Monday, December 19, 2011

Cuban baseball legend, former Cuban League MVP Andres Fleitas dies at age 95

Sad news that Cuban League legend Andres Fleitas died Sunday of natural causes at age 95.

Click here for El Nuevo Herald's Spanish-language obituary.

Fleitas "was a star of the golden age of Cuban amateur baseball with Central Hershey and with Cuba in the Amateur World Series," Hall of Fame Marlins Spanish-language broadcaster Felo Ramirez told El Nuevo Herald. "Later he was a brilliant player in the professional Cuban League, where he was an excellent hitter and very clutch with runners on base."

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, Fleitas was the MVP of the fabled 1946-47 season, in which Almendares swept Habana in the teams’ final three-game series to win the pennant.

Fleitas, who batted .316 that season, tripled in the winning run in seventh inning in the second game of that series as Almendares beat Habana 2-1 behind a complete-game effort by Agapito Mayor. The next day, Fleitas was behind the plate as Max Lanier beat Habana 9-2 on one-day’s rest.

In 1997, I had the honor of interviewing Fleitas, show in this 1946-47 Sensacion premium.

During that interview, he recalled the final moments of Almendares' Cuban League-pennant clinching victory, considered perhaps the greatest season finale in Cuban League history:
"Behind home plate, I had to catch either the last out or one of the last outs in the crowd [of fans that was on the field behind ropes]. It was incredible. I calculated that there were close to 40,000 fans, with the 30,000-plus that fit in the stadium and the 2,000-3,000 that were on the field."

Ramon "Paito" Herrera batted .300 or better in nine of his 18 winters in Cuba

The June 6, 1926 Carteles magazine cover depicting Cuban League star Ramon "Paito" Herrera.

Herrera, who was born on this day (Dec. 19) -- although the exact year is in question -- was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1963.

He played for Almendares, Fe, Red Sox (yes, there was once a Cuban League team with that name), Habana and Marianao between 1913-30.

Herrera batted .300 or better during nine of his 18 winters in Cuba.

In the majors -- two seasons for the Boston Red Sox -- Herrera was known as "Mike."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hank Thompson led Cuban League with 51 RBI in 1947-48, Habana to league title

Dec. 8: On this day in 1925, former Negro, Major and Cuban league outfielder Hank Thompson was born in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Known in Cuba as Ametrilladora, “Machine Gun,” Thompson was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. He played three season with Habana between 1946-49, batting .320, .318 and .321.

In 1947-48, Thompson led the Cuban League with 51 RBI, helping to lead Habana to the league championship by one game over arch-rival Almendares.

Thompson (shown in this photo that was up for auction at Hakes in November) joined Monte Irvin and Willie Mays in forming the first all-black major-league outfield with the New York Giants in 1951. Ironically, all three were on Cuban League rosters as well, Thompson with Habana and Irvin and Mays with Almendares.

According to his Negro League Baseball Players Association bio, Thompson, on June 9, 1949, married Havana beauty Maria Quesada, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Friday, December 2, 2011

1955-56 Cuban League season belonged to Oscar Rodriguez' Cienfuegos club


The four managers of the 1955-56 Cuban League season. From left to right:

Napoleon Reyes (Marianao), Conrado Marrero (Almendares), Adolfo Luque (Habana) and Oscar Rodriguez (Ciefuegos).

This photo was up for auction at CubanBaseballCards.com in September 2010.

With Rodriguez at the helm, Cienfuegos won the Cuban League pennant, finishing six games ahead of Marianao and Habana. Almendares finished 10 games back in last place.

Pitchers Camilo Pascual and Pedro Ramos paced the Elefantes, winning 25 of Cienfuegos' 40 victories.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lefty Gomez managed Cienfuegos to third-place finish in 1947-48


Nov. 26: On this day in 1908, Vernon "Lefty" Gomez was born in Rodeo, Calif.

The Hall of Fame pitcher managed one season in the Cuban League, piloting Cienfuegos to a 35-37 record and third-place finish in 1947-48

In this photo, Gomez is seated third from the left. Carl Erskine is seated at the far right.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rocky Nelson ranks eighth in Cuban League history with 44 career home runs

Nov. 18: On this day in 1924, Cuban League star and former major leaguer Rocky Nelson was born in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, Nelson played six seasons for Almendares between 1952-59.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Nelson ranks eighth in Cuban League history with 44 career home runs and is tied for the most RBI in a single Cuban League season (57 in 1954-55). That same season, he led the league with 13 home runs.

In the 1953-53 season, Nelson (shown in this Sporting News archive photo that was up for auction by Lexibell Vintage Photos on eBay recently) was up fled the Cuban League in hitting with a .352 batting average.

