A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 08, 2013
“You can’t walk your way off the island” (Dominican baseball adage)

Dominican baseball players have been known as free swingers who don’t take walks. Dominican-born shortstop Rafael Ramirez explained in 1986:

“You have to swing like a man. A walk won’t get you off the island.”

The saying has been used by baseball players from other Caribbean islands as well. “You can’t walk your way off the island” was said by Oakland A’s third baseman Miguel Tejada to general manager Billy Beane in the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (2003).


1 June 1986, Orlando (FL) Sentinel, “Quotemarks” by Tracy Ringolsby (Dallas Morning News), pg. C4:
Atlanta shortstop Rafael Ramirez, who had three walks in the first 45 games, on the free-swinging of Dominican players: “A walk won’t get you off the island.”

Google Books
Baseball: --a laughing matter!
By Warner Fusselle, Rick Wolff and Brian Zevnik
St. Louis, MO: Sporting News Pub. Co.
1987
Pg. 92
Rafael Ramirez, shortstop, Atlanta Braves (explaining why so few players from the Dominican Republic get walked):
“You have to swing like a man. A walk won’t get you off the island.”

Sports Illustrated
February 09, 1987
Standing Tall At Short
With more than 70 shortstops in organized baseball, the tiny, impoverished Dominican Republic has emerged as the world’s leading exporter of mediocampistas

Steve Wulf
(...)
Dominican players have long held reputations as free swingers, but it wasn’t until last year that an adequate reason was given, and that explanation was put forth by Ramirez. “You cannot walk off the island,” he (Rafael Ramirez—ed.) said.

Google Books
Fathers, Sons, and Baseball:
Our National Pastime and the Ties That Bond

By Wayne Stewart
Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press
2002
Pg. 237:
As some Latin players, dating back (Pg. 238—ed.) to free swingers such as Rico Carty, put it, “You can’t ‘walk’ your way off the island.”

New York (NY) Times
Reyes Takes Baby Steps but Has to Learn to Walk
By LEE JENKINS
Published: April 28, 2005
(...)
In the Dominican Republic, where Reyes was raised, scouts like to say, “You don’t walk your way off the island.” But now that Reyes is in the big leagues, he still will not accept a free pass. After Atlanta pitcher Mike Hampton started Reyes with two balls in the third inning yesterday, Reyes swung at the next pitch and popped up to second base.

ESPN
Plate discipline so important nowadays
On-base percentage perhaps as vital as it’s ever been in determining a player’s worth

By Jerry Crasnick
Originally Published: May 5, 2009
(...)
In baseball’s new age, even cultural stereotypes are taking a beating. Lieppman recently traveled to the Dominican Republic to visit Oakland’s Latin-American academy, and he saw several youngsters making progress in the quest to exercise restraint at the plate.

The A’s have no desire to suck the joy out of the game for their young Latin players, and they’re not going to be finicky if they stumble upon the next Vladimir Guerrero. But they know there are only so many Vlads out there.

“Baseball people used to say, ‘You can’t walk your way off the island,’” Lieppman said. “We’ve changed that model to, ‘You’ve got to be selective to get off the island.’”

The Tenth Inning (from “Baseball,” a 2010 Ken Burns documentary)
“No One Walks Off the Island”
(...)
The saying spread among Dominican prospects, “No one walks off the island.” It meant that in a land with so much baseball talent you had to hit, and hit aggressively, to impress the American scouts; simply showing a good eye would not be enough.

The Internet Movie Database
Moneyball (2011)
Trivia

At one point, we hear that Miguel Tejada has struck out to end a game. In the original book, Tejada’s free swinging ways and relatively high strikeout rate was something of a point of contention, with the Dominican shortstop telling Billy Beane and other Athletics’ members that “You can’t walk your way off the island”.

NESN
Yasiel Puig’s Poor Plate Discipline, Similarities With Jeff Francoeur Could Put Sudden End to ‘Puigmania’
by Zach Stoloff on Mon, Jul 8, 2013 at 2:39PM
There’s an old saying among Dominican ballplayers: “You can’t walk your way off the island.” The implication is that you have to hit — and swing — to get noticed by Major League Baseball talent evaluators and have the chance to leave the country for greater glory.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • Monday, July 08, 2013 • Permalink