While spending four wonderful days in San Juan, PR, my boyfriend and I walked by the sealed up looking Puerto Rican Sports Hall of Fame. Passing this building inspired a conversation about some of the best Puerto Rican born athletes that have entertained, excited and infuriated us. Here are a couple amazing athletes that I would like to recognize in depth as two of the great Puerto Rican athletes we have seen in the world of sports.
<Shout outs to Roberto Alomar, Bernie Williams, Roberto Clemente, Pudge and Tito!>
Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodriguez
Maybe the most charismatic golfer of recent memory, Chi-Chi Rodriguez's professional golf career spanned over five decades, officially ending this year on March 11at the Puerto Rico open as an honorary golfer. Winning 38 professional tournaments, Chi-Chi was the first Puerto Rican to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Beloved by fans everywhere for his energetic and fun antics, Chi-Chi became known for his toreador dance. After completing a putt for a birdie or an eagle, Chi-Chi would master the "bull" (ball) with his "sword" (putter). I tried desperately to find a YouTube video of the adorable Chi-Chi performing his signature putter sword dance, but I was unsuccessful.
Many times throughout his career, Chi-Chi would tell the story of how he came to love, and then learn, the game of golf. After stumbling across a golf course at a young age, Chi-Chi would take the branch from a guava tree and turn it into a golf club. Then using a metal can as a golf ball, Chi-Chi would practice golf as he had seen local golfers play. By the time he was nine, he was a self-taught golfer.
Chi-Chi Rodriguez's unique spirit and inspiring attitude on and off the course put him in a stand alone category of greatness. "I never exaggerate. I just remember big." This is how we will always remember Chi-Chi: a big person full of bigger personality.
How can I not talk about former Met Carlos Beltran when I discuss Puerto Rican born greats?
While growing up, Beltran excelled at sports, in particular baseball and volleyball. At the age of 17, Beltran decided to focus on baseball, and as they say... the rest is history.
After playing for the Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros, Beltran signed a blockbuster deal (7 years, $119 million) with the New York Mets. Earning his first Golden Glove in 2006, the year wasn't totally kind to him. He is remembered by some bitter NY fans as the guy who struck out looking in Game 7 of the NLCS that year (I am not one of those fans. I mean, give a guy a break NY Post).
Now playing for the Saint Louis Cardinals, Carlos Beltran should be relishing in his big moments (recording the first hit ever in the Miami Marlins' new stadium), as he nears the tail end of his injury plagued career.
It is my hope, that NY/ the NY Post will one day not define Beltran by one singular out of one singular game, but by the solid and impressive career Beltran had while playing for the NY Mets.