Monday, November 21, 2011
A baseball card mystery: Who is Matt Guante?Posted by Bruce Markusen
Actually, I know who Matt Guante is supposed to be; it is Cecilio Guante, a tall, hard-throwing reliever for the Pirates in the early 1980s.
The real question is this: How did Donruss come to identify a Dominican pitcher named Cecilio with an American name like Matt?
I could understand if Donruss had published the card with the name of “Claudio Guante.” Or “Cirilo Guante.” Or even something like “Carlos Guante.”
But Matt Guante? That’s not even close. It’s not a Latino name. It’s not a nickname that would normally be given to a Latino player. It just doesn’t fit.
Perhaps the answer could be found in his full name. Guante has no middle name, but his secondary last name (in Latino culture, his mother’s maiden name) is Magallane, so I don’t see how that could be mistaken for Matt. Perhaps Mag, or Mags, but not Matt.
While this mystery remains unanswered, I like this card for other reasons. Cecilio Guante was one of my favorite players of the 1980s. I liked him in part because he pitched for the Pirates, one of the three teams I followed at the time. I also liked that he came into games in the seventh and eighth innings throwing absolute gas.
Then there was his funky three-quarters delivery, which, coupled with his lanky build, made him doubly tough on right-handed batters. More to the point, I just loved the name. Cecilio Guante is just so smooth and lyrical to say. The name becomes even more amusing to someone who grew up in a bilingual household. I knew immediately that “Guante” is Spanish for glove. So his name translated into Cecil Glove! How could you not love that?
I became even more inclined to follow Guante when he joined the Yankees as part of the blockbuster Rick Rhoden-for-Doug Drabek trade. In becoming one of the set-up men to Dave Righetti, Guante struggled in his adjustment to the American League.
He pitched much more effectively in his second season in the Bronx, but he absolutely hated New York, particularly the Big Apple media. In fact, Guante pretended that he spoke no English as a way of minimizing his interactions with inquiring writers. It was not until his final day in pinstripes, when he was traded to Texas for Dale Mohorcic, that he revealed to writers that he could speak English more than acceptably.
Guante spent some time in Texas and Cleveland before his career ended rather abruptly at the age of 30. He finished his big league service with 505 strikeouts in 585 innings and a respectable 3.48 ERA—and then nothing. The fast end to his career is just about as mystifying as his 1983 Donruss card.
Just how did he become Matt Guante?
Bruce Markusen is the author of seven books on baseball, including the award-winning A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, the recipient of the Seymour Medal from the Society for American Baseball Research. He has also written The Team That Changed Baseball: Roberto Clemente and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates, Tales From The Mets Dugout, and The Orlando Cepeda Story.