César Tovar

César Tovar
Infielder/ Outfielder
Born: July 3, 1940(1940-07-03)
Caracas, Venezuela
Died: July 14, 1994(1994-07-14) (aged 54)
Caracas, Venezuela
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
April 12, 1965 for the Minnesota Twins
Last MLB appearance
September 29, 1976 for the New York Yankees
Career statistics
Batting average     .278
Home runs     46
Runs batted in     435
Stolen bases     226
Career highlights and awards
  • AL record 164 games played in 1967
  • Led AL in doubles in 1970 with 36
  • Led AL in triples in 1970 with 13
  • Led AL in hits in 1971 with 204

César Leonardo Tovar (July 3, 1940 - July 14, 1994), nicknamed "Pepito" and "Mr. Versatility", was a Venezuelan professional baseball player. He played in Major League Baseball for the Minnesota Twins (1965–72), Philadelphia Phillies (1973), Texas Rangers (1974-1975), Oakland Athletics (1975-1976) and New York Yankees (1976).[1] Tovar was a right-handed batter capable of playing various defensive positions on the field. He was the second player in major league history to play all nine positions during a single game.[2][3]


Major League career

Cesar Tovar was born in Caracas, Venezuela.[1] He was signed by the Cincinnati Redlegs (Reds) in 1959 as an 18 year old international free agent. He was then assigned to the Geneva Redlegs in the D-league New York-Penn League where he hit .252 in 87 games. He then batted .298, .338, and .329 in his next three pro seasons as he moved up the Reds' minor league system. He was promoted to Triple-A in 1963 and hit .297 with 115 runs while showing good speed and excellent gap power (41 doubles, 9 triples and 17 stolen bases in 152 games), but was blocked in Cincinnati by both a young Pete Rose at second base and veteran all-star center fielder Vada Pinson. Remaining at Triple-A in 1964, he slumped, hitting .275 with a .379 slugging percentage.[4]

However he got his chance to play when the Reds traded Tovar to the Minnesota Twins for the young southpaw, Gerry Arrigo. After going north with the team in 1965, Tovar made his major league debut on April 12.[5][6] However he would soon be sent back to AAA Denver and after hitting .328, he would receive a September call-up and see action in a total of 18 games in the season. However, Tovar would be left off the post-season roster and would watch the Twins' six-game World Series loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers from home.

Starting in 1966, the Twins would make ample use of Tovar's ability to play a variety of positions. In 1967, he would divide his fielding season between third base (70 games), center field (64), second base (36), left field (10), shortstop (9) and right field (5), setting an American League record of 164 games played (the Twins had two tie games in the 1967 season) and leading the league with 726 plate appearances and 649 at-bats.[7] He was also among the top 10 batters in runs, hits, doubles, triples, stolen bases, on base percentage, hit by pitch and sacrifice hits.[7] At the end of the 1967 season, the Triple Crown Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrzemski received all but one vote for the American League Most Valuable Player Award; the lone dissenting ballot (cast by Minneapolis Star sports writer Max Nichols) was marked in favor of Tovar and he would finish 7th in the MVP voting.[8]

On September 22, 1968, Tovar became the second player after Bert Campaneris (Kansas City Athletics, 1965) to play all nine fielding positions in a game. The two were later joined by Scott Sheldon (Texas Rangers, 2000) and Shane Halter (Detroit Tigers, 2000) as the only four players in MLB history to have accomplished the feat.[2][9][10][11][12] Tovar started the game on the mound against Oakland and pitched one scoreless inning in which he struck out Reggie Jackson. As fate would have it, the first batter he faced was Campaneris.

On May 18, 1969, Tovar combined with Rod Carew to set a major league record for most steals by a club in one inning with five. In the third inning against a Detroit battery of Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan, Tovar stole third base and home. Carew followed by stealing second base, third base and home.[12][13][14] The two steals of home in the same inning also tied a record.

In 1970, Tovar ended the season with a .300 batting average, ranked third in the league in total hits with 195, and second in runs scored with 120.[15] As he improved at the plate, he also moved less around the diamond - playing primarily center field in 1970, left field in 1971, and right field in 1972. He improved his hitting through 1971, when he hit for a .311 batting average and led the league with 204 hits.[16] In 1971, SPORT magazine polled major league players to identify the game's most competitive player. Pete Rose won; the runners-up were Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, and César Tovar. On September 19, 1972, Tovar belted a walk-off home run to hit for the cycle.[17] Only four other players in major league baseball history have completed a cycle with a game-ending homer: Ken Boyer (1961),[18] George Brett (1979),[19] Dwight Evans (1984)[20] and Carlos González (2010).[21]

After a subpar season in 1972, the Twins traded Tovar on November 30 to the Philadelphia Phillies for first baseman/outfielder Joe Lis and pitchers Ken Reynolds and Ken Sanders. Tovar would then spend the 1973 season platooning with a young Mike Schmidt at third base. After being purchased by the Texas Rangers in December 1973, Tovar had a brief resurgence in 1974 as the leadoff hitter for Billy Martin, his Twins manager in 1970, hitting .292 with a .354 on-base percentage. The Rangers would sell Tovar to the Oakland A's in August 1975 and he would spend his last two seasons as a pinch hitter/defensive replacement for the A's and New York Yankees and retired following the end of the 1976 season.

