A Tradition of Filipino Americans in Sports
Pancho Villa
World Flyweight Champion Boxer 1924

Won the world flyweight crown in New York defeating Jimmy Wilde, England's Mighty Atom. "A fistic sensation", he beat everyone, but Frankie Genaro. Villa met a tragic end, he fought Jimmy McLarnin while suffering from an ulcerated tooth. The poison spread through his system and a few days later he died, still a champion. [SS,W51]   Inducted into The Ring magazine's Boxing Hall of Fame in 1961 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994.
Vicki Draves
U.S. Olympic Diving
1948 2-Gold Medals

The first woman in Olympic history to win both the springboard and platform diving titles at one Olympics.   America's sports sweetheart in 1948.   Inducted into the Diving Hall of Fame, in 1969.   Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, lived in Pasadena and in San Diego, California.
Bobby Balcena
Baseball Player 1948-1963
1956 Cincinnati Reds

First Filipino baseball player to reach the Majors.   Born in San Pedro, California in 1928.   Started playing baseball (and football) for his team at San Pedro High School.   Played many years for the Pacific Coast League.   Member of the 1955 PCL champion Seattle Rainiers.   He scored two runs in two official at-bats in seven games for the 1956 Cincinnati Reds.   Was a longshoreman in off-season.   Died in San Pedro in January 1990. [LAT 1-10-90]
Roman Gabriel
Quarterback NFL
MVP 1969 Hall of Fame

Played basketball in highschool, but football was obviously his game by the time he was at No. Carolina State Univ.  (His #18 jersey was retired).   Outstanding quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams -- MVP in 1969.   Played three years with the Philadelphia Eagles, but returned to the Rams and stayed there until his retirement.   Coach of the WFL's Raleigh-Durham SkyHawks.   Sports commentator in North Carolina.
Tai Babilonia
Olympic Ice Skating
1979 Champion

Started ice skating at a very young age.   While still a young girl, teamed with Randy Gardner.   As a team, Tai and Randy won championships until attaining the Olympic Gold in 1979.   After Randy's tragic injury, retired from competition.   Lives in Sherman Oaks in Southern California.
Benny Agbayani
Baseball Outfielder
2002 Colorado Rockies

Born in Hawaii, Benny played for the Norfolk Tides in the minor leagues for several years before being called up to the Mets in 1999.   His outstanding performance with the Mets made him a crowd pleaser.   Fans came to the game to see "Benny and the Mets".   Currently with the Colorado Rockies.
And The Tradition Continues . . .

Benny Agbayani, baseball, New York Mets 1999-
Bobby Chouinard, baseball, Oakland A's 1997, Arizona Diamondbacks 1999, Colorado Rockies 2000
Elizabeth Punzalan, ice skating,

Compiled by Eloisa Gomez Borah.
Copyright © 1999-2002   Eloisa Gomez Borah.   All Rights Reserved.

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