The baseball world was shaken in January when Royals star pitcher Yordano Ventura and former Diamondbacks infielder Andy Marte were killed on the same day in separate car accidents in the Dominican Republic. But could they have been avoided?
The issue of reckless driving in the Dominican Republic and how it affects the baseball world is explored tonight in HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, as correspondent Jon Frankel visits the small island nation to explain the circumstances leading to 15 major league players and prospects from the Dominican Republic dying in traffic accidents since 1984. And that doesn’t include the many potential stars whose careers were cut short by accidents.
The episode, Valley of Death, begins with the loss of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Oscar Taveras–killed in a car accident on October 26, 2014, in the midst of the World Series–and cuts to Ventura honoring Taveras in Game 6, with number and initials etched on his cap. Just hours after Taveras was buried, Ventura shut down San Francisco, limiting the Giants to three hits over seven innings and forcing a Game 7.
Fast forward to January 2017, when Ventura is killed in a car accident. Though there’s no direct link to alcohol and this accident, there is certainly a culture in the Dominican Republic that turns a blind eye toward high-speed drunken driving. Taveras’s car accident was linked to drunken driving, and it’s that culture that gets prominent play in the HBO Real Sports segment.
Also covered: those whose careers were cut short by accidents on the dangerous roads. Take pitcher Juan Lara, who was injured in a 2007 Dominican Republic car accident, cutting short his career as a Cleveland Indians prospect.
That the roads in the Dominican Republic are dangerous is no secret in MLB circles, and we all know young men think they are invincible. The HBO segments focuses on former MLB pitcher Amaury Telemaco has been working within the Pittsburgh Pirates and the team’s academy to warn young players about the perils of drunken and high-speed driving. These are the kinds of grassroots efforts that can lead to change: as a former major leaguer and current Pirates scout, Telemaco has the credentials to be credible, and the twin deaths certainly should be sobering examples of what can happen.