Bombo Rivera

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Jesus Manuel Rivera Torres

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Biographical Information[edit]

Jesus "Bombo" Rivera played six seasons in the major leagues, getting most of his at-bats with the Minnesota Twins from 1978 to 1980.

Rivera was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1952, the same year that Pepe Mangual and Gil Flores were born there.

The Montreal Expos signed him as a free agent in 1970 and he played from 1970 to 1975 in the minors before getting his first shot at the majors in 1975. In 1974 and 1975 he hit over .290 in the minors and in 1972 he had 12 triples.

He had 5 games in the majors in 1975 with the Expos and then in 1976 he appeared in 68 games, hitting .276 in 185 at-bats. His 11 doubles and 4 triples in 1976 gave him a SLG of .411, much higher than the team's .340 SLG. He is listed as a regular for the team in spite of appearing in only 68 games, because his 45 games in left field outpaced anybody else, with fellow countryman Pepe Mangual coming in second with 34 games and Del Unser at 31 games. During that season, he became the only player in Expo history to hit an inside-the-park grand slam home run. It took place on June 26th against the Pittsburgh Pirates' Jerry Reuss at Parc Jarry and was his first major league home run.

He spent 1977 in the minors playing for Denver, hitting .302 with 14 triples and 17 home runs. At the major league level, new Expos manager Dick Williams went with a young outfield of Warren Cromartie, Andre Dawson and Ellis Valentine, none of whom was older than 23. Even in AAA, Rivera had to compete with Jerry White and Gary Roenicke, as the Expos were producing outfielders by the bushel in those years.

After the 1977 season the Minnesota Twins purchased Rivera, and with the 1978 Twins, managed by Gene Mauch, he was the most-frequently-used backup with 295 plate appearances and a .271 batting average. He was seven years younger than first baseman Rod Carew and the same age as shortstop Roy Smalley.

With the 1979 Twins he had almost the same number of plate appearances, 294, and is listed as the team's left fielder, hitting .281. Ken Landreaux actually appeared more in left and also in center field than any other player, while Bombo was the second-most-utilized player in both left and right field.

With the 1980 Twins Bombo dropped off to .221 and appeared in only 44 games. In spite of unspectacular numbers generally with the Twins, he was a fan favorite because of his unusual first name and his constant hustle.

He spent most of 1981 to 1983 with the Omaha Royals, most notably hitting .318 with 27 home runs in 1982. At age 29 in 1982, he was one of the oldest players on a team whose average age was around 25. He came back up to the majors that year for 10 at-bats with the 1982 Royals.

The similarity scores method shows one of the most similar major league players as contemporary Bruce Boisclair, who had similar offensive statistics. Boisclair was also born in 1952.

Bombo also played ball in Puerto Rico. Prior to the 1977-78 season, he was acquired from Caguas by Mayaguez, which that season also featured Ron LeFlore, Jim Dwyer, Kurt Bevacqua and others. According to the book The Santurce Crabbers: Sixty Seasons of Puerto Rican Winter League Baseball, Rivera batted fifth that winter.

In 1989, Rivera played for the St. Petersburg Pelicans of the Senior Professional Baseball Association. He batted .207 in 11 games. In 1990, Rivera played for the Florida Tropics of the SPBA. He played in two games and was hitless before the league folded.

He was the subject of a song written in the late 1970s by Garrison Keillor entitled "The Ballad of Bombo Rivera." There is also a brief mention of Bombo Rivera in W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe, the novel that is the basis for the film Field of Dreams.

Further Reading[edit]

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