In the majors, Nelson played for the Cardinals, Pirates, White Sox, St. Louis Browns and Indians during nine seasons between 1949-61,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Orlando Peña led Cuban League with 15-5 record in 1958-59, earned MVP honors

Nov. 17: On this day in 1933, Cuban League star and major-league pitcher Orlando Peña was born in Victoria de las Tunas, Oriente, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986, Peña played six seasons for Almendares and ranks 10th in Cuban League history in winning percentage (.592), according to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961.

Peña was the league MVP in 1958-59, when he led the league with a 15-5 record while sporting a 1.58 ERA.

Peña pitched for the Kansas City Athletics, Reds, Tigers, Cardinals, Angels, Orioles, Pirates and Indians in 14 seasons in the majors, compiling a 56-77 record with a 3.71 ERA.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Alejandro Oms ranks third in Cuban League history in batting average (.345)

A 1923-24 Billiken Card depicting Cuban League and Negro leagues star Alejandro Oms.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1944, Oms is third on the All-time Cuban League list in batting average (.345) and holds the records for the longest hitting streak (30 games in 1928), most consecutive seasons batting over .300 (eight) and most seasons batting over .300 (11), according to Who’s Who in Cuban Baseball: 1878-1961.

Between 1922-46, Oms, who died on this date (Nov. 9) in 1946, played for Santa Clara, Matanzas, San Jose, Cuba, Marianao, Habana and Almendares and led the Cuban League in batting four times.

He was the MVP of the 1928-29 season, when he set the all-time Cuban League mark with a .432 batting average while leading Habana to the pennant

In the Negro leagues, El Caballero played for Cuban Stars (1917, 1922-1932), All Cubans (1921) and Alex Pompez's New York Cubans (1935).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Almendares beat Regla, Habana for Cuban League pennant in 1931-32


Martin Dihigo (center kneeling) poses with fans and Almendares teammates, including Lazaro Salazar (bending second row) during the 1931-32 Cuban League season.

This Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images photo appears in a photo gallery at AARP.org, as part of the website's Hispanic Heritage Month features.

Almendares won the Cuban League pennant that season over Regla and Habana.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Limonar Martinez tossed no-hitter for Marianao, starred with Havana Cubans

Nov. 5: On this day in 1918, Cuban League star Rogelio "Limonar" Martinez was born in Cidra, Matanzas, Cuba.

Martinez, who pitched for Almendares, Matanzas, Santiago, Alacranes, Marianao and Habana during eight Cuban winters between 1945-53, threw a no-hitter for Marianao during the 1949-50 Cuban League season.

Shown in this 1949-50 Alerta premium that's posted on Doug Goodman's Flickr photostream, Martinez only played one major-league season -- 1950 for the Washington Senators -- but he was a star for the minor-league Havana Cubans, compiling a 38-17 record with a 1.83 ERA in three seasons from 1947-50.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Spider Jorgensen helped lead Habana to the Caribbean Series title in 1952

Nov. 3: On this day in 1919, former major leaguer and Cuban League player Spider Jorgensen was born in Folsom, Calif.

Jorgensen, who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947-50 and the New York Giants from 1950-51, played four winters for Habana from 1950-54.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, his best season in Cuba came in 1951-52, when he batted .290 with a league-high 85 hits with five home runs and 29 RBI.

Following that season, Jorgensen helped lead Habana to the Caribbean Series championship, hitting a Series-leading two home runs and scoring six runs to lead all players.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dick Sisler's Cuban League exploits earned him a day in his honor in 1946

Nov. 2: On this day in 1920, former major leaguer and Cuban League legend Dick Sisler was born in St. Louis, Mo.

This photo, which is up for auction at Hake's, shows the Habana Leones player during Dick Sisler Day, which was held Feb. 3, 1946 at Cuba's La Tropical Stadium.

The son of Hall of Famer George Sisler no doubt merited a day in his honor because of his exploits in the Cuban League.

Dick Sisler became a Cuban League legend while playing with Habana during the 1945-46 and 1953-54 seasons.

In 1945, he hit two home runs in his first game on Dec. 11. Later that season in a Jan. 23, 1946 game, Sisler clubbed a homer over a 450-foot barrier La Tropical Stadium, "hitting a wall at the brewery next door," according to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961. And the next day, he belted three homers off Sal Maglie, pitching for Cienfuegos.

Sisler's exploits even got him mentioned in Ernest Hemingway's Pulitzer-winning novel The Old Man and the Sea when the character of Santiago remembers "Dick Sisler and those great drivers at the old park."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dave Barnhill led Cuban League in wins, strikeouts in 1948-49 for Marianao


Oct. 30: On this day in 1914, Negro leagues star Dave Barnhill was born in Greenville, N.C.

Barnhill, who played for Alex Pompez's New York Cubans from 1941-49, played three seasons in the Cuban League with Marianao between 1947-50.

According to Who's Who in Cuban baseball, 1878-1961, Barnhill (left, with Tigres teammate Buck Leonard in this photo posted on the SABR Research Journal Archives) led the Cuban League with 13 victories in 1948-49 while posting a 2.76 ERA.

