Hiram Bithorn was born on March 18th of 1916 in the densely-populated Santurce barrio of San Juan, Puerto Rico. A multi-sport athlete from an early age, he was already drawing attention for his baseball skills at age 16 when he led his team to a 10-1 victory over a squad of American players that included Johnny Mize.
At age of 25 he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs, making him the first Major League baseball player from Puerto Rico. His career was interrupted by World War II in which he fought for the U.S. military, and he came back a changed man. After losing his career in the major leagues in 1947, he attempted a comeback in the Mexican Pacific League. While living in Mexico, he was fatally shot and killed by a Mexican police officer who was eventually sentenced to eight years in prison for the murder.
Despite his short career, he is held in high regard in Puerto Rico, and his high-leg pitching technique and distinctive windup to a fastball are still remembered. The island's largest ballpark is named in his honor, and on March 18th of 2016 — the centennial of his birth — the Society for American Baseball Research organized a pictorial postmark in his honor in San Juan.
For these covers, I screened a classic photograph of Hiram Bithorn, showing him mid-pitch, onto a rotated baseball. I masked letters evocative of baseball team logos against a white leather texture, gave the edges an imitation red stitch of the sort you might find on a team jacket, and noted his historical significance as the first Major League baseball player from Puerto Rico. I used the Centenary of Professional Baseball stamp (Scott #1381) and a 2016 U.S. Flag "Forever" stamp for postage.