02/23/06 8:00 AM ET
Oms added excitement to game
Negro League outfielder 'was an outstanding all-around player'
By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com
If a game happened to be one-sided, Oms wanted to make sure the fans got their fair share of entertainment. So, when a lazy fly ball came his way, he would sometimes catch it behind his back to add some spice to the day at the ballpark.
For the most part, Oms didn't need a lot of razzle-dazzle to send the spectators home with some rich memories. An exalted figure in Cuba, Oms could hit for average and power and could turn a game around with his defense in the outfield.
"Oms was an outstanding all-around player who maybe didn't get as much recognition as some others," said Negro Leagues historian James Riley. "I would say he's just below a few other Cuban players, but he's probably in the top half-dozen."
Oms carved a niche for himself with the Cuban Stars and New York Cubans. He was a .320 lifetime hitter with a .490 slugging percentage, and paired with Martin Dihigo to lead the Cuban Stars' offense.
In the Cuban Winter Leagues, Oms seemed to be at his best.
Oms collected 537 Cuban Winter League hits for a lifetime .345 average. He won batting crowns in 1924-25 (.393); 1928-29 (.432) and 1929-30 (.380). Oms led the CWL with 76 hits in '28-29 and with 44 in 1931-32, when his 14 stolen bases represented a career high.
Oms was nicknamed El Caballero -- the gentleman. That moniker spoke to his graceful demeanor on and off the field. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Oms played on championship teams in Santa Clara, Havana, Almendares and Cienfuegos.
"The stats are really good," Riley said. "I would rank him just a little short of Hall of Fame credentials, but there's no doubt he was an excellent player."
Oms continued to play in Venezuela into the 1940s and was regarded as Venezuela's top defensive outfielder in '43. One year later, Oms was elected to the Cuban Hall of Fame.
Oms was still going strong at 40 when he hit .354 for the 1935 New York Cubans. His career in the Negro Leagues was highlighted by two three-homer games and a couple of 5-for-5 performances.
The .345 lifetime average in the CWL ranks Oms second all-time behind Cristobal Torriente. In 1928, Oms recorded a 30-game hitting streak, the longest in Cuban League history.
Those numbers don't lie. "The Gentleman" wasn't too kind to opposing pitchers.
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.