Pedro Borbón Rodriguez (December 2, 1946 – June 4, 2012) was a relief pitcher who played Major League Baseball for 12 seasons (1969–1980) with four teams, including 10 seasons for the Cincinnati Reds (1970–1979), playing on two World Series winning teams.
Borbón was born in Santa Cruz de Mao, Dominican Republic to Ramón Jimenez and Ana Teresa Borbón.
He was signed as an amateur free agent by the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 1964 and two years later was drafted out of the Cardinals organization by the California Angels.
Borbón made his Major League debut on April 9, 1969 for the California Angels in a 7–3 home win over the Seattle Pilots. He entered the game in the fifth inning in relief of Andy Messersmith, hurling three scoreless innings with two strikeouts and allowing only two hits as he also earned his first career win. He pitched a total of 22 games for the Angels that season, with a record of 2–3 with a 6.15 earned run average.
In November 1969 he was part of a five-player trade that landed him with the Cincinnati Reds. He proved to be not only one of the most effective relievers in baseball, he was also a rubber-armed workhorse for the Big Red Machine; he was in the top five in the National League in games pitched in six consecutive seasons from 1972 to 1977. He pitched at least 121 innings in each of those six seasons, and was part of a tandem of effective workhorse Reds relievers along with Clay Carroll (who was with the Reds through the 1976 season).
No National League pitcher hurled more games from 1970 to 1978 than Borbón. It was Borbón and Carroll along with relievers including Wayne Granger, Will McEnaney and Rawly Eastwick that enabled Reds manager Sparky Anderson to earn the nickname “Captain Hook’ for the frequency with which he changed pitchers.
Of Borbón, Reds teammate Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Perez said, “He may have been the most critical part of that great bullpen because he was such a rubber arm. He’d give two, three innings – whatever you needed. He could pitch every night. And he wasn’t intimidated by anything. I always enjoyed his company on and off the field. He was a great guy.”
Borbón also excelled in the postseason. In four National League Championship Series, he was 1–0 with a 1.26 ERA in 10 games, of which he finished seven. He was especially effective in the 1976 National League Championship Series, pitching 41⁄3 scoreless innings of relief in a three-game Reds’ sweep.
He also pitched well in three World Series, pitching 10 games and going 0–1 with a 3.86 ERA as the Reds were world champions in 1975 and 1976.
After playing the entire decade of the 1970s with the Reds, he was traded midway through the 1979 season to the San Francisco Giants, where he pitched the remainder of the season. Shortly before the 1980 season, he was released and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, for which he pitched 10 games before he was released, signalling the end of his career.
Besides being known as a very good pitcher, the licensed barber was also a colorful character. A local Cincinnati urban legend claims that Borbón, incensed about being traded from the Reds in 1979, placed a voodoo losing curse on the Reds until the last member of the Reds front office management left in 1990. The Reds did, in fact, win the World Series that year (they have not played in a World Series since.) In 2002, Borbón admitted that this was a hoax.
Another notable story involving Borbón occurred in 1973. After a bench clearing brawl, Borbon started to fight with New York Mets pitcher, Buzz Capra. Following the fracas, Borbón accidentally placed a Mets hat on his head. After realizing what he had done, Borbón removed the hat and ripped a piece of it off with his teeth.
A year later during a nasty brawl with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Borbón pinned Pirates’ hurler Daryl Patterson to the turf, began pulling out clumps of his hair and bit him in the side. Patterson lost a piece of flesh in the incident and received a precautionary tetanus shot.
Borbón was referenced in a joke in the movie Airplane! As Ted Striker’s inner-dialogue is heard echoing in his mind, it resembles a stadium public address announcement, and he is heard thinking “Pinch hitting for Pedro Borbón…Manny Mota…Mota…Mota” (though Mota and Borbon never actually played on the same team).”He was always talking about that,” his son said. “A lot of people remember him by that. He liked that.”
Furthering his reputation as a workhorse, even after retiring from major league baseball, he continued to pitch consistently and well in his native Dominican Republic in winter ball and in semi-pro leagues in his adopted hometown in Texas.
During the Major League Baseball strike of 1994–95, Borbon was a member of the Cincinnati Reds replacement team.
Borbón was inducted into Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2010. He continued to return to Cincinnati for events such as the team’s annual RedsFest and for the annual Reds Legends baseball camps in Ohio in which he would sometimes team up to instruct youths with his former fellow Reds reliever Clay Carroll.
Borbón’s son, Pedro Borbón, Jr. (born in 1967), pitched in the majors for nine seasons (1992–2003) for four teams.
Borbón died of cancer at age 65 on June 4, 2012 at his home in Pharr, Texas. He was cremated, and there was no memorial service.
He was survived by his wife Maria Borbon; son Pedro F. Borbón; two daughters Gabriela M. Borbón and Maria J. Borbón married to Carlos Peguero ; two grandsons Anthony Romeo Borbón and Pedro Daniel Borbón; two brothers Porfirio and Rafael Borbón; and a sister Maria de Jesus Borbón.