Monday, February 28, 2011

Manuel Cueto batted over .300 11 of his 20 Cuban League seasons

Feb. 28: On this day in 1892, Manuel Cueto was born in Guanajay, Habana, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1950, Cueto played 22 winters (including two independent leauge seasons) in Cuba from 1912-33 with Almendares, Red Sox, Habana, Marianao, Cuba and Santa Clara.

Cueto (shown in this 1924-25 Aguilitas Segundas card) ranks 11th in Cuban League career batting average (.301) and holds the record for most seasons (11) hitting over .300, according to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961. He twice led the league in batting average: .334 in 1918-19 and .398 in 1926-27.

Jud Wilson led Habana to three Cuban League titles in the 1920s

Feb. 28: On this day in 1899, Negro leagues star Jud Wilson was born in Remington, Va.

Wilson, who played for the Baltimore Black Sox, Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords and Philadelphia Stars, played six seasons with Habana from 1925-36, batting .372 in his Cuban League career, and Habana won the pennant three of those seasons.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, Wilson twice led the league in batting: .430 in 1925-26 and .424 in 1927-28, according to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Snider among last major leaguers to play in Cuba for 40 years

Before the Baltimore Orioles played the Cuban national team in a March 1999 exhibition game, it had been 40 years since a major-league team had set foot on Cuban soil.

In March 1959, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds had played a pair of spring training games at Havana's El Gran Stadium and Duke Snider was there.

Snider, the Dodgers' Hall of Fame center fielder, died Sunday. He was 84.

Snider appears 12 seconds into the above newsreel video clip (from the 2000 PBS documentary Greener Grass: Cuba, Baseball and the United States), standing next to teammate Don Drysdale at El Gran Stadium.

It was mere months after Fidel Castro had come to power on Jan. 1, 1959, and continuous rain in Florida prompted Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley to Bobby Maduro, the owner of El Gran Stadium, to set up a night game between the Dodgers and Reds.

"In a matter of hours," according to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961, the stadium was ready to host a game pitting Drysdale against then-Reds pitcher and former Dodger Don Newcombe.

In that game, Snider (shown with Cuban baseball writers Nelson Varela of Diario de la Marina, left, and Jorge Figueredo of Informacion) went 1-for-3 with an RBI, the Dodgers won 3-2 in front of 7,655 Cuban fans.

The next night, Sandy Koufax beat the Reds with relief help from Cuban pitcher Latigo Gutierrez.

This was not Snider's only appearance in Cuba.

As a 20-year-old Dodgers farmhand, Snider was trying to make the big club in the spring of 1947 when the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson -- who was with the organizations' Montreal Royals farm team -- trained in Cuba.

According to Beisbol Cubano: A Un Paso de las Grandes Ligas, 1878-1961, Snider played center field and batted clean-up for the Dodgers in an exhibition game against the Havana Cubans as the Dodgers defeated Conrado Marrero 1-0.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Alejandro Crespo led Cienfuegos to Cuban League title in 1945-46

Feb. 26: On this day in 1916, Cuban League star Alejandro Crespo was born in Guira de Melena, Habana, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, Crespo played 15 seasons in the Cuban League between 1939-54, 11 with Cienfuegos.

Crespo (shown in this 1949-50 Carteles premium) ranks first in Cuban League history in career doubles (130), second in RBI (415), fourth in hits (794), tied for fifth in triples (39) and sixth in runs scored (369), according to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball: 1878-1961.

He was named the league MVP in 1945-46, leading Cienfuegos to the Cuban League pennant by six games over Habana. Crespo also led the league in batting in 1942-43 (.337) and 1948-49 (.326).

Friday, February 25, 2011

Monte Irvin led Almendares to Cuban League, Caribbean titles

Feb. 25: On this day in 1919, Hall of Famer Monte Irvin was born in Haleburg, Ala.

Elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1973, Irvin was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

The former Newark Eagles and New York Giants star outfielder played two seasons for Almendares.
In the 1948-49 season, Irvin (on the cover of this Fotos magazine) led the Cuban League with 10 home runs, while driving in 53 runs, as he helped lead Almendares to the pennant by eight games over Habana.

Irvin also was instrumental in Cuba’s Caribbean Series victory following the winter league. He batted .389 and led the Series with two homers and 11 RBI as Almendares, presenting Cuba, went 6-0 to win the inaugural Caribbean Series against Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Panama.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Raymond Brown was a dominant pitcher for Santa Clara from '36-39

Feb. 23: On this day in 1908, Negro leagues star Raymond Brown was born in Ashland Grove, Ohio.

Brown, who played most of his career with the Homestead Grays, played five seasons in Cuba, three with powerful Santa Clara between 1936-39.

Brown is shown in this photo that was up for auction at Cuban Baseball Cards in September 2010 with his children (also dressed in Santa Clara uniforms) during the 1936-37 season. That season, he went 21-4, including throwing a no-hitter.

Despite Brown's efforts -- according to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961 -- the Leopardos finished second, a game behind Cuban League-champion Marianao after losing a three-game playoff series. Marianao had forced the tie-breaking series by sweeping Santa Clara in the final three games of the regular season.

