Tito Fuentes

Tito FuentesThe Cuban-born Fuentes was one of the more colorful personalities to play baseball during his time. Invariably if he was being written about or talked about, they usually used the term “hot dog” to describe the infielder. He was a flashy player and he enjoyed wearing flamboyant outfits off the field too.

When he was with the San Francisco Giants Fuentes often wore a headband under or over his cap (if he could get away with it). It usually had his name TITO written on it in black marker. When he was in his only season with the Detroit Tigers, in 1977, Fuentes had a strange ritual when he went to the plate. He would warm up on deck with two or three bats, swinging them all, then as he went to the plate to take his turn he would slide the bats behind him, casting them away as if they were a cape. Sometimes he would shuffle one of them between his legs. In the batters’ box, Tito would tap the barrel of his chosen bat on the plate then flip it once in the air and catch it at the handle again. He always doing things like that.

He loved Tiger Stadium for some reason, and in ’77 in his only year with Detroit he batted .332 there with eight triples and five home runs in 75 games. He hit .309 for the season, which was more than 40 points above his career average. He was the first free agent the conservative Tigers ever signed, but he was only keeping second base warm for the young Lou Whitaker, who took over in 1978 and held down the job in Detroit for 19 seasons.

In Game One of the 1971 NL Playoffs, the Giants were trailing the Pirates 2-1 in the fifth inning when Fuentes hit an unlikely two-run homer to give his team a lead they never relinquished. The homer came off Steve Blass at Three Rivers Stadium. Fuentes performed well in the series (five hits in four games and a .313 average), which was his only postseason appearance.