Juan Roman Pizarro was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico on February 7, 1937. He would pick up the nickname “Terín” because he loved the comic strip “Terry & the Pirates.” Once he discovered he had a talent for baseball, he advanced pretty rapidly. He went from being a batboy for the Santurce team when he was 13 (around 1950) to pitching for them five years later. Santurce team owner Pedro Zarrilla sold Juan’s contract to the Milwaukee Braves for an estimated $35,000, and he made his American debut in 1956 with the Jacksonville Braves. Though he was just 19 years old and hadn’t had a wealth of experience as a pitcher, he outclassed the rest of the Sally League. The young left-hander with “a weird pretzel of a windup” mowed down opposing batters. He ended the year with a 23-6 record and a sublime 1.77 ERA, becoming one of the top players in the League.

Jacksonville, realizing what a drawing card he was, tended to start him at home most frequently. That was a sore spot with the other teams in the league, in fact. The South Atlantic League had come a long way. Hank Aaron and several other African-American players integrated the League in 1953, and those pioneers were greeted with boos and thrown rocks. Now, teams were upset that Jacksonville wasn't using the dark-skinned Pizarro in their parks.

Juan reached the 50-K mark in his first 37 innings. He struck out 20 batters in a 3-0 shutout win over Macon. He topped that with 21 strikeouts against Charlotte, though it took him 12 innings to reach that number. He finished the season with 318 strikeouts and the Sally League MVP Award.

Juan was invited to the Braves training camp, and it appears that everyone except the Braves believed him to be ready to play in the majors. Milwaukee had Pizarro start 1957 in AAA Wichita, where he started 5 games and won 4 of them. He was brought to the majors and made his MLB debut on May 4th in Pittsburgh.

When he started to falter in some of his starts, the Braves moved Juan to the bullpen. The Braves advanced to the World Series and beat the Yankees to become World Champs. Juan worked 1-2/3 innings in the Series and allowed a couple of runs. Still, completing a rookie season with a World Series ring is a great way to kick off a career.

Juan, as many Puerto Rican players did, returned home to play winter ball in the offseason. He set a record with 19 strikeouts in a game on November 20, 1957, breaking the record of 18 that Satchel Paige had set in 1939.

The Braves never fully committed to Juan in the time he was with the team.. He once again started 1958 in the minor leagues and wasn’t recalled until July. He had a fine 2.70 ERA. When he struggled a bit in 1959, the Braves demoted him to Louisville of the American Association.

The Braves were part of a three-team trade on December 15, 1960. They sent Juan to the Cincinnati Reds. If the Braves wondered how best to use Juan, the White Sox had no doubt. He was a starting pitcher for them, and he put together some of his finest seasons with Chicago, including the only two All-Star Team selections of his long career.

In his first season as a full-time starter in 1961, the 24-year-old was pressed into service with a start against the Senators on June 10th. He then won his next 4 starts and put himself into the starting rotation for good.

After dropping to 12-14 in 1962, Juan won 16 games against 8 losses in ’63 and was selected to his first All-Star team. Batters hit just .219 against him, and his 2.39 ERA was second-best in the AL. He had a second brilliant season in 1964 record, with a 2.56 ERA. He made the All-Star team again, though he didn’t appear in the contest.

Just like that, the winning seasons tailed off, and Juan never had double-digit win totals again. He arrived late to spring training in 1965 and pitched terribly when his season got underway. He was put on the disabled list in June, when his ERA was in the 7s, with a torn tricep tendon in his left shoulder. He missed about a month of the season and was brilliant when he returned, with a 2.44 ERA. That season marks the end of Pizarro’s starting career, more or less. He would get more starts throughout the rest of his career, but from 1966 onward, he was primarily a reliever.

The relationship between Juan and the White Sox became strained beyond repair by 1966. He was a regular spring training holdout, and the team was growing tired of his demands for better salaries. He also continued to pitch winter ball in Puerto Rico, though the team wanted him to rest his already-injured arm. Finally, the team didn’t seem to care for his attitude, though this may have been more of a cultural/racial stereotype more than any problems on Juan’s part.

Whatever the reason, he was dealt to Pittsburgh in the offseason as the player to be named later for Wilbur Wood. While his first tour of duty in Pittsburgh lasted little more than a season,

The Pirates had no problems using Juan often, in a variety of roles in 1967. He got off to a good start in 1968, but his control was a little off, was put on waivers and acquired by the Boston Red Sox, who thought he would fill their need for another starting pitcher. He showed that he could handle the role, with 6 complete games among his 12 starts with the Red Sox. His stay in Boston was marred by a 1-day suspension after he and teammate were arrested at 3am near Boston Common in late July after Joe Foy’s car hit a taxi. Both players had been drinking.

Juan made a tour of the American League in 1969. He started the season with Boston and made 6 appearances, with 2 saves and a loss, giving up 6 runs in 9 innings. On April 19th the Red Sox traded him, Dick Ellsworth and Ken Harrelson to Cleveland for Joe Azcue, Vicente Romo and Sonny Siebert. Cleveland sent him to the Oakland A’s right at the end of the season.

The A’s decided to send Juan to the minors in 1970. After some poor performances for Iowa, the pitcher asked for and received his release. He signed with the California Angels and was assigned to their AAA affiliate, the Hawaii Islanders. He was a perfect 9-0 there in 13 games, tying Bo Belinsky for the longest winning streak in team history. His success drew the attention of the Chicago Cubs, who purchased his contract in early July. He failed to make the team in the spring of 1971 and spent half the season in the minors before he was brought back to Chicago in July.

Juan was 34 years old and still showed he was capable of wowing the opposition. He changed speeds and added more curves to his repertoire. Despite continuing his good pitching in the first half of 1972, he seems to have run afoul of Cubs manager Leo Durocher, as he was hardly used in the second half of the season. After just two games with the Cubs in 1973, his contract was sold to Houston. He pitched poorly there and ended 1973 with a 7.24 ERA.

His final action in the major leagues came with the Pirates in 1974. After Houston had released him, Pizarro returned home to Puerto Rico. He found a job pitching for Cordoba in the Mexican League, and the Pirates, when looking for an additional pitcher to help them in the pennant race. His last regular-season game was an 8-inning performance on September 26th. His last appearance with the Pirates came in the NL Championship Series, and he threw a scoreless 2/3 of an inning against the Dodgers, as Los Angeles advanced to the World Series in four games.

Juan failed to make the Pirates roster in 1975 but continued to pitch in Mexico and Puerto Rico for a few more seasons. He quit pitching for good after the 1976-77 season, but he continued to work as a pitching coach in Puerto Rico until well into the 2000s.

Hew was inducted into the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame in 2000. He was also inducted into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, as part of a class that included Moises Alou, Vinny Castilla, Bert Campaneris, Aurelio Lopez, Omar Moreno, Luis Salazar and Cesar Tovar.

Juan Pizarro died on February 18, 2021, in Puerto Rico at the age of 84. He had been battling cancer for several years.