Cookie Rojas: Former Mets Coach & MLB Player (1997-2000)

Octavio Victor Rojas Rivas
was born on March 6, 1939, in Havana Cuba.

His father wanted him to be a doctor, but Cookie wanted to play baseball for the Havana Sugar Kings instead. He was eventually signed as a second baseman by the Cincinnati Reds in 1956 at the age of 17.

He got out of Cuba just as it was going into political turmoil. He debuted as the Reds starting second baseman in the first game ever played at the new Dodger Stadium in 1962. A week later he got his first career hit, that coming off the great Sandy Koufax.

After one season with the Reds he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. This because rookie Pete Rose was in the Reds plan as the second baseman of their future. 

Rojas earned the starting second base job in Philly, leading the league in fielding percentage three straight seasons. 

He batted over .290 twice, including. a 303 average in 1965. That was 8th best in the league & got him his first All Star appearance. Overall, Cookie would spend seven seasons in Philadelphia being amongst the league’s top ten in singles & sacrifice hits twice. In 1967 he led the league with 16 sac hits batting .259. He is a member of the teams Hall of Fame.

In October 1969 he was part of the famous Curt Flood trade, as he, Dick Allen and Jerry Johnson went to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Tim McCarver, Curt Flood, Joe Hoerner & Byrone Browne. Flood refused the trade and challenged the reserve clause but was soon forced out of the game since no one really backed him that early on. 

Rojas struggled mightily in St. Louis & by June he was sent to the Kansas City Royals for Fred Rico.

MLB Fashion: Rojas will forever be remembered for sporting thick frame eyeglasses during his playing days.

K.C. Royals Carrer:
In K.C. he became one of the American League’s best second baseman of the early seventies. In 1971 he batted .300 with a .357 on base % & posted a .991 fielding percentage quickly becoming a Royals fan favorite.

He made four straight All-Star teams from 1971-1974, making history as well. 

1972 All Star Game: In the 1972 Mid-Summer Classic at Atlanta, he became the first AL player born outside of the United States to hit a HR in an All-Star Game. The HR came in the 8th inning off Montreal's Bill Stoneman, it was a two-run shot (scoring Boston's Carlton Fisk) putting the AL ahead. The NL would tie it & win the game in the bottom of the 10th on a Joe Morgan base hit.

Rojas posted fielding percentages over .980% through the 1975 season & never made more than 13 errors in a season during his A.L. years.

Rojas was a good contact hitter, who didn’t strike out too often, only going down on strikes fifty times or more twice in his entire career. He was a pure singles hitter, who didn’t hit for power, (like most second baseman of his era) never hitting more than 9 HRs in a season. 

In 1973 he had career highs in RBIs (69) & doubles (69) while batting .276. 

Post Season: He won two divisional titles & played in two ALCS with the Royals. In 1976 he batted .333 overall with an RBI& stolen base in the ALCS.

After the 1977 season, he was released by the Royals, at the age of 38, His successor was long time Royals second baseman Frank White. White is first in all time Royals games played & Rojas is second.

Career Stats: In his 16-year playing career Rojas would play 1833 MLB games with 1660 hits, 254 doubles, 25 triples, 54 HRs & 593 RBIs while batting .263 lifetime.
He played 1446 games at second base, as well as 162 games in the outfield, 46 at third, 39 at short, 7 as a catcher & even pitched in one game.

Retirement- Coaching: After his playing days he became a coach & major league scout. Rojas had two brief stints as manager. The first was with the California Angeles (1988). 

The second was with the Florida Marlins (1996) for just one game, after Rene Lachemann was fired. He was only the third Cuban born manager to ever manage in the major leagues.

Mets CoachRojas joined the New York Mets, as the team's
third base coach, under manager Bobby Valentine from 1997-2000. 

1999 Post Season Drama: During the 1999 NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Rojas came down the coaching line and argued a foul ball call with umpire Charlie Williams. Rojas then crossed the line, in the heat of anger & shoved the umpire. 

Cookie was ejected was suspended for five games, missing most of the NLCS. Manager Bobby Valentine hung Rojas jersey in the dugout until he returned.

He returned as the third base coach during the Mets 2000 Mets pennant season. In Game #1 of the Subway World Series, Rojas took the blame of waving home Timo Perez, who would be thrown out at the plate. Perez would be accused of watching the ball & his delay caused the out.

After that season, Rojas before leaving the Mets organization. He went on to serve as bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2001-2002.

Broadcaster: Rojas currently does Spanish television broadcasts for the Florida Marlins. He is the father of former MLB player Victor Rojas who currently works on the MLB Network.

Family: Cookie & his wife Candy Rosa have three sons & many grandchildren. 

His son Victor Rojas was a long time Los Angeles Angels TV broadcaster, who is now GM of the AA Frisco Rough Riders. His other son Mike Rojas coaches in the minors. He previously was a bullpen coach for Detroit & Seattle.


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