Six hundred forty-two MLB players were born in the Dominican Republic1. Of these, 91 are from the town of San Pedro de Macoris. Of those, 57 are position players2. On this list there are great players (Sammy Sosa, Tony Fernandez) and players you never heard of (Elvio Jiminez). Rufino Linares is in the lower-middle-third of the list.

He made the 1981 Braves as a 30-year-old rookie, having started in the organization as a 23-year-old in Kingsport in the Appalachia league. After his first two seasons, he never OPSed below .788 in the minors. He accumulated almost 3000 plate appearances in the minor leagues before being called up.

As one might expect, given the fact Rufino could hit, he wasn’t much of a fielder. Oddly, it’s a little hard to discern his bad fielding reputation in his BRef stats. He had above-average range (for a left fielder, 1st in the league in 1981) and Total Zone ranks him very slightly above average and his dWAR was a solid 0.0. He had speed. In the strike-shortened season of 1981 he started about half the Braves games in left field, with Eddie Miller and Brett Butler taking the other starts. Throw in another 25 pinch hitting appearances and he was a Braves regular in 1981.

By 1982, the Braves decided this Butler guy was pretty good, so he took 55 starts in center, which meant Murphy started 47 games in left field. This reduced Rufino to 37 games started in left, the remainder being taken by a grab-bag of Terry Harper, Jerry Royster, Larry Whisenton and a few Joe Torre-inspired outliers like Bob Watson for one game.

And his minor league hitting credential never quite held up in the bigs. His OPS+ in his two years as a left field starter were 86 and 93. He didn’t make the team in 1983, got traded to the Angels, got a cup of coffee in 1984 and was done. He died in 1998 at the age of 47 in a car crash in Santo Domingo. He was a cog in a bad Braves team and a cog in a good Braves team. Nothing special, right?

Oh, but he was, because he uttered my favorite sports quote of all time. It was in this game, April 14, 1982.

It was the 8th game of the winning streak that started the 1982 season, the second game Rufino played in (he pinch-ran and stayed in to play left the night before) and the first game he started. In the top of the 9th, trailing 2-1, Bruce Benedict hit a double that scored Rufino, tying up the game. Rick Camp is pitching the bottom of the 9th. He gets Wayne Krenchicki but Larry Biitner doubles… not only that, his name has two consecutive “i’€™s” in it. Next up, Paul Householder, hits a sinking liner to left field. After a brilliant diving catch, Linares then doubles off the pinch runner at second to end the 9th. The Braves would go on to score 2 in the 10th and hold on for their 8th consecutive win to start the season.

Naturally, all the reporters wanted to hear about the great game-saving catch that extended the streak. Quoth Rufino3: “I see ball. I run for ball. I dive for ball. I look in front of me. No ball. I look behind me. No ball. I look in glove. Ball. I say: Rufino, you one lucky guy.”

Pure gold. Chico Escuela had nothing on Linares. RIP, Rufi.

[1] All stats taken from analysis of

[2] Manny Alexander pitched 2/3 of an inning that I will ignore.

[3] There are numerous sources of this quote on line, all of which vary slightly. I’m telling it the way I remember it.