He's tied for the most strikeouts (15) in a Cuban League game on Jan. 10, 1948. Barnhill also led the league in stikeouts in 1947-48 (122) and 1948-49 (79).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lloyd Davenport led Cuban League in hitting (.322) in 1945-46

Oct. 28: On this day in 1911, former Negro and Cuban league player Lloyd Davenport was born in New Orleans.

Davenport, who played for several Negro League teams between 1934-49, played for Habana, Almendares and Alacranes during five winters in Cuba between 1943-48.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Davenport (shown in this 1945-46 Felices card) is tied for the Cuban League record for most hits (six) in a game, accomplished against Marianao on Jan. 17, 1946. He also led the league in hitting (.322) in 1945-46, splitting the season with Habana and Almendares.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Don Richmond led Cuban League in doubles for Cienfuegos in 1948-49

Oct. 27: On this day in 1919, former major- and Cuban-League player Don Richmond was born in Gilbert, Penn.

Richmond (shown in this 1949-50 Alerta premium on Doug Goodman's Flickr photostream) played for Cienfuegos, Habana and Marianao in consecutive seasons from 1948-51. He led the Cuban League with 17 doubles while playing with Ceinfuegos in 1948-49, according to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961.

In the majors, Richmond played for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1941, '46 and '47 and with the Cardinals in 1951.

His best season came in 1946 when he hit .290 in 62 at-bats.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cardinals split their four games against Habana and Almendares in 1936 visit

Program for the "American Series" games March 5-8, 1936 between the visiting St. Louis Cardinals and Habana and Almendares of the Cuban League.

According to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961, the Cardinals split the four games during their spring training trip to Cuba, beating Almendares 5-4 and 6-1 and losing to Habana 13-8 and 2-1, with the Leones' Brujo Rosell picking up both victories.

But Miguel Angel Gonzalez, who had played most of his 23-year Cuban League career with the Habana, instead served on the coaching staff of the Cardinals, whose roster included Johnny Mize, Frankie Frisch, Leo Durocher, Pepper Martin and Joe Medwick.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tony Castaño led Cuban League in hitting twice, led Cienfuegos to two pennants

Oct. 13: On this day in 1989, Cuban League star Antonio "Tony" Castaño died in Miami, Fla.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967, Castaño played for Santa Clara, Habana, Cienfuegos, Marianao and Almendares during 14 winters in Cuba between 1936-50.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Castaño (shown in this 1946-47 Felices card) led the Cuban League in batting in 1938-39 (.371) and and 1939-40 (.340) and led the league with 44 RBI in the latter.

As a manager, Castaño led Cienfuegos to two Cuban League pennants (1959-60 and 1960-61) in four seasons. The 1959-60 team went on to win the Caribbean Series, going undefeated in six games.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Adolfo Lujan, Antonio Garcia, Rafael Hernandez among Cuba's earliest stars

Cover of El Score, a weekly publication covering Sports, art and literature in Cuba, likely from prior to 1900.

It features Cuban baseball pioneers Rafael Hernandez, Antonio Maria Garcia and Adolfo Lujan.

All three are enshrined in the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame, with Hernandez elected in 1948 and Garcia and Lujan in 1939.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Hernandez played for Habana, Almendares, Habanista and Almendarists during 12 seasons from 1885-1899.

Garcia, who played for Almendares, Habana, Fe and Aguila de Oro during 18 seasons from 1882-1905, is tied for the most times leading the Cuban League in batting average (four) -- .448 in 1888, .369 in 1889-90, .362 in 1892 and .385 in 1892-93 -- while batting over .300 nine times.

And Lujan played eight seasons -- seven with Habana -- from 1882-91. Three times he led the league in games won while compiling a 34-9 record.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Don Lenhardt led Cuban League with 15 home runs for Habana in 1949-50

Oct. 4: On this day in 1922, former major- and Cuban-league player Don Lenhardt was born in Alton, Illinois.

Lenhardt (shown in this 1949-50 Alerta premium which mistakenly identifies him as "Jimmy Lenhart") played two seasons in the Cuban League with Habana: 1949-50 and 1953-54.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Lenhardt led the league with 15 home runs while batting .314 in 1949-50. He batted .304 in 1953-54.

In five major-league seasons, Lenhardt with the Browns, White Sox, Red Sox, Tigers and Orioles between 1950-54.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Armando Marsans is Cuban League's career leader in stolen bases


Oct. 3: On this day in 1887, Cuban baseball pioneer Armando Marsans was born in Matanzas, Cuba.

On July 4, 1911, Marsans (shown in this photo that was up for auction at CubanBaseballCards.com in September 2010) and Rafael Almeida became the first Cuban-born players to play in the majors during the modern era.

Marsans batted .269 in eight major league seasons with the Reds, St. Louis Terriers (Federal League), St. Louis Browns and New York Yankees.

