contingent includes three Hispanics: manager Alex Cora, designated hitter J.D. Martinez and shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Red Sox Hall of Famers of the past included just a handful of Latin players, several of whom are more associated with teams they played with earlier in their careers – Aparicio, Cepeda, and Juan Marichal, as well as Pedro Martinez and, in a few short years, David Ortiz.

There is one other Red Sox Hall of Famer who could be added to the list of Hispanic players: Ted Williams, the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived. Williams’ mother, May Venzor, was a Mexican-American from El Paso, a fact that he was apparently ashamed of until late in life.

“If I had my mother’s name,” he said, “there is no doubt I would have run into problems in those days, (considering) the prejudices people had in Southern California.”

These days Teddy Ballgame would fit right in with the players of Hispanic background that have come to dominate the sport.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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