Top 10 Latin American Athletes of All Time


Pan American World’s Miguel Ernesto highlights the top 10 Latin American athletes of all time. He underlines that this was an undoubtedly complicated task “because this region has been the cradle of some of the finest soccer and baseball players in history; a region that has counted on boxers who wrote their lines on record books.” As he points out, handpicking only 10 is risky, but “Polemic is welcomed.” Among the 10 top Latin American players, the three Caribbean athletes are Puerto Rican Roberto Clemente [photo above], Dominican “Big” Pedro Martínez, and Cuban Teófilo Stevenson (see details below). The others are Brazil’s Pelé (Edson Arantes Dos Nascimentos), Mexican Julio César Chávez, Panamanian Mariano Rivera, and Argentinians Diego Armando Maradona, Lionel Messi, Emanuel Ginóbili, and Juan Manuel Fangio.

I add here Ernesto’s other list of “Unforgettable Sportsmen” [I have identified the Caribbean players]: “The list of remarkable Latin American stars is huge [. . .] for instance, soccer players Alfredo di Stéfano, Ronaldo Luiz Nazario de Lima or Hugo Sánchez; pilot Ayrton Senna; baseball players Martín Dihigo [Cuba], Juan Marichal [Dominican Republic], Fernando Valenzuela, Dennis Martínez, Miguel Cabrera [Maracay, Venezuela] and Albert Pujols [Dominican Republic]; boxers Kid Chocolate [Cuba], Félix Savón [Cuba], and Roberto ‘Stone Hand’ Durán [Panama]; [track] athletes Alberto Juantorena [Cuba] and Javier Sotomayor [Cuba]; fencer Ramón Fonst [Cuba]; diver Joaquín Capilla; and chess player José Raúl Capablanca [Cuba].”

Roberto Clemente: A Great Man and Baseball Player: This Puerto Rican man was an outstanding baseball player and exceptional human being. He developed his career in Major League Baseball between 1955 and 1972. We can describe him as the first Latin star in Major League. He had a 317-batting average in over 10 thousand visits to home plate. Mr. Clemente won four batting crowns, was chosen to play in 15 editions of the All-Star Game and 12 Golden Gloves. Clemente was the first Hispanic American inducted into the Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown. Out of the field, the charity work carried out by Roberto Clemente increased his legend. In December 1972, the Puerto Rican was flying with humanitarian help for earthquake victims in Nicaragua and his plane crashed off the coast. MLB paid tribute to Clemente by establishing an annual award to praise the altruistic work developed by baseball players.


“Big” Pedro Martínez: A Pitcher from another Time: The Dominican baseball player is described as one of the best MLB pitchers of all times. In an age when batters prevailed and steroids helped sluggers hit lots of home runs, Martínez achieved jaw-dropping numbers. He won 219 games, delivered 3,154 strikeouts and his effectiveness average was 2.93. The strength of his arm and his control made him win three Cy Young awards. He played in eight All-Star Games, helped Boston Red Sox triumph in the 2004 World Series (thus putting an end to the “curse” that dated back from 1918) and in 2015 he became the second Dominican baseball player —the other one is giant Juan Marichal— to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown.


Teófilo Stevenson: The Most Powerful Punch in Cuban Boxing: This formidable Cuban boxer achieved three Olympic titles (1972, 1976 and 1980) and made history with his devastating punch; besides, he was a three-time world champion. Stevenson won 301 out of 321 fights throughout his 20-year career and only one man could defeat him twice: Soviet Igor Visotski. There was some speculation on a possible clash between Stevenson (the best amateur fighter) and Muhammad Alí (the finest professional boxer); nevertheless, that fight never took place and both men became friends. This pugilism legend passed away in 2012, at the age of 60.

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