In the world of mega-celebrities and popular icons, it's hard to beat sports superstars. Names like Jordan, Gretski, and Montana have become household names and, in some cases, global brands. We applaud, adore, and revere those who play the game to win. In doing so, we happen to be applauding, adoring and revering quite a few famous Puerto Ricans. Some of the names on this list are icons in their own right, and I haven't even done justice to the baseballers coming from the island. More than any other sport, Puerto Ricans have excelled on the baseball diamond. Here are just a few of the greats we know and love from the world of sports.
Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Roberto Alomar is a Baseball Hall of Famer and widely considered the greatest Second Baseman to ever play the game. The statistics back up the claim: no second baseman has earned more Gold Glove Awards, and only one other player at that position has won more Silver Slugger Awards. Alomar's family is steeped in the sport of baseball: his dad, Sandy Alomar, Sr., and brother, Sandy Alomar Jr. were pretty good players too.
Felix "Tito" Trinidad
One of the best pound-for-pound boxers of his era, Felix "Tito" Trinidad is a proud Puerto Rican in and out of the ring. A flamboyant fighter and personality, Trinidad's career spans over 15 years and three retirements. In that span, he was the International Boxing Federation Welterweight Champion, World Boxing Council Welterweight Champion, World Boxing Association Light Middleweight Champion, International Boxing Federation Light Middleweight Champion, and World Boxing Association Middleweight Champion.
A rising star with the Royals, then a bonafide star with the Houston Astros, Carlos Beltrán elevated his game in the playoffs and elevated his star power with a trade to the New York Mets in 2005. Now one of the key pieces to one of the elite teams in Major League Baseball, Beltrán is among the more well-known players in the game today. His legacy is still being hammered out, but a world series ring would go a long way toward solidifying his superstar status. His $119 million dollar contract, among the most lucrative in MLB history, is certainly deserving of a spot on some important list.
One of my all-time favorite Yankees, Bernie Williams is a San Juan native who commanded center field at Yankee Stadium for 15 years. A career Yankee, Williams played on several championship teams and formed a pivotal part of a perennial postseason squad. By the time he retired in 2006, Williams was ranked among the game's best hitters. He was ninth among all active players in doubles, and 10th in runs scored singles, and the number of times on base. Only Lou Gehrig had more doubles for the Yankees than Williams. In 1998, Williams became the first player in Major League history to win a batting title, Gold Glove, and World Series ring in the same year.
A native of Carolina, Puerto Rico, Roberto Clemente was the first Latin American baseball player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. A twelve-time All-Star, Clemente's career spans 18 seasons, all with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also won twelve Gold Glove Awards and led the league in batting average four times. Clemente was elected to the Hall of Fame posthumously. He died in an aviation accident in 1972.
Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodríguez
"Chi-Chi" Rodríguez would be on this list just by virtue of having one of the coolest names in golf. But it was his skill on the green that led him to become the first Puerto Rican to be inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame. A native of Río Piedras, Rodríguez turned pro in 1960 and went on to win eight titles on the PGA Tour. In 1985, he joined the Senior PGA Tour (now called the Champions Tour) and won 22 tournament victories, becoming the first player to win the same event in three consecutive years.
Héctor "Macho" Camacho
Thankfully, "Macho" Camacho had the game to back up his brash image. Flamboyant and cocky, Camacho was a three-time world champion with a record of 79 wins (38 by knockout), 5 losses and 2 draws. He is also remembered for his showy entrances, including his memorable costumes (once as a gladiator, once as Captain America). During his career, Camacho fought some of the sport's best fighters, including Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, and fellow 'Rican Félix Trinidad.