By The Star Staff
Guillermo “Guillito” Hernández Villanueva, who made history as a relief pitcher in the major leagues, was laid to rest last Friday in his native Aguada.
Hernández, who was known as “Willie” in the mainland U.S. during an 13-year MLB career, died Nov. 20 at age 69 at his home in Sebring, Florida due to several health problems. According to his wishes, his body was flown to Puerto Rico last Thursday, where it was received in the town of his birth in the island’s northwest corner.
Aguada Mayor Christian Cortés Feliciano announced on Thursday that a wake for Hernández would be held that afternoon, with funeral services taking place on Friday morning at Guillermo Hernández Stadium. Players from the Detroit Tigers, with whom Hernández etched his name in the MLB record books and would play out his career in the majors, were slated to attend along with others.
Cortés Feliciano noted that in 1984, Hernández was the only Puerto Rican and Latin American pitcher to win the American League Cy Young Award and the AL Most Valuable Player award, after helping the Detroit Tigers win the World Series (over the San Diego Padres in five games). He was only the third player in major league history to accomplish that feat -- the other two being Denny McLain, another Tigers hurler, in 1968, and Sandy Koufax with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1963. Hernández was also the fourth pitcher to win both awards in one year in the American League.
Hernández, a southpaw, pitched 13 seasons in the majors for the Chicago Cubs (1977–1983), the Philadelphia Phillies (1983) and the Tigers (1983-1989). He went 70-63 with a 3.38 ERA and 788 strikeouts in 1,044 innings. He also saved 147 games.
“His extraordinary sporting feat serves and will serve as an example for all generations,” the Aguada mayor said. “Our people make a respectful pause in their work to receive this great Aguadeño who decided to return home on the date the Lord wanted it. Our condolences to his immediate family, to his wife Dulce María Carrasco, to his children, as well as to his extended family and all the people who knew him.”
Baseball historians point out that only 10 pitchers in MLB history have won the CY Young and MVP in the same season. Of the 10, Hernández is one of three relievers. In Puerto Rico, Hernández, who was a three-time All-Star in the majors (1984-86), played seven seasons for the Criollos de Caguas, the Indios de Mayagüez and the Cangrejeros de Santurce between the 1975-76 and 1982-83 seasons.