In the Cuban League, Marsans, elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, played 20 seasons, mostly with Almendares.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, he’s the all-time league leader in stolen bases (135) and six times batted over .300, including leading the lleague with a .400 batting average in 1913.

Marsans also led Orientals to the Cuban League pennant as manager in 1917.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Esteban Bellán was the first Cuban to play in a major league with Haymakers in 1871


Oct. 1: On this day in 1849, Cuban baseball pioneer Esteban Bellán was born in Havana, Cuba.

Bellán became the first Cuban-born player to appear in a major league when he played for the Troy Haymakers of the National Association in 1871.

He's shown standing second from the left in this photo of the "Haymaker nine" that appears at the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Viva Beisbol online exhibit.

Bellán, who as a student at Fordham University (1863-1868) played for the  Fordham Rose Hill Baseball Club, played in the first "official" organized baseball game in Cuba on Dec. 27, 1874. Bellán’s Habana club beat Matanzas 51-9 at Estadio Palmar de Junco.

One of the founders of the Cuban League, Bellán played five seasons for Habana from 1878-86, managing the team in three of those seasons, which included two first-place finishes.

He was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Miguel Gonzalez was a star Cuban League catcher before managing, owning Habana

Sept. 24: On this day in 1890, Cuban League legend Miguel Angel Gonzalez was born in Havana, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956, Gonzalez played 23 seasons, mostly as a catcher, in the Cuban League between 1910-36. Aside from playing 20 seasons with Habana, he also played two with Fe and one with Red Sox.

According to Who’s Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Gonzalez led the Cuban League with a .432 batting average in 1932-33, ranks eight in league history in stolen bases (83) and batted over .300 in seven seasons, including three over .400.

As a manager, Gonzalez ranks first in seasons (34, of which 33 came with Habana), games (1,525), wins (851) and pennants won (14) in Cuban League history.

Gonzalez, who purchased the Habana team on Nov. 29, 1946 from the estate of Abel Linares, became the first Latino manager in major-league history when he served as a interim manager with the Cardinals in 1938 and ‘40, compiling an 9-13 record during those seasons.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pelayo Chacon starred as a player and manager in the Cuban League

Sept. 22: On this day in 1889, Cuban baseball star Pelayo Chacon was born in Havana, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949, Chacon played for Fe, Almendares, White Sox, Cuban Stars, Marianao, Habana, San Jose, Cuba and Cienfuegos during 25 Cuban seasons from 1908-32.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Chacon (shown in this 1926-27 Aguilitas card) ranks fourth in Cuban League history in stolen bases (106). He led the league in batting average (.344) in 1920-21.

Chacon -- father of Elio Chacon, who played two seasons with the Reds and one with the Mets from 1960-62 -- also managed in the Cuban League with Cuba, Marianao, Cienfuegos and Santa Clara.

In 1929-30, he managed Cienfuegos, which was led by Negro leagues stars Cool Papa Bella, to the Cuban League pennant.

That season also brought the first radio broadcast of a Cuban baseball game on Dec. 22 from Almendares Park.

According to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961:
At first, the league prohibited the airing of the games, but station CMW (The Voice of The Antilles) persisted and placed a man with a phone and binoculars on top of a building near the playing field. Then announcer Adolfo Gil, at the other end of the phone in the studio, transmitted what he was told was happening. Later the league relented and CMW's direct phone was allowed inside the official scorer's booth.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

MLB panel ranks Luis Tiant as No. 3 Latino pitcher in major-league history


A panel convened by Major League Baseball selected Luis Tiant as the No. 3 Latino pitcher in major-league history.

The question of who were the top Latino pitchers (only retired players could be considered) was posed as part of MLB's salute to Hispanic Heritage Month.

Luis Tiant, the son of Cuban and Negro leagues star Lefty Tiant, played just one season in the Cuban League.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Tiant was named Cuban League rookie of the year in 1960-61 -- , the final year of the professional Cuban League. -- after going 10-8 with a 2.72 ERA for Habana.

Tiant, who won 229 major-league games with Indians, Twins, Red Sox, Yankees, Pirates and Angels, was elected into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

His 229 career victories rank No. 1 among pitchers born in Cuba.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Napoleon Reyes on the field and as a manager in the Cuban League

A 1947-48 Kellogg’s Corn Flakes postcard featuring Napoleon Reyes.

Reyes, who died on this day (Sept. 15) in 1995 died in Miami, Fla., was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.

Aside from playing for Almendares and Cienfuegos of the Cuban League, Reyes was the player-manager for the Cuba entry of the Players Federation League, which played at La Tropical Stadium concurrently with the official Cuban League.

As a manager in the Cuban League, he led Marianao to back-to-back pennants from 1956-58, leading those Tigres teams to Caribbean Series titles in 1957 and ‘58.

