José Bautista, the only Jewish Major League Baseball player from the Dominican Republic, made his debut as a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles on this date in 1988, after spending seven years in the New York Mets farm system. The Orioles began the ’88 season with 21 straight losses (an American League record) and ended the year with a 54-107 record; Bautista started in 25 games and had a 6-15 record. His best season came with the Chicago Cubs in 1993, when he had a 10-3 record and an earned run average of 2.82. An observant Jew with a kosher home, Bautista, born in 1964, has a Dominican father and Israeli mother. He played for five teams over the course of a ten-year 32-42 career. There have been nearly 600 ballplayers from the Dominican Republic, beginning with Ozzie Virgil, Sr., the first non-white player with the Detroit Tigers (1958), and Felipe Alou, who broke in with the San Francisco Giants that same year and went on to manage both the Montreal Expos and the San Francisco Giants.
“My family and I go to synagogue when we can and we pray every Friday. We fast on Yom Kippur and not only do I not pitch, I don’t even go to the ball game.” -José Bautista