Rigoberto Fuentes Peat (born January 4, 1944) is a retired professional baseball player. He played for 13 seasons in the major leagues between 1965 and 1978, primarily as a second baseman. Fuentes played for most of his career with the San Francisco Giants, where he still remains a fan favorite.
Fuentes (#23) in 1975
|Born: January 4, 1944|
|August 18, 1965, for the San Francisco Giants|
|Last MLB appearance|
|July 9, 1978, for the Oakland Athletics|
|Runs batted in||438|
|Career highlights and awards|
The Giants initially signed Fuentes as an 18-year-old amateur before the start of the 1962 season. He was one of the last baseball players signed directly out of Cuba before the United States embargo against Cuba. Originally debuting in the majors 1965 as a late-season call-up, Fuentes split time between second base and shortstop as a rookie in 1966. He batted .261 in his maiden year while playing solid defense at both positions. He slumped to batting .209 the following year, and subsequently, he spent all of 1968 in the minor leagues.
Fuentes returned to the Giants in 1969 and spent the next two seasons as a utility infielder before re-gaining his starting spot at second base in 1971. He appeared in the postseason during the 1971 season as his Giants won the NL West title; his two-run home run in Game 1 of the 1971 NLCS helped San Francisco take an early series lead against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but that would turn out to be the Giants' only win of the best-of-five series. Fuentes continued to be the Giants' second baseman for three more seasons. In 1973, he set a National League record by recording a .993 fielding percentage, the highest for any regular second baseman in league history. Ironically, Fuentes had led all National League second basemen in errors during the previous two seasons before setting the new record for excellence. His record stood for 13 seasons before Ryne Sandberg recorded a .994 percentage at second in 1986.
After the 1974 season, San Francisco traded Fuentes and a future Rookie of the Year, Butch Metzger, to the San Diego Padres for another second baseman, Derrel Thomas. Tito played for two seasons in San Diego before leaving as a free agent. In 1977, Fuentes played with the Detroit Tigers and had a career-best .309 batting average. Despite having his best season, he was not brought back in 1978 (since the Tigers had a young Lou Whitaker waiting in the wings). The Montreal Expos then purchased his contract. Before the start of the season, however, Fuentes was released. During the year, he signed with the Oakland Athletics, but he was released again after batting just .140 in only 13 games. He played for the Santo Domingo Azucareros in the short-lived Inter-American League in 1979 before retiring.
Fuentes played baseball with elan, style and flair. He pioneered the use of headbands, sometimes applying them on the outside of his baseball cap. He would approach the plate holding his bat by the barrel. He would then tap it handle first off the plate,flip it into the air, and catch it by the handle, ready to hit. In the 1979 book The Bronx Zoo he was called "One of the most renowned hot dogs in baseball history." Elan and flair was not always accepted by staid ballplayers. Pitchers would knock him down with inside pitches for no apparent reason. After one such event he came out with a great quote: "They shouldn't throw at me," Fuentes said. "I'm the father of five or six kids."
Fuentes returned to the Giants as a radio announcer in 1981, the team's first year of Spanish language radio broadcasts, initially serving in this role until 1992. In 2004, Fuentes was brought back as an analyst, and he remains with the team in this role today. Tito Fuentes was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame on February 23, 2002 in San Francisco, California.
- "Awards Voting for 1966". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
- "The Official Site of The San Francisco Giants: History: Timeline - 1971". San Francisco Giants. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
- Charnin-Aker, Jane. "The Ballplayers - Tito Fuentes". BaseballLibrary.com. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
- https://bleacherreport.com/articles/547357-san-francisco-giants-all-time-hot-dog-team#slide1 retrieved 3/6/2019
- https://www.gaslampball.com/2015/1/4/7482703/tito-fuentes-topps-padres-headband-sweatband-infielder-birthday retrieved 3/6/2019
- The Bronx Zoo, Sparky Lyle and Peter Golenbock, Hardcover: 248 pages, Publisher: Outlet (March 1, 1979)Language: English, ISBN 978-0517537268
- https://www.blessyouboys.com/2014/5/22/5736898/tito-fuentes-the-tigers-first-free-agent-was-also-the-teams-first-hot retrieved 3/6/2019
- "The Official Site of The San Francisco Giants: Team: Broadcasters". San Francisco Giants. Retrieved 2007-05-22.