Reyes aldo was the minor league Havana Sugar Kings manager in 1960, when the team relocated midseason to Jersey City.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jorge Comellas led Cuban League in ERA in 1944-45, in shutouts twice

Sept. 13: On this day in 2001, Cuban League star Jorge Comellas died in Miami, Fla.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in1986, Comellas pitched for Marianao, Santa Clara, Almendares, Cuba, Habana, Cienfuegos and Alacranes in 15 winters in Cuba.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Comellas (shown is in this 1946-47 Felices Caramelo Deportivo card) ranks seventh in career games pitched (239) in Cuban League history.

He twice led the league in shutouts: four in 1945-46 and three in 1946-47, led the league in ERA in 1944-45 (2.30) and led in complete games in 1945-46 (nine).

Cuban League stats starting to be available online at Seamheads.com

Cuban League statistics are finally starting to be available online thanks to Seamheads.com, which today launched its Negro Leagues Database.

The website launched with four seasons of pre-Negro league play (1916-19), the first three seasons of Rube Foster’s Negro National League (1920-22) and nine seasons of the Cuban Winter League (1905 to 1913).

"We are in the act of putting this encyclopedia together," Agate Type's Gary Ashwill wrote at The Negro Leagues Database Blog. "It's very much a work in progress, which we’ll be adding to little by little, game by game, season by season."

Coming fairly soon, according to Ashwill, will be statistics for the American Series in Cuba, the exhibition series that featured both Negro league and major league teams, from about 1904-15.

At the Cuban Cultural Center of New York's recent congress on Cuban baseball history, Ashwill gave a presentation on Cuban players in the Negro leagues.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cienfuegos finished 17 games out of first despite talented Negro leagues players


The 1946-47 Cienfuegos team that finished 17 games out of first place despite some notable players.

This photo was up for auction at CubanBaseballCards.com in September 2010.

The Elefantes included Martin Dihigo (sitting, fourth from left) in addition to other Negro Leaguers and stars such as Max Manning, Luis "Lefty" Tiant Sr., Alejandro Crespo and Alejandro Carrasquel.

That season belonged to Almendares and Habana, the Eternal Rivals who waged a memorable battle for the pennant, including a climatic three-game series swept by Alendares to win the championship.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Buck Leonard helped lead Marianao to Cuban League flag in 1936-37

Sept. 8: On this day in 1907, Negro leagues star Walter "Buck" Leonard was born in Rocky Mount, N.C.

Leonard, who played for the Homestead Grays from 1934-1950, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. by Negro Leagues Committee in 1972.

In the Cuban League, Leonard played two seasons with Marianao in 1936-37 and 1948-49.

According to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961, Leonard batted .304 for the Tigres in 1936-37, helping Marianao beat Santa Clara for the Cuban League pennant.

Trailing Santa Clara by three games with three games to play in the regular season, Marianao swept the series against the Leopards to force a playoff series, which Marianao won.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Regino Otero brought slick fielding, triples to his 11 seasons with Cienfuegos


Sept. 7: On this day in 1915, Cuban League star Regino Otero was born in Havana, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, Otero was considered the finest defensive first baseman of his era in the Cuban League.

Otero, who played only one major-league seasons (1945) with the Cubs, played 11 of his 14 Cuban winters from 1936-53 with Cienfuegos, compiling a .244 career batting average.

According to Who’s Who in Cuban Baseball: 1878-1961, Otero never hit a home run in 2,202 career at-bats in Cuba but he ranks seventh in Cuban League history in triples (33) and twice led the league triples.

Otero (far left with Cienfuegos teammates Stanley Bread and Coaker Stanley in this photo that was up for auction at Mears Auction in February 2011) also managed Cienfuegos (1964) and Almendares (1961) in the Cuban League, Venezuela’s entry in the Caribbean Series in 1956 and ‘58 and the Cuban Sugar Kings from 1954-56.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tomas de La Cruz ranks seventh in victories (71) in Cuban League history

Sept. 6: On this day in 1958, Cuban League star Tomas de la Cruz died in Havana, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1961, Cruz played for Marianao, Habana and Almendares in 13 Cuban League seasons from 1934-47.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Cruz (shown in this 1947-48 Kellogg’s Corn Flakes postcards) ranks seventh in Cuban League history in victories (71) and is tied for ninth in complete games (73).

He led the Cuban League with six victories in 1934-45 and ERA (2.30) and shutouts (four) in 1944-45 when he went 9-4.

Cruz threw a no-hitter on Jan. 4, 1945 as Almendares defeated Habana 7-0.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bobby Bragan guided 1953-54 Almendares team to Cuban League championship


The 1953-54 Cuban League champion Almendares club.

Manager Bobby Bragan (sitting fifth from the left) guided the Scorpions to the pennant, ending Habana's streak of three consecutive league titles.

According to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961, Almendares was led by Rocky Nelson (back row, far right), who won the league batting title (.352).

