Police: Robbery ruled out in Calderon killing

Updated: December 30, 2003, 2:30 AM ET
Associated Press

CANOVANAS, Puerto Rico -- Dozens attended the wake on Monday of former major league baseball player Ivan Calderon who was gunned down in Puerto Rico over the weekend.

Calderon, 41, who played for the Seattle Mariners from 1984 to 1986, was shot from behind multiple times at point-blank range at a bar Saturday evening in northeastern Loiza, police said. No arrests have been made.

Police Superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez ruled out robbery, saying that detectives were investigating revenge as a possible motive. His killers sought him out to "execute him," he said.

Calderon sometimes loaned money to people and worked as a bondsman, and allegedly posted the bail of a person accused of murder, Rivera said, without providing details.

But his widow, Elsabeth Figueroa, denied the account, saying he did not loan money to strangers. He dedicated himself to his family and cockfighting, a legal sport in this U.S. Caribbean territory, Figueroa said.

"He's not like they're making him out to be," she said.

Figueroa, 30, was on vacation in New York with their two children when the shooting took place. Calderon has five other surviving children from previous relationships.

He was a regular patron of El Trompo bar, which is on a secondary coastal highway in Loiza, and he arrived there as usual Saturday evening in his late model yellow Corvette, police said.

Less than two hours later, two men approached Calderon and without warning opened fire on him, police said. He was hit at least seven times in the back of the head and the back with a .45-caliber weapon.

Calderon was dressed in a suit and tie at his wake in Canovanas, 16 miles east of San Juan.

His coffin was surrounded by baseball memorabilia from his 10-year career, including a No. 22 Montreal Expos jersey with a special patch commemorating his 1991 All-Star appearance, and a Chicago White Sox jersey. Photographs of him playing baseball and trophies also lined the shrine.

New York Yankees outfielder Ruben Sierra was among mourners at the wake, but he refused to speak to reporters.

A friend of Calderon's said the former slugger loved the sport. "This is a loss for Puerto Rico and sports," Jose Ortiz said.

Calderon also played for the Mariners and Boston Red Sox.

His best season was 1987 when he batted .293 with 28 home runs and 83 RBIs with the White Sox. He finished his big league career in 1993 with a .272 batting average, 104 homers and 444 RBIs.

Calderon was born in the northeastern Puerto Rican town of Fajardo and lived in Loiza, where he will be buried on Tuesday afternoon.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press