Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Luis Olmo, 1920-2017.

I just read a few moments ago, about the death of one Luis Olmo at the age of 97.

At a time when Major League Baseball was whites only, Olmo was the first Puerto Rican position player in the major leagues when he made his debut for the Dodgers of Brooklyn way back during the depths of World War II, in 1943.

Olmo died in Santurce on Friday--he had been the oldest living ex-Dodger.

Olmo was something of a legend when I played ball in the Mexican League some 1,000 years ago. 

After two pretty good seasons for the Dodgers in 1943 and 1944, he had a breakout year in 1945.

He hit .313, had 110 RBI, 10 homers, led the league in triples with 13 and stole 15 bases (when that was a lot.)

Olmo made $6,000 that season and asked Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers for a raise to $10,000. Rickey offered the 25-year-old $6,500.

At that time, some Mexican entrepreneurs were creating a rival league south of the border. They offered Olmo $25,000 plus expenses, and he jumped. 

He was banned by Major League Baseball and though the Mexican League folded, he didn't return to the big show until his suspension was rescinded in 1949.

As a part-timer, he batted .305 that season. But the Dodgers traded him to the Boston Braves where for two seasons he barely scratched a hit. He batted .227 and .196 his last two stanzas in the league.

Olmo was a hero, like I said, in the Mexican League during my day, because he shoved a big middle finger at the man--and finally made some of the money he deserved.

These days, at least in the ad industry, we work in a closed business. In New York, something like 80% of the ad jobs are controlled by the big four holding companies and, this is merely an allegation, it seems there is colluding and downward pressure on wages. That's a fancy way of saying our industry's Luis Olmos are getting screwed. And there's no place to jump.

So, we labor on.

Scratching out hits and a living. In an industry that seems to have forgotten the importance of people who can hit a double to the opposite field.

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