Earl Rapp (back row, far left) led the league with 51 RBI and finished tied for the lead in home runs (10). Cliff Fannin (back row, second from right) won 13 games with a 1.45 ERA to earn MVP honors

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sandalio Consuegra put up solid pitching numbers in the Cuban League, majors

Sept. 3: On this day in 1920, Cuban League star and former major-league pitcher Sandalio Consuegra was born in Potrerillo, Las Villas, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, Consuegra pitched for Marianao, Santiago, Leones and Cienfuegos during nine winters in Cuba from 45-58.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Consuegra (shown in this 1949-50 Alerta premium) won 13 games twice: 13-8 with Santiago and Leones of the Players Federation League in 1948-49 and 31-12 with Marianao of the Cuban League in 1949-50.

Despite a 3.64 career ERA in Cuba, Consuegra had just a 52-55 record in Cuba.

In the major leagues, he pitched eight seasons with Senators, White Sox, Orioles and Giants from 1950-57, compiling a 51-32 record with a 3.37 ERA.

His best season in the majors came in 1954 when he went 16-3 with a 2.69 ERA with the White Sox and made the American League All-Star team.

Women from Cuba played in the All-American Girls Baseball League


A collage of six Cuban players who were members of the All-American Girls Baseball League.

Clockwise from top left with seasons in the league in parenthesis: Isora del Castillo (1949-51), Mirtha Marrero (1948-53), Isabel Alvarez (1949-54), Luisa Gallegos (1948-49), Migdalia Perez (1948-54) and Gloria Ruiz (1948).

According to Cuban Ball, "Women were involved with Cuban baseball from the very beginning. First as fans and later as participants in women's teams."

At the Cuban Cultural Center of New York’s Aug. 20 congress on Cuban baseball history, Leslie Heaphy, an assistant history professor at Kent State University and author of Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball, gave a presentation on the history of women in Cuban baseball.

Isora del Castillo is the only women enshrined in the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame, having been elected in 1997.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Conrado Marrero was an amatuer star in Cuba before joining Almendares

Cuban baseball legend Conrado Marrero during his playing days with the Cienfuegos club of La Liga de la Uniόn Atlética, Cuba's amateur baseball league.

The photo appears in a March 4, 2011 post at Tom Hawthorne's Blog, more than a month before Marrero turned 100, making him the oldest living former major-league player.

Aside from amateur vs. professional status, there was another major difference between the professional Cuban League and La Liga de la Uniόn Atlética.

Black and white players had participated in the professional Cuban League since the late 1800s.

But la Uniόn Atlética -- as El Nuevo Herald sports writer Marino Martínez detailed in his presentation at the Cuban Cultural Center of New York's Aug. 20 congress on Cuban baseball history -- excluded black players.

Teams in La Uniόn Atlética, which existed from 1914-1960, were affiliated with Cuba's affluent social clubs, which also blocked black Cubans from obtaining membership.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ray Dandridge was a top hitter for Marianao, others in his 12 winters in Cuba

Aug. 31: On this day in 1913, Negro and Cuban leagues star Ray Dandridge was born in Richmond, Va.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball: 1878-1961, Dandridge played 12 winters in the Cuban League, six with Marianao. He batted over .300 four seasons and .299 two others during his Cuban League career. He also led the league in stolen bases (11) in 1937-38.

Dandridge was inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

The breaking of baseball's color barrier in 1947 came too late for Dandridge, a Negro leagues star, mostly with the Newark Eagles, to reach the major leagues; he played fives seasons in the minors from 1949-53.

But he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. by the Veterans Committee in 1987.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Video: Carl Erskine honed his curveball pitching for Cienfuegos in Cuban League



Carl Erskine talking about how he worked on his curveball while playing for Cienfuegos in the Cuban League.

'El Score' featured articles about baseball in the United States as well as Cuba

El Score from Sept. 23, 1911 with Joe Tinker of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance fame on the cover.

This was up for auction at Lelands in 2006.

According to the description, the interior features box scores of Negro League teams, such as the Cuban Stars, Chicago American Giants and Brooklyn Royal Giants, which barnstormed through Cuba.

It also includes box score of the Amateur Championship Game between Marianao and Vedado, featuring a young Adolfo Luque, and a section dedicated to coverage of Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida, who made their major-league debuts 100 years ago.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Adrian Zabala was Cuban League's winningest left-handed pitcher

Aug. 26: On this say in 1916, Cuban League star Adrian Zabala was born in San Antonio de los Baños, Habana, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984, Zabala played for Marianao, Cuba, Almendares, Cienfuegos and Habana during during 17 winters in Cuba from 1935-55.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball: 1878-1961, Zabala (shown in this 1943-44 La Campaña card) ranks first in games pitched (330), tied for third in wins (90) and tied for ninth in complete games (73) in Cuban League history.

