SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants were ahead of the curve when it came to scouting the international market. In the 1950s they emerged as the top importers of Latin American talent thanks to the pioneering efforts of legendary scout Alex Pompez, whose signings included Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and the
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants were ahead of the curve when it came to scouting the international market. In the 1950s they emerged as the top importers of Latin American talent thanks to the pioneering efforts of legendary scout Alex Pompez, whose signings included Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and the Alou brothers.
Despite that rich history, the club’s recent successes on the international market have been few and far between. That pattern has begun to change, however. With promising prospects like Marco Luciano, Alexander Canario and Luis Toribio in the pipeline, it’s clear the Giants have begun to re-establish themselves as major players on the international scene.
Here are the Giants’ top five international signings of all time:
1. Juan Marichal
Birthplace: Laguna Verde, Dominican Republic
Signed by the Giants for $500 in 1958, Marichal developed into one of the greatest right-handed pitchers in baseball history. Known for his distinctive high leg kick, Marichal went 243-142 with a 2.89 ERA over his 16 seasons in the Majors, 14 of which came with the Giants. He won at least 20 games six times and led the Majors in ERA with a 2.10 mark in 1969. A 10-time All-Star, Marichal won 238 games with the Giants, the most by any pitcher since the franchise moved West in 1958. He remains San Francisco’s all-time leader in complete games (244), shutouts (52), innings (3,443 2/3) and strikeouts (2,281). Marichal was elected to the Hall of Fame in '83.
2. Orlando Cepeda
Birthplace: Ponce, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rican players have been part of the MLB Draft since 1989, but prior to that they were free to sign with any team as amateur free agents. Such was the case for Cepeda, who received a $500 signing bonus after agreeing to a contract with the Giants in 1955.
A 20-year-old Cepeda debuted with the Giants in 1958 and went on to unanimously win the National League Rookie of the Year Award after batting .312 with 25 home runs and 96 RBIs over 148 games. The “Baby Bull” earned 10 All-Star nods over parts of nine seasons with the Giants (the league had two Midsummer Classics per year at the time) and finished second in NL MVP Award voting in '61, when he led the league with 46 home runs and 142 RBIs, the latter of which is San Francisco's single-season record.
Cepeda was limited to only 33 games in 1965 after suffering a right knee injury that eventually required surgery. He returned the following year, but he appeared in only 19 games for the Giants before being traded to the Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Ray Sadecki on May 8, 1966. In St. Louis, Cepeda won two NL pennants, a World Series title and the '67 NL MVP Award. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.
3. Felipe Alou
Birthplace: Bajos de Haina, Dominican Republic
Alou is rightfully viewed as a pioneer among Latin American players, as he cleared the way for waves of international talent to begin permeating the Majors after signing with the Giants for $200 in 1955. He debuted in San Francisco three years later, becoming only the second Dominican-born player to reach the Majors after Ozzie Virgil. A three-time All-Star, Alou batted .286 with 2,101 hits and 206 home runs over his 17-year career with the Giants, Braves, A’s, Yankees, Expos and Brewers.
Alou continued to break barriers even after his playing career ended, when he was appointed the manager of the Expos in 1992 -- the first Dominican-born skipper in Major League history. Alou spent 10 years with Montreal before returning to the Giants to replace Dusty Baker as manager ahead of the 2003 season. He went 1,033-1,021 over his 14-year managerial career, winning the NL Manager of the Year Award with the Expos in 1994.
4. Matty Alou
Birthplace: Bajos de Haina, Dominican Republic
Felipe marked only the beginning of the Alou legacy, as he was the first of three brothers to reach the Majors. On Sept. 15, 1963, Felipe manned center field for the Giants and was flanked late in the game by his two younger brothers, Mateo and Jesús, making them the only trio of brothers to occupy the same outfield.
Mateo, whose name was anglicized to Matty in the United States, was the middle Alou brother and signed with the Giants in the winter before the 1957 season. He debuted in San Francisco in 1960 and spent six seasons with the Giants before being traded to the Pirates. Matty enjoyed his greatest success in Pittsburgh, where he captured the '66 batting title with a .342 average. (Felipe finished second at .327.) A career .307 hitter, Matty earned two All-Star selections over his 15-year career and won the '72 World Series as a member of the A’s.
5. Pablo Sandoval
Birthplace: Puerto Cabello, Venezuela
Sandoval signed with the Giants at age 16 in 2003 and later became a key piece of the club’s three World Series-winning teams in 2010, '12 and '14. He was named the World Series MVP in 2012, when he became only the fourth player to hit three home runs in a Fall Classic game. A two-time All-Star and .280 career hitter, Sandoval spent the first seven seasons of his career in San Francisco before leaving to sign a five-year, $95 million deal with the Red Sox following the '14 season. The Panda burned his share of bridges on his way out, but he reconciled with teammates and fans after returning to the Giants in '17, developing into a clubhouse leader and valuable utility player. He even moonlighted as an occasional relief pitcher.
Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.