Nickname: Frank, Pancho, Atiles
a.k.a. Francisco Coimbre Atiles
Team: New York Cubans (1940-1941, 1943-1944, 1946)
Height: 5' 11'' Weight: 180
Born: January 29, 1909, Coamo, Puerto Rico
Died: November 4, 1989, Ponce, Puerto Rico
A five-point player, he was a strong hitter with a natural swing and sprayed hits to all fields but also had good power and could go for the long ball when needed. He was also an outstanding fielder with good range, hands, and arm. A hustler, he had good speed on the bases and was a threat to steal.
He starred for the New York Cubans during the 1940s, beginning his Negro League career in 1940, playing right field and batting second in the order while hitting .330. The next year he moved into the cleanup spot and hit .353 with a slugging percentage of .500. He remained in Puerto Rico in 1942, but returned to his cleanup spot with the Cubans in 1943 and is credited with a .436 batting average. In 1944 he hit .357 and had a .510 slugging percentage to earn a berth in the starting lineup in the All Star game, his second starting assignment for the East squad in the classic.
In Puerto Rico he was considered to have a "touch of royalty" and, prior to Roberto Clemente (with whom he had a "father-son relationship"), was regarded as the best Puerto Rican player ever. Clemente acknowledged Coimbre as his superior and, even now, Coimbre still remains one of the greatest Puerto Rican players of all time. He won the batting title in his homeland with a .342 average for the 1942-1943 winter season, and again in 1944-1945 with a .425 average. The previous winter in Cuba, the outfielder had hit a resounding .401.
With Ponce during the decade of the 1940s (excluding the 1942-1943 winter), he compiled consecutive batting averages of .401, .372, .376, 425, .333, .333, .323, and .336 and finished with a lifetime Puerto Rican batting average of .337. A member of Ponce's Sports Hall of Fame, he also established the Puerto Rican record for hitting safely in the most consecutive games (22), and Satchel Paige once called him the best hitter he ever faced.
With his extraordinary vision and good eye-hand coordination, he rarely struck out. He played two consecutive Puerto Rican winter seasons (1941-1942 and 1942-1943) without striking out. In the 1948-1949 winter he had only one strikeout in 239 at-bats during the season. In 13 years in Puerto Rico, he had 1915 at-bats and only 29 strikeouts.
In addition to his accomplishments in the United States and Puerto Rico, he also played in Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. He began his baseball career in 1926 at age seventeen, and after retiring in 1951, he scouted for the Pittsburgh Pirates for twenty-five years and operated a baseball school for boys. He died tragically in 1989, at age 80, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, when a fire razed his home.
Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.