Julio Navarro, 82

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Research is the key in The Game Of All Games (http://www.stiffs.com), and information is precious. Therefore, DO NOT blurt out anything you may have heard about a celebrity's health, or even the fact that a famous person is really old, UNLESS that info has appeared on stiffs.com's SickTicker, OR, you have seen or heard it yourself on CNN, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, Fox, AND the Drudge Report. When in doubt, shut the fuck up.

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Be aware, too, that this forum is NOT the place to promote your own shitty dead pool.

One more rule: have fun.

Julio Navarro, 82

Postby ScottLevison » Tue Jan 30, 2018 9:18 pm

http://www.baseballhappenings.net/2018/ ... ns-in.html

Julio Navarro, pitched 22 seasons in Puerto Rico, dies at 82

Julio Navarro, one of Puerto Rico’s most celebrated pitchers, passed away Wednesday January 24th, 2018 in Miami, Florida due to Alzheimer’s complications. He was 82.

Navarro was born in Vieques, but he spent the majority of his childhood in St. Croix. After developing his talents in high school, another standout from the Virgin Islands helped to position Navarro for a tryout in front of Santurce’s team owner Pedrin Zorilla.

“Al Gerard took me to Santurce,” Navarro told me via telephone in 2011. “My father moved to the Island and I was five years old. It helped me a lot. They had the Catholic school nuns and I learned how to speak English. When they played those exhibitions on the Island, those Puerto Rican teams would play. That’s when the Islands were developing well. When I pitched against Puerto Rico, Gerard told the owner that I was from Puerto Rico. He told them that I was from Vieques, but that my father moved there for work.”

Fortunately for Navarro, Zorilla doubled as a scout for the New York Giants and helped him along with Orlando Cepeda and Jose Pagan, to sign professional contracts in 1955. Almost immediately he became the de-facto spokesperson for his fellow Spanish speaking teammates because of his upbringing in the Virgin Islands.

“I was lucky, because of the few Puerto Ricans, unless they were from New York, I spoke English,” he said. “I knew what I was going on and I learned so quickly because I knew the language. In spring training, we had a lot of good prospects and they only knew Spanish, I had to keep them from trouble and intervene. They lived in a segregated area.”

While Navarro was buoyed by his ability to speak English, it didn’t help him on the mound. He flopped around multiple Class D teams in 1955 due to arm troubles, going 1-10 in the process. Despite his poor record, the Giants recognized his potential and brought him back for the 1956 season. He rewarded the parent club by winning an astounding 24 games on the mound. While he was only 20 years old, Navarro thought his successful season warranted a major league look.

“I won 24 games that year in Cocoa, and you know where I went after that, Class A!” he said. “If you win 24 games anywhere, you [should] go to the big leagues. … They had good players from A-ball that had experience playing. It was different then, those guys could play A or AA ball at any time, so many, that people don’t know about or didn’t know them.”

As the Giants moved to San Francisco, Navarro continued to inch closer to the major leagues. By 1959 he was at AAA, but his career stalled there. When it became clear that he was trapped in the Giants deep farm system with no clear path to their rotation, the Los Angeles Angels swooped in during the 1962 season to open a new door. He was relieved when the Angels called.

“After six years, I was in AAA ball and I was only 26,” he said. “They had a rule after six years they had to let me go or sell me to somebody. That’s when the Angels bought me.”

Navarro specialized as a reliever for the Angels, pitching 71 games out of the bullpen in three seasons until he was traded to the Detroit Tigers in April 1964. He found a supporter in Tigers manager Chuck Dressen.

“Charlie Dressen was a good man and got along with the colored guys,” he said. “He said to the Latins and Cubans, 'When you play with me, don’t worry!' When Dressen died, they got rid of us!”

While Navarro fell out of favor with the new regime in Detroit, that didn’t deter him from carrying on. The amazingly durable hurler pitched 22 seasons in the Puerto Rican Winter League, using the lessons that came from the old Negro League veterans he started with back in 1956.

“Those guys were great, I learned a lot from them, I’ll tell you,” Navarro said via telephone in 2011. “Each club had about nine imports. Most of them were colored guys from the states. Bill Greason, Sam Jones, and George Crowe were there. It was fantastic. … In those days, in Puerto Rico, you could have a team that could play in the big leagues that could beat the Yankees and anybody.”

One harsh reality the Negro League players taught him how to manage was the Jim Crow Laws in the United States. Some of his fellow Puerto Rican counterparts weren’t so fortunate and their careers were cut short by how they responded to their teammates’ taunts.

“I met a lot of white guys at that time that were good,” he said. “You don’t bother them and they don’t bother you. That’s what happened to [Carlos] Bernier. He had a white girlfriend, they tell him this and that because he had a white girl and they told him that shit and he beat the shit out of them. They were thinking he was going to be in the big leagues for ten years.”

Navarro threw his final major league pitch with the Atlanta Braves in 1970; however, he continued to play in the minor leagues, Mexico, and Puerto Rico until 1977. He then turned his attention to his son Jamie.

Jamie followed his lead on the mound, playing for 20 professional seasons, 12 in the major leagues. The elder Navarro credited his son’s longevity due to his father reinforcing flawless mechanics.

“Jamie very seldom had a sore arm in the big leagues,” he said. “I worked a lot with him on the mechanics.”

Navarro’s teaching extended beyond his own family, offering help to all comes from children up to the major leaguers in Puerto Rico. One of his last pupils was Javier Vasquez. After a disappointing 2010 season with the Yankees, Navarro met with him during the off-season to help him turn things around. The result? Vasquez lowered his ERA by almost two runs and ended his final major league season with a winning record.

“Javier last year had problems with the Yankees," he said. "Everybody knew what Javier was throwing. He didn’t have a good fastball anymore, but he still had that curveball. I went to a meeting in Ponce and he was receiving an award. I told him, ‘You don’t throw 95-98, you're now about 91-92. Throw at that speed, but throw it with movement. You are throwing at that speed and it doesn’t move. You ever see [Roy] Halladay with the Phillies? He doesn’t throw that hard, but everything is moving and is low. He throws strikes until he gets you. When the 9th inning comes around, you are strong. Mix it a little. Throw it like a sinker / slider.’ He asked me how to do it. You work a little and use your coconut head. You have to think!”

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