Looks like the back injury Aroldis Chapman sustained this spring will force him to start the season in the minors, delaying the 22-year-old Cuban defector's debut with the Cincinnati Reds.
As potentially important as Chapman's debut could be for the 2010 Reds, the team was involved in a more historically significant debut ... in 1911.
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 Bellan first played for the Troy Haymakers of the National Association in 1871).
The debut of Marsans and Almeida, of course, was before Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. But despite their light skin, the Reds had to assuage doubts about the pair's racial heritage, insisting that Marsans and Almeida were "two of the purest bars of Castilian soap ever floated to these shores."
Marsans and Almeida aren't the Reds' only Cuban connection. Among them:
- Cuban Baseball Hall of Famer Adolfo Luque, whose 194 victories ranks second behind Luis Tiant among Cuban-born major league pitchers, played for the Reds from 1918-29 during his 20-year career.
- The International League's Havana Sugar Kings were the Reds' Triple-A affiliate from 1955-60.
- Hall of Fame first baseman Tony Perez was a key cog in The Big Red Machine teams that won the World Series in 1975 and 1976.