Monday, August 29, 2011

Silvio Garcia, a Forgotten Potential Dodger

We've all heard of the stories behind how Jackie Robinson came to join the Dodgers to break the color barrier. He was scouted, put on a list of possible candidates and subsequently grilled by Branch Rickey with a series of questions meant to get inside his head. Rickey, being aware of the societal stress that was to come, wanted to make sure that the trailblazer had the poise and character to withstand the heat. Obviously, he chose wisely, but how about the other guys. Who else was on Branch Rickey's list?

Well, one fellow was star shortstop and future Cuban League Hall of Famer Silvio Garcia. He started his career primarily as a pitcher in the 1930's, but hurt his arm by the start of the next decade and would no longer pitch regularly. Never mind, though, his bat and glove would carry him to a long career. In the Cuban Winter League he would bat .314 in 1940, .341 a year later, and .303 in 1942. In all, he would bat a career .282 in Cuba from 1931 to 1954. He would also go 8 for 21 in an exhibition series against the Dodgers in 1942. I'm sure this is what originally brought him to the attention of the team.

On a side note, Tommy Lasorda once said he was one of the toughest hitters he ever faced in Cuba. Carl Erskine commented in an interview with Nick Diunte that
"he was a handsome guy, big. He was big for what we think of shortstops, [as opposed to] being willowy, loose and limber. He was a big man [and] had good power to right-center. I think his age might have been against him.”
Well, Erskine was half right. In 1945, during his search for the perfect man, Branch Rickey went to Cuba to meet with Silvio Garcia. Like with Jackie Robinson, Rickey gave Garcia a grilling. He wanted to know the man, and tossed scenario after scenario at him to see what his response would be. Details are fuzzy about specific questions, but one specific answer given by Garcia has withstood the test of time.

I have read numerous reports that he was asked about how he would deal directly with racist taunts, but it seems more likely he was asked what he would do if a white man slapped him on the face. As you know, Jackie Robinson said he would turn the other cheek. Garcia said something totally different. Silvio Garcia gave a simple and sincere response. He said, "I kill him." And with that, the interview was effectively over.


  1. Thanks Spiegel83, or Nomo's Sushi, whatever. I appreciate the kind words.


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