Six years after Latin American players were shut out from baseball's all-century team, the sport launched a promotion yesterday to select a "Latino Legends Team."
Acknowledging the increased influence of its Spanish-speaking players and audience, baseball will conduct fan balloting from Monday through Oct. 10 and announce the winners before Game 4 of the World Series.
In the 1999 voting for the all-century team, the closest a Latin player got to one of the 30 spots was Roberto Clemente, who finished 10th behind Pete Rose in balloting for the nine outfield members.
"There are those who felt the Latin player-base community had been overlooked by fans in that election," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.
Hall of Famer Juan Marichal and Yankees closer Mariano Rivera attended the news conference, but Commissioner Bud Selig was absent.
"In my day, it was very, very hard for a Latino player to make it to the major leagues and establish himself at that level," Marichal said.
A record 29.2 percent of players on Opening Day major league rosters were born outside the 50 states, with 91 players from the Dominican Republic, 46 from Venezuela, 34 from Puerto Rico and 18 from Mexico.
"Times are changing," Rivera said. "I can't conceive what Juan Marichal and all those guys went through before. Today you have so many Latin players, so many Latino superstars, they take care of the kids when they come up to the big leagues. It's different now. It's totally different."
After signing Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran, the New York Mets appear to have increased their marketing to Hispanics, with some dubbing the team "Los Mets."
* GOODEN SOUGHT: Former star Dwight Gooden was being sought by police on a felony warrant after he allegedly drove away from an officer who stopped him on suspicion of drunken driving.
Gooden, 41, left the scene of the traffic stop early Monday after refusing to get out his 2004 BMW to take a field sobriety test, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.
The officer stopped Gooden's car because he was weaving in traffic near downtown Tampa. Gooden, a Tampa native, has a history of drug abuse and is awaiting trial on a domestic violence charge.
-- From News Services