Monday, July 4, 2011

Cuba's Modern Baseball Centennial Celebration

One hundred years ago, on this day in baseball history, according to
1911: Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida become the first Cuban natives to appear in a major league game as they both make their debut for the Reds. Appearing as pinch hitters in the eight inning, Almeida strikes out and Marsans singles in the 8-3 loss to the Cubs* at Chicago’s West Side Grounds.

This historical footnote ignores the contributions of Esteban Bellán, who we'll get to in a minute.

*From 1893 to 1915, the West Side Grounds were the home of the Chicago Cubs, playing at times as the Orphans or Colts. With the Cubs 103+ year title drought, it means West Side Grounds was the last home field of a Championship Cubs team.

Ty Cobb in 1908 World Series @ Chicago's West Side Grounds

This was going to be a cut and dry post with a few dusty pictures from way back when, but while researching Marsans, we found on the Cuban Beisbol blogspot:
Marsans and Almeida (shown with the 1913 Reds in this Library of Congress photo) were the first Cuban-born players to play in the majors during the modern era (Esteban Bellán first played for the Troy Haymakers of the National Association in 1871).
1913 Cincinnati Reds

I'm very excited about the shoutout to Esteban Bellán, who was born in Havana in 1849. This article from the website Nueva York (1613 – 1945), provides better detail:
Esteban “Steve” Bellán was the first Latin American in the major leagues. He went from amateur baseball at St. John’s College to pro ball, eventually playing third base with the Troy Haymakers from 1869–72. During these years the team won this trophy ball in a 25-10 victory and joined what would become the National League.

Bellán was fast, graceful, and as one sportswriter put it, full of “courage and activity.” His batting average in 1872 was a respectable .278. In 1874, after becoming a U.S. citizen, Bellán returned to Cuba, where he helped form the pioneering Habana Base Ball Club.

There's a finite number of people who find this interesting, and we're glad to be here to celebrate the history.

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