Buck Canel points out that there is one essential technique in winning the Latins' loyalty. "You have to give them a pat on the back once in a while," he says. "A physical pat. A pat on the back, that touch of the hand, means a lot more than 1,000 words. That pat is the spirit of friendliness, and that touch of your hand makes a Latin feel all right. It makes him say to himself, 'I'm in a strange land, I'm a ballplayer and I'm doing all right.' Give the Latin that pat and say, 'Hola, viejo. �Com� te val?' which means, 'Hello, old man, how's it going?' and he eats it up."
Alex Pompez agrees. In fact, he has patted so many Latins that he finds himself, to his sharp embarrassment, unable to break the habit here. "Say I'm walking around New York looking for a street address," says Pomp. "I ask a policeman the way. He tells me, I say, 'Thank you, officer,' and then I reach out and give him two little pats on the arm. It's a habit I want to get rid of here." When Pomp goes to sign a Latin prospect he lets himself go, emotionally, in Spanish. "The words just pop out of my mouth!" he exclaims. "I'm like a medium. I get a blessing. I go to the mothers and fathers and I say, 'Every team has money to offer. But no team has a man like me! Your boy go with the Giants, and I look after him. Your boy get sick, I see he get better. With the other clubs no one speak Spanish. He might die, and no one give him a tumble!' So the mother says, 'I want my boy to go with the Giants because I know that Pompez will take care of him.' " Such persuasiveness has helped the Giants to land Marichal, Cepeda and the three Alou brothers.
In the majors Latin Americans generally stay together. A number of clubs put the Latins next to one another in the locker room, but this can annoy them. As Vic Power, an uninhibited Puerto Rican, says, "They like to be together, but they have to do it themselves. If you put them together, you are prejudiced. They have a complex. They think the world is against them. If a pitcher throws close to them, they think he is throwing at them. They stick together. The Puerto Ricans stick with the Puerto Ricans, and the Cubans run around with Cubans. But as a group, they are very sentimental."
Before the last All-Star Game, Power tried to tell the other Latins on the Angels how to vote. "They wanted to vote for Felix Mantilla. I asked them, 'Don't you think Bobby Richardson is a better second baseman?' They said, 'Yes, but Mantilla is one of us. And we have to vote for Campaneris.' "
Before a game, Latins from opposing clubs like to meet at the batting cage. "We just talk fun," says Cepeda. "How you say, 'kick it around.' It's a nice feeling to meet the friends that talk your language and that you have gone up through the minor leagues with." Unfortunately for the Latins in the National League, the league office has ordered them to stop this pregame socializing, citing the nonfraternization rule. Cepeda says he was told there was a danger of players revealing signals, but he wonders if perhaps someone who could not understand Spanish made the ruling out of ignorance.
Language is one of the bonds holding the Latins together. "As long as you speak Spanish, you're in the clan," says Al McBean. The boundaries of the clan bend at times to include a non-Latin who is simp�tico (such as White Sox Coach Ray Berres, known as nariz de aguja—needle nose) or who speaks Spanish. Most Latins still have great difficulty with English. In the old days Griffith used to farm out Cubans by dropping them off at the Washington railroad station with signs saying " Springfield. Mass." around their necks. When Angel Scull, former Senator farmhand, first started out in the minors he had the disconcerting habit of yelling when a fly ball was hit, "I've got it! You take it!" Ed Lopat, pitching coach for the A's, says, "I know from trying to work with Latin pitchers that unless they speak good English, it's just about impossible to tell them what they are doing wrong, what they are doing right and what they ought to improve. They nod their heads at you and maybe even smile, but you know you just aren't getting through to them 90% of the time." Freddie Frederico, trainer for the Angels, recalls when Felix Torres tried to tell him something about his throwing arm. "I worked on his left arm for a couple of days before I discovered he was right-handed," Frederico says.
Race is another factor that tends to keep Latins together. Colored Latins are often upset by the discrimination they encounter when they first come to the States. Vic Power's brother could not take it and went back home. Power fought back in his own way. Once when he was questioned for jaywalking, he explained, "I saw the white people crossing with the green light, so I crossed with the red one." In a restaurant a waiter told him, "We don't serve colored people here." "That's all right," said Power, "I don't like to eat them." Between themselves Latins kid about skin color. A light-skinned player might tell a dark-skinned one that he cooked in the oven too long or that he was born at midnight. No offense is taken, even when the remark is made by a white Latin.
The two principal hangouts for Latins in the majors are Tonitas restaurant in Los Angeles and El Rancho Grande in New York. El Rancho is a sort of Latin Toots Shor's. It draws many American players besides Latins. Patsy Alvarez, the proprietor, is an old crony of Al Lopez. They grew up together in Tampa, where Alvarez boxed under the name of The Patent Leather Kid because he has hair like patent leather. Pictures of players line the walls, and on occasion romance has even blossomed in the restaurant. "Right here, in this booth, Luis Aparicio met Sonia!" Alvarez exclaimed recently, while supervising the preparation of roast pig in garlic sauce for a Houston rookie. Alvarez knows the favorite dish of every player, and the players often go into the kitchen themselves to select the ingredients for a meal. " Cepeda goes for Asopao de Marisco, seafood saut�, a real Puerto Rican dish," says Alvarez. "Now comes in Pizarro. Pizarro goes for that roast pig in garlic sauce. Now Aparicio goes for tacos. The Chicago team! What you theenk they cat? Black beans, tacos and fried rice!" Alvarez buys his plantains, cooking bananas, from Marichal's uncle, who has an import tropical-vegetable business in uptown Manhattan at East 111th Street and Park Avenue. Recently Alvarez asked Marichal to ask his uncle if he could get a discount; the uncle agreed.
Of the Latin American countries, Cuba has supplied the most ballplayers to the majors. Eight Latins were selected for the All-Star Game this year, and four of them were Cubans. For the last four years, however, Castro has kept Cuba sealed off from the U.S. and the imperialist major leagues. Cuban expatriates and scouts estimate that there are about 20 big-league prospects in Cuba now, but the only way they can get out is by boat on a dark night. Not one Cuban player in the majors has returned to Cuba, and the controlled press ignores them. "The players are in constant touch with relatives in Cuba with letters and phone calls," says Jess Losada, a broadcaster for the Miami-based Free Cuba Sports Union. "They send a lot of packages, mostly medicines, sometimes clothing. Most of the packages get through. It's a strange situation. Cuba is bitter at the athletes, but it doesn't take it out on the relatives. None go back to visit, though. They'd never get back out."
Expatriate players have not been politically active against Castro because, Losada says, "Organized baseball told them not to, and they follow the rules." One Miami radio station. WFAB, beams a half-hour sports program into Cuba every evening, and the sports director, Emilio Cabrera, who played for the Havana Sugar Kings, interviews a Cuban player every night, either in person or by beeper phone. Cabrera gets about 14 letters a week from Cuba, and they make it obvious that baseball news from the U.S. is suppressed within the country. "However, we don't get too much jamming during the sports program," says a WFAB official. "It's when there is news on government issues or when we editorialize that they jam."