Martín Dihigo in his Petroleros de Cienfuegos uniform

El Inmortal Delivers in Mexico

Throughout his playing career, Martín Dihigo garnered the nicknames of El Inmortal and El Maestro. Those who know of Dihigo know that those nicknames were fitting for both the type of player has was and for how long he stayed at an elite level throughout his career. He did this in the Negro Leagues and various other unaffiliated leagues. He spent years playing in the major leagues (a casual reminder that this site does not abide by the whitewashing of Major League Baseball’s historians and recognizes the Negro major leagues as exactly that, major) and in various other unaffiliated leagues that were damn near close to the ML-level.

Dihigo excelled as a hitter, a pitcher, and a fielder. In 1942 he was playing in Liga Mexicana de Béisbol (a league that may wind up being major depending upon further research) for Unión Laguna de Torreón. That year Dihigo put together a season that best represented his unique abilities as a two-way player. The 1942 season featured a cluster of LMB teams that were all pretty darn great. This resulted in the Unión Laguna’s taking home the LMB title with a record of 48-40. In a season with all kinds of star power, Dihigo may have been the biggest star of them all.

In 356 plate appearances, Dihigo slashed .300/.386/.440 with 12 doubles, 4 triples, and 8 home runs. He produced a 144 OPS+ on the back of a .445 wOBA, a BB% of 20.8, and a minuscule 5.8 K%. Across the board, Dihigo was better than league average, often by wide margins, in every category. He only had 9 stolen bases, LMB didn’t keep records for caught stealing at the time, but for a 37-year-old 9 steals is still a good thing. Dihigo led the league in most offensive categories, and when he didn’t he was near the top.

The Cuban star took the mound for 35 games in 1942, 29 of those as a starter. In 245.1 innings he had an ERA of 2.53 and a WHIP of 1.310 for an ERA+ of 179. His K% of 20.3 was off the charts and while his BB% of 7.4 appears high it was actually four percentage points better than the league average. In the LMB, and just about every league Dihigo played in, pitchers were a tad more wild because the focus was on wowing the crowd with your stuff as opposed to just attacking the hitter. Regardless, Dihigo was excellent on the mound for the Unión Laguna’s.

There aren’t any fielding stats for the LMB in 1942. We know that when not pitching Dihigo played at third base. We also know, from first-hand accounts, that he was a slick-fielding third baseman and pitcher. More than likely Dihigo wasn’t getting to as many balls as he used to, nor was his arm quite as strong as it once had been. That being the case, he was always a great fielder in the stats we do have access to and there’s no reason to think that 1942 was any different.

Between his pitching and hitting, Dihigo put up an 11.0 sWAR in 1942. That’s a full 3.5 wins better than the second-best player in the league. I’ll reiterate this again, the LMB in 1942 was a league full of stars. The great Mexican born players were supplemented by some of the best players throughout the Caribbean and the Negro Leagues. In that environment, Dihigo excelled. His 1942 is one of the best baseball seasons by a player ever, and definitely one of the best two-way seasons on record. At the age young age of 37 Dihigo showed why he was both El Maestro and El Inmortal.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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