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Luis Tiant

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Luis Clemente Tiant Vega , born November 23, 1940 in Marianao, Cuba, , is a former right-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Cleveland Indians (1964–1969), Minnesota Twins , Boston Red Sox (1971–1978), New York Yankees (1979–80), Pittsburgh Pirates and California Angels . Tiant is one of five pitchers to have pitched four or more consecutive shutouts in the 50-year expansion era, with Don Drysdale , Bob Gibson , Orel Hershiser and Gaylord Perry being the others.

  Biography  

 career
 Cuba and Mexico
Tiant is the only child of Luis Tiant, Sr. and Isabel Vega. From 1926 through 1948, the senior Tiant was a great left-handed pitcher for the Negro League's New York Cubans during the summer and the Cuban professional league's Cienfuegos in the winter, his heroics being followed by hundreds of thousands of Cubans. Luis Jr. followed in his father's footsteps at an early age, joining both the local Little and Juvenile baseball leagues until he starred for the Havana team and was picked up for the Cuban Juvenile League All-Star team in 1957.

His talent was recognized by former Cleveland Indians All-Star, Bobby Avila, who was scouting for talent in Cuba. Avila recommended him to the Mexico City Tigers of the Mexican League. Tiant was signed for $150 a month, and for the next three years he divided his time between the Tigers and the Havana Sugar Kings in the International League.

 Cleveland Indians system
At the end of the summer of 1961, and under Avila recommendations, Cleveland purchased Tiant's contract for $35,000. But with the rise of Fidel Castro's regime in his native Cuba—specifically, after heightened tensions following the US-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion in April of that year—it was impossible for Tiant to return home. He would not see his parents for 14 years.

Tiant progressed through the Indians farm system beginning with a season with Charleston of the Eastern League. Tiant recalled that at Charleston, "I couldn't speak very good English but I understand racism. They treated me like a dog, but when I got to Portland, I didn't have any problems " . After a 15-1 record at Triple-A Portland, on July 19, 1964, Tiant debuted with Cleveland four-single, 11 strikeout, 3–0 shutout victory against the defending AL Champion New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The losing pitcher was Whitey Ford. Tiant finished his rookie season with a 10-4 record, 105 strikeouts, and a 2.83 ERA in 19 games.

Tiant broke through in , after he altered his delivery so that he turned away from the home plate during his motion, in effect creating a hesitation pitch. According to Tiant, the new motion was a response to a drop in his velocity due to an arm injury. Twisting and turning his body into unthinkable positions, Tiant would spend more time looking at second base than he did the plate as he prepared to throw.
In that season, he led the league in ERA , shutouts (9, including 4 consecutive!), hits per nine innings (a still-standing franchise record 5.30, which broke Herb Score's 5.85 in and would be a Major-League record low until Nolan Ryan gave up 5.26 hits/9 innings in ), strikeouts per nine innings , while finishing with a 21-9 mark. Beside this, opposing hitters batted just .168 off Tiant, a major league record, and on July 3 he struck out 19 Minnesota Twins in a ten-inning game, setting an American League record for games of that length. His 1.60 ERA was the lowest in the American League since Walter Johnson's 1.49 mark during the dead-ball era in , and second lowest in 1968 only to Bob Gibson's 1.12—the lowest ever during the Live Ball Era.
With lefty Sam McDowell, Looie is the only right-hand starting pitcher in the AL to S0 9 batters/ 9 innings 2 seasons (1967 & 1968). With McDowell and Sonny Siebert and others, the Indians staff led the AL in SO 5 consecutive years, including a record 1189 SO in 1967, a record that would stand for 30 years until the steroid era.

 Minnesota Twins

After an injury-plagued season in , Tiant was traded to the Twins in a multi-player deal that brought fellow pitcher Dean Chance and third baseman Graig Nettles to the Indians. With Minnesota, Tiant began with six wins, but then he fractured his right scapula, essentially ending his season and, some felt, his career. He showed some promise in the spring training, but he was released.

 Boston Red Sox
The Braves signed him to a minor league contract to play with their Triple-A Richmond, where he pitched well, and was acquired by the Louisville Colonels, a farm team of the Boston Red Sox.

He was quickly called back up to the majors, and despite struggling through 1971 with a 1-7 record and 4.88 ERA, he would soon become one of the greatest and most beloved pitchers in Red Sox history and a great idol in Boston.

Starting to be known as El Tiante at Fenway Park, in Tiant regained his old form with a 15-6 record and led the league with a 1.91 ERA. He would win 20 games in and 22 in .

Though hampered by back problems in , he won 18 games for the American League Champion Red Sox and then excelled for Boston in the postseason. In the playoffs he defeated the three time defending World Champion Oakland Athletics in a 7-1 three-hitter complete game, then opened the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. His father and mother, having been allowed to visit from Cuba under a special visa, were in Fenway Park that game to watch their son defeat The Big Red Machine in a 6-0 five-hit shutout. All six Red Sox runs were scored in the seventh inning; Tiant led off that inning with a base hit off Don Gullett and eventually scored on Carl Yastrzemski's single for the first of those six runs.

Tiant won Game 4 as well and had a no-decision in Game 6, which has been called the greatest game ever played, after Carlton Fisk’s dramatic game-winning walk-off home run in the 12th inning.

Tiant went 21-12 in , 12-8 in , and 13-8 in .

 New York Yankees
At the end of the 1978 season, Tiant signed as a free agent with the Yankees. Tiant compiled a 21-17 record in New York over two seasons from -80.

 Post-playing days
He finished his career after two brief stints for the Pirates and Angels.

In his 19-season career, Tiant compiled a 229-172 record with 2416 strikeouts, a 3.30 ERA, 187 complete games, and 49 shutouts in 3,486.1 innings. He was inducted to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in .

Tiant served as the head coach for the baseball team at the Savannah College of Art and Design from 1998-2001 where he posted a record of 55-97 with a .366 winning percentage

Tiant has been on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot from 1988 to 2002. According to election rules, players are only permitted on the ballot for 15 years, and Tiant has not been considered since. He was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame on July 23, 2002, in a pregame on-field ceremony at Fenway Park.

Well known for his great pitching, unique delivery, charisma, and as an avid cigar smoker, he launched a line of cigars that he formulated and designed, branding them with his nickname, El Tiante.

As of 2007, Luis Tiant resides in Southborough, MA, USA. He also works for the Red Sox as a pitching advisor.

Tiant is the subject of the documentary film "The Lost Son of Havana", produced by Kris Meyer and the Farrelly brothers, and directed by Jonathan Hock. It had its world premiere on April 23 at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, and was promptly acquired by ESPN Films.

A grassroots effort to get Tiant inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame has been started on the social media site Facebook.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Luis Tiant", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.