RIP to Remy Hermoso, a middle infielder who played for many years in his native Venezuela and also played with three MLB teams in the 1960s and ’70s. He died on August 22 in his native Puerto Cabello at the age of 72. Hermoso played for the Atlanta Braves (1967), Montreal Expos (1969-70) and Cleveland Indians (1974).
“[W]e deeply regret the departure of Remigio Hermoso, who dedicated his life not only to the practice of baseball but to its teaching,” said Giussepe Palmisano, president of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. He said that Hermoso was always willing to train future generations of players on the national team and professional teams.
Angel Remigio Hermoso was born in Carabobo, Venezuela, on October 1, 1947, the only boy in a family of seven children. Long before he headed to the United States, he was well-known as an amateur ballplayer in Venezuela. According to a story of his life on LVBP.com (link is in Spanish), He started with the Urbanos in 1963 and 1964. After a fine season in the Venezuelan Winter League in 1966-67, he was signed by the Braves. Just 19 years old, the infielder was ticketed to start the season with the AA Austin Braves. However, his talent soon sent him all the way to the majors in his first season in the United States.
During spring training in 1967, the AAA Richmond Braves needed a second baseman for a game, so they borrowed Hermoso — and ended up keeping him for the start of the regular season. He got off to a good start at the plate in Richmond, with a .281 average through 9 games. However, he committed some errors in the field and was eventually sent back to Austin. He batted .268 in 90 games and stole 14 bases. Austin manager Hub Kittle didn’t see any evidence of rookie jitters but noted Hermoso had to move faster on double play balls. Still, the rookie impressed the organization’s officials. “He’s got wonderful potential. He’s going to turn out to be an Angel in more ways than one,” said Richmond manager Luman Harris.
The Braves brought Hermoso to the major leagues in September, and he made his first appearance on September 14, 1967, as a defensive replacement at second base. Used mainly as a shortstop, Hermoso collected his first MLB hit and two walks on September 19 against the Reds. He also committed an error that led to an unearned run, though it didn’t affect the outcome of the game, a 3-1 Reds win. All in all, Hermoso made a solid showing in his first taste of the majors, with a .308 batting average.
The Braves kept him at AA Shreveport for the entire 1968 season. He slashed .296/.366/.349, which is pretty representative of his play. He had no power, but he could hit for average, take a walk, lay down a perfect bunt and steal bases easily. He demonstrated his abilities in one game against the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs. In his first at-bat, he walked, drew pickoff throws until the pitcher threw the ball away for a two-base throwing error and scored on a passed ball. Later in the game, he bunted for a base hit, ran to third base when the catcher threw the ball away on a back-pick attempt and scored on a Ralph Garr single. Those were the only two runs scored by either team, so Hermoso literally ran Shreveport to victory.
Hermoso was drafted by Montreal in the expansion draft of October 1968 that stocked the Expos and Padres’ rosters. He started the 1969 season in AAA Vancouver but was brought up to the majors several times during the summer. He spent the second half of July as the team’s starting second baseman when injuries left the Expos short a couple of infielders. He batted under .200 during this brief audition before being returned to Vancouver. When he returned later in the season, Hermoso was used as a late-inning defensive replacement, pinch-hitter and pinch-runner. He hit .162 in 28 games and stole 3 bases.
The next season, Hermoso got into just 4 games with the Expos at the start of the season and went hitless in his only at-bat. He struggled to hit over .200 in AAA and spent the next two seasons trying to recover his form in the minors. His relationship with the Expos soured, and he was suspended in 1971 for refusing to accept a demotion to Quebec. He vowed to return to Venezuela instead. “I don’t think Montreal likes me… and Gene Mauch is behind it,” he said, referring to the Expos manager.
The Expos traded him to Cleveland on December 7, 1972, in a minor-league deal. He played like a new man in his new organization. As a member of the Oklahoma City 89ers in 1973, Hermoso hit .304 and smacked two home runs — he’d hit just one in the previous five seasons of pro ball combined. He drove in a career-best 46 runs and stole 17 bases as well. He went 6-for-6 against Evansville on April 28, which hadn’t been accomplished in the American Association since 1949.
Hermoso continued his good play into spring training with the Indians in 1974. With a week left in camp, he was added to the active roster. Once the season began, Hermoso shared the second base duties with Jack Brohamer. He kicked off his Cleveland career with a double off the Yankees’ Mel Stottlemyre on April 6. It was his first extra-base hit in the major leagues, after 43 games for the Braves and Expos.
Hermoso was batting around .200 when he suffered what looked to be a season-ending injury on May 13. He damaged ligaments in his knee in a collision with Orioles baserunner Don Baylor, who was notorious for sliding hard into second. Despite the fact that the injury wrecked the first opportunity Hermoso had for extended play in the major leagues, he did not blame Baylor.
“The throw was on the inside of the bag. Baylor is fast and I could do nothing but take it,” he said, adding that he tried to jump to avoid the speeding baserunner. “And then the ground went upside down. And I was falling like out of an airplane.”
Amazingly, the supposed season-ending injury kept Hermoso on the disabled list for about three months, and he was back in the lineup in late August. He raised his batting average to .221 by the end of the season, which was his final one in the major leagues.
Over parts of four seasons, Hermoso played in 91 games and slashed .211/.259/.233. He had 47 hits, including 3 doubles and a triple, all hit during his final season with Cleveland. He scored 25 runs and stole 6 bases.
Hermoso began the 1975 season on the disabled list. He was reactivated by Cleveland in May and assigned back to the minors. It appears that Hermoso instead went to Mexico and played for the Cardenales de Tabasco. He also continued to play in Venezuela with the Tiburones de La Guaira and other teams, through the 1976-77 season. He played 11 seasons in Venezuela and, at the time of his retirement, was the 16th player to reach 500 hits in his career.
Hermoso continued to coach in Venezuela after retiring as a player. He owned baseball schools and coached for several pro and national teams, including the 1983 team that competed at the Pan-Am Games in Caracas. According to his obituary he also served as a strategist for the country’s military academy.
Hermoso was inducted into the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015.