Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ramon Herrera played in Cuban, Negro and major leagues

Dec. 19: On this day in 1897, Ramon "Mike" Herrera was born in Havana.

Herrera played in the Cuban League, Negro leagues and the majors, and although the year of his birth is listed as 1897, Agate Type turned up some conflicting documentation that calls that into question.

And why was he nicknamed Mike? Unknown. In Cuba, he was known as "Paito." There he played for Almendares, Fe, Red Sox (yes, there was a Cuban League team with that name briefly), Habana and Marianao in 18 seasons between 1913-30.

In the majors, Herrera played two seasons for the Boston Red Sox, batting .257 in 74 games in 1926. And he played for the Cuban Stars of the Negro leagues in 1920 and '21.

But perhaps most curious is the notion -- put forth in the 2002 book, More Tales from the Red Sox Dugout -- that Herrera might have been the first black player to play for the Red Sox.

In this 1923-24 Billikens card, he certainly appears to be white, but the chapter on Herrera opens:

Were the Red Sox the last major league team to sign a black player? Or were they one of the first? Did the Red Sox actually hava black player long before Pumpsie Green and 22 years before Jackie Robinson debuted with the Dodgers?

But even the book, quickly notes that "for those who want to measure such things, he may have been more white than black."

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