|Born: November 16, 1893|
|Died: April 11, 1938 (aged 44)|
New York City, United States
|Negro Major Leagues debut|
|1920, for the Chicago American Giants|
|1932, for the Louisville Black Caps|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Negro league baseball
Cuban Winter League Baseball
|Member of the National|
|Election method||Committee on African-American Baseball|
Cristóbal Torriente (November 16, 1893 - April 11, 1938) called Babe Ruth of Cuba , was a Cuban outfielder in Negro league baseball with multiple teams. He played from 1912 to 1932 and was primarily a pull hitter, though he could hit with power to all fields. He had a stocky and slightly bowlegged build, but was known for deceptive power and a strong, accurate arm from center field. Indianapolis ABC's manager C.I. Taylor stated, "If I see Torriente walking up the other side of the street, I would say, 'There walks a ballclub.'" Torriente was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Torriente was born on November 16, 1893 in Cienfuegos, Cuba. He began his playing career as a pitcher and part time outfield at age 17 with his hometown's local amateur side named Yara Club, claiming a juvenile amateur district championship in 1910. At age 17, he also joined the Cuban Army and "was assigned to the artillery because he was husky enough to hoist the heavy artillery pieces onto the mules." At this time, little else is known of Torriente's family and childhood.
Torriente played in his homeland from 1913-1927 and holds the record for the highest career batting average in Cuban winter league history (.352). He earned two batting titles and hit as high as .402. In 1920, his team, Almendares, played a nine-game series against the New York Giants. The Giants added Babe Ruth for this tour of Cuba. Torriente outhit Ruth in most categories and Almendares beat the Giants, five games to four. Along with Martín Dihigo and José Méndez, Torriente is considered one of the greatest baseball players from Cuba. He was one of the first class of inductees of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.
Torriente played much of the summer of 1915 and 1916 for the "Western" Cuban Stars team until an argument arose with the St. Louis manager in 1916. He tracked down former teammate and friend José Méndez and was hired by J. L. Wilkinson to play for his All Nations just before a big series with C. I. Taylor's Indianapolis ABCs and Rube Foster's Chicago American Giants. Torriente would play several years for both teams.
Torriente played on the great Chicago American Giants teams of 1918-1925, and was a member of the club when they were founding members of the Negro National League in 1920. Torriente led the American Giants to consecutive pennants from 1920 to 1922 while batting .411, .338, and .342 for these seasons. He won the batting title in 1920 and in 1923 with a .412 average.
Torriente was traded to the Kansas City Monarchs in 1926 and led the team with a .381 batting average. In the championship playoff series against his old American Giants teammates, Torriente logged a .407 batting average.
Torriente briefly appeared for the Detroit Stars in 1920. Following a dispute involving a stolen diamond ring, he walked away from the Monarchs and was later signed by the Detroit Stars, where he played from 1927-1928.
Torriente, now primarily a pitcher again, played for the independent Gilkerson's Union Giants from 1929-1930. In 1932, he appeared for the Atlanta Black Crackers and Cleveland Cubs, both independent teams at the time. Torriente finished his major league career with the Louisville Black Caps of the Negro Southern League, pitching a single game in relief. In 1938, Black Crackers manager Don Pelham unsuccessfully attempted to lobby Torriente to return to play, but no records exist of him taking the field again.
Torriente was notorious for his love of the night life and this caused him disputes with team management throughout his career. Torriente was sent to the bench in front of 8,000 spectators in 1915 after he "kicked to an umpire." He put on his street clothes and sat on the bench, then umpire Goekle sent him to the bleachers, and sent an officer of the law after him. Again on August 23, 1915, Torriente kicked umpire Kelly after Kelly called him out when Torriente attempted to steal third base. A fight with Crawford during the game spilled out onto the street after the game, and the two men attacked each other with paving stones left out when street workers were repairing a water main. Rube Foster broke up the fight.
In 1923, he was sent out of the game in the third inning after objecting to umpire Bert Gholston's call at second base. He reportedly used "awful" language, then threw dirt on the umpire's "newly creased trousers." His temper caused him to walk off the Monarchs in 1926 after a dispute involving a stolen diamond ring.
In 1918, 24 year-old Torriente registered with the World War I draft. He listed his current occupation as "not working" and currently living at 3448 Wabash Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. He listed himself as a Cuban citizen and his closest living relative as his mother, Mrs. Felipa Torriente of Havana.
After baseball, Torriente lived for a short time in Ybor City, Florida and faded into obscurity.
He died in New York City at age 44, after a long battle with alcoholism and tuberculosis, reportedly buried in a pauper's grave in New York.
However, another old Cuban teammate of Cristobal Torriente, Rogelio Crespo, told John Holway that "they draped a Cuban flag over his coffin, and a politician arranged to return the body to Havana," where it was interred in the Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón with dozens of other Cuban baseball stars. In 1939, he was named to the inaugural class of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame. The Pittsburgh Courier named Torriente to their All Time Negro League team in 1952, calling him "a prodigious hitter, a rifle-armed thrower, and a tower of strength on the defense."
In the 2001 book The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James ranked Torriente as the 67th greatest baseball player ever. Torriente was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. After years of research, his grave was finally identified in 2020 by Dr. Machado Mendoza and his team in the Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón.