Latin Artist of the Month April 2020

Ruben Sierra played 20 seasons in the Major Leagues, made the All-Star team four times, and had a couple of top-10 MVP finishes to go along with a Silver Slugger Award and a Comeback Player of the Year Award. In 2009, he was inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame. That’s a pretty distinguished baseball career right there. It can be easy to forget all of that since his twilight years in the league were spent in part-time DHing and pinch hitting roles, but there was a time when he was really really good. So it’s absolutely mind-blowing to me that a guy of Sierra’s stature could release not one but three albums of smooth salsa crooning and his Wikipedia page doesn’t even bother to mention it.

There’s so little trace of it online that when I first came across images of Ruben Sierra’s albums, I wasn’t even sure it was the same guy. I finally found his album Un Verdadero Hit! (A True Hit!) and since it has a baseball diamond on the cover, a baseball pun for a title, and a shot of Ruben in his American League All-Star jersey on the inside, it very clearly is him.

Un Verdadero Hit! is Ruben’s debut album, released on his own label, Sierra Records. He began working on the album during the 1992 season as a member of the Texas Rangers, recording vocal takes from midnight to 3 a.m. after games. He hired a producer in Puerto Rico to put together a 15-piece backing band.

The Rangers evidently didn’t love the idea of Sierra staying out late singing salsa, and there were reports at the time that this was part of the reason that the club elected to trade him to Oakland midseason. The return on that trade was Jose Canseco, so I’m not sure that the Rangers really did much to eliminate distractions with that deal. If it’s true that Sierra’s singing was what caused the trade, then I’d say Un Verdadero Hit! is one of the most important baseball albums ever. Without its recording, Canseco never would’ve been a Ranger, which means we never would’ve been blessed with the greatest baseball blooper of all-time. Yes, I’m talking about the home run that bounced off of Jose Canseco’s head.

Despite being self-released, Sierra’s first album did fairly well on Latin radio. According to a 1993 San Francisco Chronicle report, local station KGO played a few tracks during the news hour and asked for listeners’ opinions. 48 percent of callers rated the music as excellent, 17 percent very good, 10 percent good, and 25 percent unfavorable. Station producer Shelley Gerson said, “The phone lines were just going crazy.”

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Ruben Sierra