Monday, May 11, 2009

Tampa Smokers, May 1951

Joe Benito, left, and Charlie Cuellar, right, were two integral players for the Tampa Smokers baseball team in the 1940s and 1950s. Benito, an Ybor City native and a veteran of the Inter-Social League in Tampa, had numerous stints with the Smokers. A fan-favorite and the ultimate utility player, Benito was usually signed when a player of any position suffered an injury. He also put in time with several teams in the Florida State and Florida International Leagues including the Lakeland Pilots, Palatka Azaleas, and the Miami Tourists.

Cuellar, also a native of Ybor City, won 253 games as a minor league pitcher, appearing on 15 minor league teams from 1935-1950. The hurler made his mark with the Smokers by throwing a no-hitter on July 23, 1947, at Plant Field against the Havana Cubans. Cuellar finally reached the major leagues in 1950, throwing 1 1/3 innings for the Chicago White Sox in what would be his only two games at that level.

The teammates are shown here in a May 1951 photograph taken at Plant Field. Benito is now 86 years old and still lives in Tampa, while Cuellar passed away in 1994 at the age of 77.

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