RIP to Ramon Conde, whose MLB career was limited to 16 hitless at-bats for the 1962 Chicago White Sox. He died from a heart attack on February 23 while visiting Florida to watch preseason baseball. He was 85 years old. Conde may have played just one season in the major leagues, but he had an extensive career in the minors and was an important part of Puerto Rico winter ball history. He was a former player, manager and general manager of the Mayagüez Indians.
Ramón Conde was born in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, on December 29, 1934. His father, Ceferino, was a pitcher and was in fact still playing when his son started professional ball. Conde discovered baseball at a pretty early age and worked at a batboy for Ponce in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Conde attended high school in Juana Diaz and began his minor league journey with the New York Giants before the 1954 season. He made a positive impression on his first manager, Dave Garcia with the Sioux City Soos.
“I didn’t think he was ready for Class A ball,” said Garcia, who also served as Conde’s translator. “But he showed me a world of confidence — and enough ability. He hits the curve ball as well as any rookie I’ve seen. He has to play short for us, but his future is at second. I think it’s a good future, too.”
Despite missing the first month, Conde slammed 14 home runs and hit .331 in 1954. He vied for the Western League batting title with a .346 average for the Soos in 1955, but he struggled in a AA audition and ended up spending several more seasons in A-ball. Conde continued to hit well, while playing shortstop, third base and second base. He was an All-Star for Springfield in 1957, when he clubbed 43 doubles and hit .308.
Conde changed franchises several times in the late 1950s. He was drafted from the Giants to the Kansas City Athletics, who then dealt him to the Philadelphia Phillies before he played a game for the organization. Philadelphia then sold him to the Dodgers, who traded him in March of 1962 to the White Sox. The uniform didn’t really matter, though, Conde kept hitting wherever he played.
The third baseman was named an All-Star for the AA Texas League in 1959, and he hit .326 on the season for the Victoria Rosebuds. He also won a Silver Glove award for his excellent work at third base. Conde got his first taste of AAA baseball in 1960 with the Spokane Indians, and he batted .325 with 74 RBIs. He had a 54-game errorless streak while playing third base, too. He also saw snow for the first time in his life, while visiting Mount Spokane. Conde became the first player ever to win the Rawlings Silver Glove award three years in a row, from 1959 through 1961. He was so popular with Spokane fans that when he returned to town as a visiting ballplayer, Spokane would advertise his presence in the papers.
Conde started the 1962 season with the Indianapolis Indians and was up to his old tricks — .343 average, 12 homers, 72 RBIs — when the White Sox brought him to the majors on July 12. His major-league debut came on July 17 in the first game of a doubleheader against the Senators. He went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. He started one more game at third base for the Sox, but mostly he appeared as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement. He appeared in 14 games and went 0-for-16, with 3 walks, 3 strikeouts and an RBI. He played a total of 31 innings at third base and had 1 error in 9 chances for an .889 fielding percentage.
The White Sox sent Conde back to Indianapolis on August 17, in favor of pitcher Verle Tiefenthaler. The 27-year-old never returned to the major leagues, though he played in the minors through 1970. The Sox traded him to the Yankees in 1967 and re-acquired him the following season. He was released in 1968 and signed with the Cincinnati Reds, for whom he finished his playing career.
Conde never really understood why he didn’t get more chances in the majors. The only knock on him was a lack of speed on the basepaths, but he was a steady hitter with decent power and excellent defensive skills.
“My wife and I sit down and look at all the players I have played with that have already gone up. They didn’t hit as well as I did then and they aren’t hitting that well now. It is hard to understand,” he said in a 1966 interview.
He explained how his 1962 appearance with the White Sox went badly for him. “It rained the first five days after I went up and we didn’t even get batting practice. When I finally started a game, my timing was off and I go 0-4. It was two weeks before I started another game and I went 0-3 then. In between all I do is pinch hit. I never get to hit against a left-hander.”
In his 17 seasons in the minor leagues, Conde had 1,917 base hits for a .307 career average. He hit 111 home runs and drove in 651 runs. That’s not all he did, though. He was a regular in the Puerto Rican Winter League; in the 1959-60 season, he batted .336 and was the league’s Most Valuable Player. He played for a total of 20 seasons in winter ball and also served as a manager and general manager. He also worked as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies in Puerto Rico and was an instructor and minor-league manager in the Cubs’ organization, as well as in the Mexican League.
For more information (in Spanish): https://www.elnuevodia.com/deportes/beisbol/nota/falleceelexjugadordebeisbolramonwitoconde-2548562/