Career statistics

In his 12-year career, Tovar played in 1448 games with 1546 hits in 5569 at bats for a .278 batting average along with 46 home runs, 435 RBI, 834 runs, 253 doubles, 55 triples, 226 stolen bases and a .335 on base percentage.[1][22][23]

Tovar is regarded as the all-time American League leader in breaking up no-hit attempts with five.[12][24][25] On April 30, 1967, Tovar's single was the only hit against the Washington Senators' Barry Moore.[26] On August 10, 1969, Mike Cuellar of the Baltimore Orioles extended his streak of consecutive batters retired to 35 before surrendering a ninth-inning single to Tovar, which also broke up Cuellar's bid for a no-hitter.[27] Earlier in the season (May 15), he broke up the no-hit bid of another Baltimore pitcher, Dave McNally.[28] Tovar was responsible for spoiling two other no-hitters during his career: against the Washington's Dick Bosman (August 13, 1970) and the Yankees' Jim "Catfish" Hunter (May 31, 1975).[29][30]


After retiring from the majors, Tovar returned to his native Venezuela. In 1979, Tovar played in the short-lived Inter-American League for the Caracas Metropolitanos and hit .285 for manager Jim Busby.[3] In August 1990, he managed the Venezuelan team to a 1-7 last place finish in the Baseball World Cup, which was held in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.[31]

César Tovar died on July 14, 1994 of pancreatic cancer in Caracas, Venezuelan Capital District, Venezuela, at 54 years of age.[32] Tovar was inducted into the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.[33]

Related links

External links


  1. ^ a b c César Tovar at Baseball Reference
  2. ^ a b The Day César Tovar Played All 9 Positions, by Emil Rothe, Baseball Digest, February 1973, Vol. 32, No. 2, ISSN 0005-609X
  3. ^ a b http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Cesar_Tovar
  4. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=tovar-001ces
  5. ^ http://armchairgm.wikia.com
  6. ^ César Tovar Trades and Transactions at Baseball Almanac
  7. ^ a b 1967 American League Batting Leaders at Baseball Reference
  8. ^ 1967 American League Most Valuable Player Award voting results at Baseball Reference
  9. ^ September 22, 1968 Athletics-Twins box score at Baseball Almanac
  10. ^ September 22, 1968 Athletics-Twins box score at Baseball Reference
  11. ^ When César Tovar Played All Nine Positions in One Game by Bruce Markusen, Baseball Digest, December 1998, Vol. 57, No. 12, ISSN 0005-609X
  12. ^ a b c César Tovar at The Baseball Page
  13. ^ May 18, 1969 Tigers-Twins box score at Baseball Reference
  14. ^ May 18, 1969 Tigers-Twins box score at Baseball Almanac
  15. ^ 1970 American League Batting Leaders at Baseball Reference
  16. ^ 1971 American League Batting Leaders at Baseball Reference
  17. ^ Retrosheet box score – Minnesota Twins 5, Texas Rangers 3 game played on September 19, 1972 at Metropolitan Stadium
  18. ^ Retrosheet box score – St. Louis Cardinals 6, Chicago Cubs 5 (2), game played on September 14, 1961 at Busch Stadium
  19. ^ Retrosheet box score – Kansas City Royals 5, Baltimore Orioles 4, game played on May 28, 1979 at Royals Stadium
  20. ^ Retrosheet box score – Boston Red Sox 9, Seattle Mariners 6, game played on June 28, 1984 at Fenway Park
  21. ^ ESPN box score – Colorado Rockies 6, Chicago Cubs 5, game played on July 31, 2010 at Coors Field
  22. ^ César Tovar at Baseball Almanac
  23. ^ César Tovar at The Baseball Cube
  24. ^ George Vass, Baseball Digest, October 1989, Vol. 48, No. 10 ISSN 0005-609X
  25. ^ Baseball Digest, August 2007, Vol. 66, No. 6 ISSN 0005-609X
  26. ^ April 30, 1967 Twins-Senators box score at Baseball Reference
  27. ^ August 10, 1969 Twins-Orioles box score at Baseball Reference
  28. ^ May 15, 1969 Orioles-Twins box score at Baseball Reference
  29. ^ August 13, 1970 Twins-Senators box score at Baseball Reference
  30. ^ May 31, 1975 Yankees-Rangers box score at Baseball Reference
  31. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/1990_Baseball_World_Cup
  32. ^ César Tovar obituary at the New York Times
  33. ^ Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame at Baseball Reference

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