He's the Cuban League's all-time winningest left-handed pitcher, was named co-MVP in 1950-51 and led the Cuban League with 11 wins in 1946-47.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bartolo Portuondo batted over .300 in four of nine Cuban League seasons

Aug. 24: On this day in 1894, Cuban League star Bartolo Portuondo was born in Key West, Fla.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985, Portuondo played for San Francisco, White Sox, Cuban Stars, Almendares, Habana, Cuba and Marianao from 1915-27.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball: 1878-1961, Portuondo (shown in this 1945-46 Caramelo Deportivo por Felices card) led the Cuban League in stolen bases (10) in 1919-20 and batted over .300 in four winters in Cuba.

In the Negro leagues, he spent most of his career with the Cuban Stars East (1916, 1923-27) but also played for the Cuban Stars West (1917-18), All Nations Team (1919), and the Kansas City Monarchs (1920-22).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Habana's Gilberto Torres twice earned Cuban League MVP honors

Aug. 23: On this day in 1915, Cuban League star Gilberto Torres was born in Regla, Habana, Cuba.

The versatile Torres, elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, played mostly for Habana from 1934-53.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball: 1878-1961, Torres ranks ninth in Cuban League history in hits (694), batted over .300 five times and twice was the league MVP (1940-41 and 1943-44). He also compiled a 45-52 record as a pitcher, his best season (10-3) coming in 1940-41.

Torres also served as a manager for Havana Reds (1946-47), Marianao (1948-49) and Habana (1956-58).

In the majors, Torres played four seasons with the Washington Senators from 1940-46. He is the son of Ricardo Torres, who played 13 Cuban League seasons, mostly with Habana, and three seasons with the Senators (1920-22).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Max Lanier, Agapito Mayor share birth date, Cuban League title for Almendares


Aug. 18: On this day in 1915, Cuban baseball legend Agapito Mayor was born in in Sagua La Grande, Las Villas, Cuba, and former major-league pitcher Max Lanier was born in Denton, N.C.

Though born in separate countries they are forever linked not only by their shared birth date but by their exploits during the 1946-47 Cuban League season.

With less than a month remaining in the season, Habana and forged a 6 1/2-game lead over Almendares before the Scorpions reeled off 13 victories in their final 14 games to win the pennant. Six of Habana's losses came against Almendares.

Three came in a three-game, three-day sweep in the final three meetings between the teams, thanks largely to the efforts of Lanier (left) and Mayor.

On Feb. 23, Lanier pitched Almendares to a 4-2 victory, and Mayor beat Habana a 2-1 the following day, setting up the winner-take-all finale on Feb. 25.

That's when Lanier, pitching on one-day's rest, dominated the Lions for a 9-2 victory and the championship.
Their contribution to what is considered the greatest pennant race in Cuban League history helped Mayor and Lanier share another accomplishment: enshrinement in the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame -- Mayor in 1970 and Lanier in 1997.

Even in retirement, they lived near each other -- Mayor in Tampa, Fla., and Lanier 90 miles away in the town of Dunnellon -- and kept in touch.

"Max Lanier," Mayor once told me, "is a great friend of mine."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Adolfo Luque, Adrian Zabala, Alejandro Crespo led Cienfuegos to 1945-46 title


The 1945-46 Cuban League champion Cienfeugos team.

With Adolfo Luque (seated fifth from the left) in his third season as the Elefantes' manager, Cienfuegos won the franchise's second title Cuban League history.

Adrian Zabala (standing third from the left) led the league with a 9-3 record, writers voted Alejandro Crespo (seated second from the right) as the MVP after he led in hits (72) and RBI (35), according to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961.

The team also included Hall of Famer Martin Dihigo, Napoleon Reyes, Silvio Garcia, Sal Maglie and Lefty Tiant.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Statement from Conrado Marrero to be read at Cuban baseball history congress

Word of the Cuban Cultural Center of New York's upcoming congress on Cuban baseball has reached Havana.
More specifically, it has reached Cuban baseball legend Conrado Marrero, who turned 100 in April and is the oldest living former major-league player.

According to Iraida Iturralde, first vice president of the Cuban Cultural Center, Marrero, who recently fractured his hip, and his doctor (who has internet at the hospital treating Marrero) contacted the center.

"I promised Conrado (shown in a 1949-50 Alerta premium) we would read his message at the congress," Iturralde wrote in an e-mail this week.

Among the former Cuban players expected to attend the congress at Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus in New York are: Minnie Miñoso, Luis Tiant, Tony Pérez, Julio Bécquer, José Cardenal and Cookie Rojas.

Monday, August 1, 2011

1910-11 Habana team finished second to archrival Almendares

Composite portraits of nine 1910-11 Habana team members:
  • catcher Gonzalo Sanchez (No. 1)
  • shortstop Pop Lloyd (No. 2)
  • outfielder Ricardo Hernandez (No. 3)
  • outfielder Preston Hill (No. 4)
  • infielder Grant Johnson (No. 5)
  • right-fielder Luis Padron (No. 6)
  • outfielder J.H. Magronat (No. 7)
  • third baseman Carlos Moran, (No. 8)
  • mascot Camilo Valdes (No. 9)
This image, displayed at the Library of Congress Digital Collections, is from the 1911 Spanish-American edition of Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide, appearing on page 18.

