Chico Ruiz was born on December 5th, 1938 in Santo Domingo, Cuba. Though his father wanted Chico to follow him in the cigar business, his son had different plans. Chico was the first person in his family to get a higher education as he attended college where he studied architecture. Though he had intended to be an architect, his life was forever changed when he signed with the Cincinnati Redlegs in 1958. It is said that Ruiz and teammate Tony Perez were some of the last players to make it out of Cuba before Castro closed the borders.
After spending six seasons in the minors, Ruiz was brought up to the majors in 1964 as a shortstop (though he would make all of his appearances with the Reds at second or third base). In a game with the Phillies in September, Ruiz did something that created what became known as “The Curse of Chico Ruiz.” What Ruiz did was he stole home. Now keep in mind, this was not part of a double steal, not a wild pitch, but a straight steal of home. Ruiz was on third with two outs. Frank Robinson was at-bat, already down 0-2. Inexplicably, Ruiz broke for home. Shaken by this unexpected move, Phillies pitcher Art Mahaffey threw a wild pitch, and Ruiz made it home safely. Reds win 1-0
Pete Rose would later say, “It was the dumbest play I’ve ever seen…except it worked.”
And then the curse. You see, the Phillies had a 6 ½ game lead with only 12 games left to play. The “Phold” (as the collapse became known) began as the Phillies went on to lose 10 straight games after Ruiz’s steal, eventually being swept by the Cardinals to end their season. Phillies manager Gene Mauch said it best: “Chico F--ing Ruiz! Chico F---ing Ruiz! I can’t believe it. You guys let Chico F---ing Ruiz beat you!”
“Bench Me or Trade Me”
All in all, Ruiz only made 79 appearances with the Reds. With Perez at first, Rose at second, Deron Johnson at third, and Leo Cárdenas at short, Ruiz saw very little playing time over the next two seasons. Ruiz took this in stride, and even began bringing a comfortable cushion for him to sit on during the games. He also began wearing a pair of flashy (some would say horrible-looking) pair of alligator spiked shoes. After Cardinal fans presented Ruiz with a battery-powered personal fan, Ruiz could often be seen sitting on the bench on his cushion, his feet up in order to show off his alligator shoes, holding the fan up to his face.
After Cárdenas broke his finger in 1967, Ruiz was given his chance. After a stretch where Ruiz started for two weeks straight, he joked to manager Dave Bristol to “either bench me or trade me.”
Ruiz stayed with the Reds until 1969, when he was traded to the California Angels. He died when he drove his car into a pole outside of San Diego on February 9, 1972.
Here’s a nice news article about Ruiz from the Toledo Blade, dated June 9, 1968: http://news.google.com/newspapers?ni...pg=7328,987061