Hiram Bithorn Stadium – Honoring a Baseball Legend
The Hiram Bithorn Stadium is the largest baseball stadium in Puerto Rico, yet small compared to other stadiums around the world. Constructed in 1962, it has become the home of baseball in Puerto Pico. Hiram Bithorn Stadium is located in San Juan and has been home to various professional baseball teams such as the Montreal Expos, who once played twenty-two baseball games at this stadium.
The stadium was named in memory of legendary baseball star, Hiram Bithorn. Bithorn was the first baseball player from Puerto Rico to make it into the major leagues, playing as a pitcher for both the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago’s White Sox.
Bithorn’s journey to the baseball’s major leagues is one of luck and of sadness. During World War II, pro teams were running out of players and Hiram Bithorn was chosen to play for the Cubs. Unfortunately, because of his ethnic origins, baseball’s front offices were less than enthusiastic to sign him.
It has been reported that the Cubs were willing to sign Bithorn because of his light colored skin and because his name did not sound Latino. Even though they were reluctant to field a team with a Latino player like Bithorn, the Cubs would not regret their decision. In 1943, Hiram Bithorn led the majors with seven shutouts innings.
Today, the Hiram Bithorn Stadium pays respect to this amazingly talented sport star, by naming Puerto Rico’s main baseball stadium after this fine man and by erecting a statue in his honor. The stadium can comfortably accommodate 18,000 fans and has ample parking available, as well as media booths and private boxes.
The stadium sports excellent dimensions. The left-field line is 96 meters and the right field line is 95 meters. To center field, the measurements come in at 121 meters and the surrounding fences are approximately 2.5 meters in height. Players have commented that this is a “hitter’s park”.
In 1995, the natural grass on the field was lifted to accommodate Astroturf which proved to be less expensive to maintain, but in summer the heat was unbearable so a new and improved Field Turf replaced the Astroturf in 2004.
In right field, stadium visitors will see three numbers taken from the jersey’s of retired players who had a lasting impact on baseball in Puerto Rico. For those who are wondering why Hiram Bithorn’s number does not appear on the wall, fans and supporters felt that naming the stadium in his honor and erecting his statue was the highest honor that could be bestowed upon him.