Griffin, like Fernandez, has a nickname: el Brujo ("the Magician"), which is derived from his fielding wizardry. Regie Otero, a Cleveland scout, signed him out of San Esteban High School when he was 16, and within three years he was playing in the majors. The Indians traded him to Toronto for reliever Victor Cruz, a disastrous deal for Cleveland, although the Indians would soon have another shortstop from Consuelo. Griffin was the AL co-Rookie of the Year in '79, hitting .287, and though he has never matched that, he is still prized for his leadership, fielding and fearless baserunning. Last year, against the Mariners, on a bases-loaded walk with two outs, Griffin trotted over to third, and when he saw that the pitcher and catcher weren't paying attention to him, he started running for home and scored the winning run.
Griffin is particularly mindful of his responsibility to help the youngsters of San Pedro. "I see myself in them all the time," he says. He sponsors not one, but two Little League teams in Consuelo. The town is not hard to find, because guarding its entrance is an old steam locomotive, Ing. Consuelo 4, a reminder of the glory days when the train used to run through the sugar mill. Right behind the locomotive is an expanse of baseball and softball fields, which are all you need to see to understand why baseball is Consuelo's second-biggest industry.
"That's what there is in Consuelo," says shortstop Julio Franco of Consuelo and Cleveland. "Sugar and baseball. My father worked in the factory there, and so did I.I dusted the floors, worked the machines, moved the sugar from one place to the other, but I also played baseball for the factory. That's one reason to play amateur baseball, so you can get a job with the factory."
The Phillies signed Franco when he was 16, and in five minor league seasons he never hit below .300. He came to Cleveland in the big five-for-one trade for Von Hayes before the '83 season, and he has hit .273, .286, .288 and .306 since then, with 80, 79, 90 and 74 RBIs. He is clearly the most dangerous hitter among Dominican shortstops, his fielding has suffered from a lack of concentration. He can make the spectacular play but muff the routine one. In '85 the Indians tried to move him to second, but they abandoned that experiment and since then he has been much more consistent defensively. Last year he reduced his errors to 18 from 35 the season before.
The word quixotic could have been coined for Franco, who can be alternately charming and infuriating. He has been known to berate official scorers, then apologize profusely to them the next day. He spent three days in a Dominican jail in '84 after officials confiscated an unregistered gun, but then Cervantes himself spent some time in the slammer. He jumps on teammates he deems lazy, and he is very solicitous of children. In April '85 he went AWOL for a day in New York, later explaining he was ill at an old friend's house in the Bronx and overslept. He went all of last season without an incident, though, so he may be growing up." I know I get in trouble," Franco says, "but part of it is because I don't want to be just good, I want to be the best."
Angelina is a town much like Consuelo, only not so lucky. The sugar mill in Angelina has closed down, so most everybody is out of work. Angelina is where Mariano Duncan grew up, in a tin shack of a house that wasn't more than six feet high. The shack was recently torn down and, as a result, the kids in Angelina now have a little more room to play.
Mariano lived in that shack with his mother and father and 10 brothers and sisters until last year. His father, who lost his left leg while working in the cane fields many years ago, was a shoemaker, and his mother sold fruit and vegetables and poultry from a cart. Nilda, his mother, says, "Sometimes Mariano helped me sell, but most of the time, it was pelota, pelota, pelota. I said, 'Mariano, you have to work. We have to eat.' And he would say, 'Don't worry, Mother, when I become a ballplayer, we will be living well.' We didn't believe him, but here we are."
Nilda is sitting on the porch of a red two-story house in the center of San Pedro. In fact, the house belonged to Joaquin Andujar before he moved into his bigger home, and it comes complete with the tin roof cutouts Joaquin put in years ago to remind him of his own humble childhood (SI, Jan. 24, 1983). The Duncans, who moved in last winter, probably don't need reminders of their former poverty.
"I didn't play shortstop much when I was growing up," says Mariano, who's fond of the jeweled trappings of success. "Mostly centerfield. When I was 17,I had a tryout with the Dodgers, but they said I was too skinny and not fast enough. But after that, I seemed to get stronger every day, and in a few months Rafael Avila and Elvio Jimenez of the Dodgers saw me again and signed me for $5,000."
Duncan spent only two years in the minors, mostly at second base, before he made the Dodgers in spring training of '85. He played second when Steve Sax was hurt the first month of the season, and then he switched to short when Dave Anderson was injured. He turned out to be a godsend at a position he had never regularly played, showing extraordinary range. He was also new to switch-hitting, but he batted .244 with 38 stolen bases. Perhaps the surest sign that he had reached the big time was when he began dating a Los Angeles Raider cheerleader.