Happy birthday to Zoilo Versalles, the first Latino MVP in MLB history
Latinos make up more than a quarter of MLB's rosters today, but baseball's demographics were quite different in 1965. The influx of players from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba and elsewhere in Latin America was just getting started at that time. And it was in that year that Twins shortstop Zoilo Versalles made history as the first Latin American MVP in either league.
While the Cuban-born Versalles' hitting stats from that year don't appear spectacular -- his triple-slash line was .273/.319/.462, with 19 home runs and 77 RBIs -- if you believe advanced statistics from the time period, he was actually a savvy choice. His great defense and efficient basestealing (27 steals in 32 tries) helped make him worth around 7 WAR, leading the league according to either the Baseball-Reference or FanGraphs version of the stat.
Interestingly, the second-place finisher in the '65 MVP vote also came from the AL champion Twins, and was also a Latino -- fellow Cuban Tony Oliva. Versalles never regained MVP form, but he played with the Twins, Dodgers, Indians, Senators and Braves until 1971. He remained a Twin Cities resident until his death in 1995, and would have been 74 years old today.