According to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961, Habana finished second, three games behind Almendares that season.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rafael Almeida played for Habana, Almendares in 17 Cuban winters

July 30: On this day in 1887, Cuban baseball pioneer Rafael Almeida was born in Habana, Cuba.

Almeida, along with Armando Marsans, made their major-league debuts 100 years ago on July 4, 1911 with the Cincinnati Reds, becoming the first Cuban-born major-league players of the modern era (Esteban Bellan had played for the Troy Haymakers of the National Association in 1871).

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, Almeida played for Habana and Almendares in 17 Cuban League seasons between 1904-25.

In the majors, Almeida (shown in this 1909 Cabañas card) played three seasons for the Reds from 1911-13, compiling a .270 batting average in 102 games.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hall of Fame pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm played two seasons for Habana

July 26: On this day in 1922, Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm was born in Huntersville, N.C.

Wilhelm, who pitched 21 seasons in the majors and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985, pitched two winters in the Cuban League for Habana from 1950-52.

Wilhelm (shown in this photo that is up for auction/sale on eBay by The Attic and Closet Collectibles) went 8-6 with a Cuban League-leading 2.36 ERA in 1950-51 and 2-5 with a 3.52 ERA in 1951-52.

Carlos 'Bebe' Royer: Record-setting pitcher at turn of the 20th century

July 26: On this day in early Cuban League star Carlos "Bebe" Royer died in Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, Royer played for Habana, Habanista, Cuba, Cubano, Almendares and Fe during 18 seasons from 1890-1911.

But his biggest impact came during his 15 seasons as a pitcher while compiling a 90-43 record.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball: 1878-1961, Royer (shown in this 1909 Cabañas card) ranks second career complete games (118) and third in winning percentage (.677).

Jorge S. Figueredo's book also lists numerous Cuban League record held by Royer, including:
  • Most consecutive games won (17) in a season (1902).
  • Most consecutive games won (20) in two seasons (1902-03).
  • Most games won (38) in two consecutive seasons (1902-03).
  • Most games won (51) in three consecutive seasons (1902-04).
  • Most games in (63) in four consecutive seasons (1901-04).
  • Most consecutive complete games (33) in a season (1903).
  • Tied for most victories (21) in a season (1903).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sam Bankhead led Cuban League in hitting, Santa Clara to title in '37-38

July 24: On this day in 1976, Negro leagues star Sam Bankhead died in Pittsburgh, Penn.

Bankhead, whose Negro leagues career included playing for the Birmingham Black Barons, Kansas City Monarchs, Pittsburgh Crawford and Homestead Grays, played Four Cuban League seasons -- three with Santa Clara and one with Almendares -- from 1937-41.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Bankhead lead the Cuban League in batting (.366), RBI (34), runs (47), hits (89) and triples (5) in 1937-38 as the Leopards won the Cuban League pennant.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rene Solis helped Almendares to Cuban League pennant in 1948-49

July 23: On this day in 1926, Cuban League pitcher Rene "Tata" Solis was born in Victoria de las Tunas, Oriente, Cuba.

Solis (shown in this 1949-50 Alerta premium) played for Almendares and Cienfuegos during five Cuban League seasons from 1947-55.

His best season came in 1948-49, when Solis went 7-4 with a 2.36 ERA for Almendares as the Scorpions won the Cuban League pennant.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A waved gun once convinced Terris McDuffie to pitch on two-days rest

July 22: On this day in 1910, Negro leagues star Terris McDuffie was born in Mobile, Ala.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, McDuffie played for Habana, Cienfuegos, Almendares, Marianao and Leones in eight Cuban winters between 1937-53.

Although perhaps apocryphal, one story describes how McDuffie's penchant for wine and women once came up against Adolfo Luque's famous temper.

While pitching for Marianao in 1952-53, McDuffie, probably hungover, one day refused to pitch on two-days rest, prompting Luque to call the pitcher into his office, where he pulled open a drawer in his desk and flashed a revolver.

That was enough to convince McDuffie to take the mound and he proceeded to throw a two-hitter.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Daniel Morejon was Sugar Kings' Little World Series hero in 1959

July 21: On this day in 1930, Cuban League star Daniel Morejon was born in Havana, Cuba.

He played four seasons -- three with Almendares and and one with Habana -- from 1956-61.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball: 1878-1961, Morejon was the Cuban League rookie of the year in 1956-57 after batting .330 for Almendares. The following winter he led the league with nine home runs. And in 1960-61, he led the league with 17 doubles.

As a member of the minor-league Cuban Sugar Kings, Morejon led the 1959 Little World Series in batting (.407), RBI, hits, runs and doubles as the Sugar Kings beat the Minneapolis Millers.

In that series, Morejon drove in the winning run in Games 6 and 7 for Havana.