With the recent success of Rick Ankiel, I thought now would be a good time to take a look at a successful two way player from the Negro Leagues: Manuel “Cocaína” Garcia.
There were some pitchers with great nicknames, Steel Arm Davis, Ankleball Moss — that’s where that mean sonuvagun threw the ball from, his ankles — and Cocaína Garcia. Cocaína, whom I used to face down in Cuba, got his name from his wicked curveball, which made all us hitters go numb.
– Buck O’Neil, from his book I Was Right On Time: My Journey From The Negro Leagues To The Majors
Not to be confused with Silvio Garcia, Branch Rickey’s initial choice to break MLB’s colour barrier, Manuel “Cocaina” Garcia had a career that lasted from 1926 to 1949, spread out between the Cuban League, Negro Leagues, Dominican League and Mexican League. Garcia’s pitching style would be called that of a “crafty lefthander”; he featured a knee buckling curve, fastball that wasn’t very fast, and a “drop ball” as it was known at the time.
Negro, Cuba, Dominican, and Mexican leagues
Cocaína Garcia had a career that lasted from 1926 to 1949, spread out between the Cuban League, Negro Leagues, Dominican League, and Mexican League.
Garcia didn’t really obtain notoriety until approximately 10 years into his career, where he became the staff ace and part time outfielder for Santa Clara of the Cuban Winter League.
In 1942 he went 19-14 with 22 CG in 280 IP. He also had 44RBI in 193AB and only struck out 9 times as an outfielder.
He reached his peak in 1942 at the age of 37. That season he went 10-3 and hit .340 for Havana.
In 1943 he won 12 games in a row for Havana and threw a no hitter versus Marianao.
His last year in Cuba was the 1947-1948 year, when he was 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and only 8 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings for the champion Havana team. He ranked among the all-time leaders in seasons pitched (17, tied for fifth), games pitched (222, 10th), complete games (93, fifth, behind Martin Dihigo, Dolf Luque and two Deadball Era pitchers, Jose Munoz and Carlos Royer), wins (85, fifth behind Dihigo, Luque, Royer and Zabala and ahead of Munoz and Jose Mendez) and losses (61, 7th). He was elected into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.
Garcia played two more years in Mexico, batting .316/~.381/.421 for Pueblo and Tampico in 1948 and going 4-3, 3.86 on the hill. In 1949, at the old age of 43, Cocaina hit .296/~.374/.342 for Veracruz and the Nuevo Laredo Owls; as a pitcher, he went 8-5 with a 4.37 ERA. Overall, he was 96-68 with a 3.83 as a pitcher in Mexico and hit .281/~.339/.374 at the plate in 8 seasons there.