The next season, Santa Clara, with Brown going 12-5, won the pennant. The team followed with a second pennant in 1938-39 as Brown went 11-7.

Brown was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.

Pedro Pages starred for Cienfuegos for 13 Cuban Hall of Fame seasons

Feb. 23: On this day in 1914, Cuban baseball Hall of Famer Pedro Pages was born in Matanzas, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, Pages played 15 seasons in the Cuban League between 1935-52, including 13 seasons with Cienfuegos.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Pages was named the league MVP for the 1944-45 season after batting .309 -- this despite the Elefantes finishing third among four teams, eight games behind league champion Almendares.

Pages (shown in the 1949-40 Alerta premium) never reached the majors, playing in 1951 for Sherbrooke of the Class C Provincial League in Quebec, Canada.

In the Negro leagues, Pages played for the New York Cubans in 1939 and '47.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vinegar Bend Mizell dominated Cuban League in 1955-56

Feb. 21: On this day in 1999, Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell died in Kerrvile, Texas.

Mizell, who pitched in nine major-league seasons -- including seven with the St. Louis Cardinals -- between 1952-62, left his mark in his only Cuban League season.

Playing for Habana in 1955-56, Mizell set the record for single-season strikeouts (206) and tied the record for most strikeouts in a game (15) against Almendares on Nov. 6, 1955, according to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961.

The lefty also led the league in complete games (13), innings pitched (179) and shutouts (three).
But Mizell's exploits were not enough to overcome the league-champion Cienfuegos team as Habana and Marianao both finished six games out of first place.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Henry Kimbro led Cuban League in hitting (.346) in 1947-48

Feb. 19: On this day in 1912, Negro leagues star Henry Kimbro was born in Nashville, Tenn.

Kimbro, who played mostly with the Baltimore Elite Giants, played four winters in the Cuban League: 1939-40 with Almendares and 1946-49 with Habana.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball: 1878-1961, Kimbro (shown in this 1946-47 Almanaque Deportivo card) holds the Cuban League record for most hits (104) in a season (1947-48). He also led the league in hitting (.346) in 1947-48 and stolen bases (18) in 1939-40.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Angel Scull almost became the Senators' first black player in 1954

MASN's Phil Wood had an interesting post Friday regarding former Cuban League star Angel Scull.

According to the post, Scull (standing between Hector Rodriguez, left, and Roberto Oritz) could have been the first black player to grace the Washington Senators' roster in 1954.

Although Cuban players on the Senators were commonplace thanks largely to the efforts of scout Joe Cambria, non of those players had been black.

According to Wood's post, "From the time the major leagues integrated in 1947, through the 1953 season, not a single black player appeared in a Washington uniform."

During spring training in 1954, Scull, who was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, Scull was poised to change that until he sustained a leg injury that spring. Scull never played in the majors, toiling instead in the minors until the age of 40.

Instead, the Senators' first black player was Cuban-born Carlos Paula, who debuted on Sept. 6, 1954.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Inaugural 1946 Havana Cubans lost Fla. International League playoffs

The 1946 La Ambrosia album of 50 cards -- each measuring 1 3/4 by 2 3/8 inches -- of the players of the inaugural Class C Florida International League.

They played for the Tampa Smokers, Lakeland Pilots, Miami Sun Sox, Miami Beach Flamingos, West Palm Beach Indians and the Havana Cubans, the first team in organized baseball from outside the United State or Canada.

Despite being stripped by the league of 17 victories because of "roster violations," according to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961, the Cubans won a league-leading 76 regular-season games.

But in the playoffs, the West Palm Beach Indians beat the Cubans 3-games-to-2 in the semifinals and the Tampa Smokers went on to win the league championship.

This album brought a $446 bid at Cuban Baseball Cards in September 2010.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Carlos Macia threw the first of seven Cuban League no-hitters

Feb. 13: On this day in 1887, Carlos Macia pitches the first no-hitter in Cuban League history as Almendares defeats Carmelita 38-0.

Macia (right) was elected to the Cuban baseball Hall of Fame in 1944. A pitcher and outfielders, Macia played four seasons with Almendares and one with Cardenas between 1885-91.

Marcia's no-hitter was the first of seven in Cuban League History. The others were:

Oct. 11, 1924 — Panamanian-born Oscar Levis throws the first 20th century no-hitter in Cuban League history as Habana beats Almendares 1-0.

Nov. 7, 1936 — Negro leagues star Raymond "Jabao" Brown no-hits Habana in a 7-0 victory for Santa Clara.

Dec. 11, 1943Manuel “Cocaina” Garcia throws the first no-hitter at La Tropical Stadium, beating Marianao 5-0.

Jan. 4, 1945Tomas de la Cruz no-hits Habana as Almendares wins 7-0.

Feb. 6, 1950Rogelio "Limonar" Martinez throws the first no-hitter at El Gran Stadium as Marianao beats Almendares 3-0.

Other no-hitters in Cuba or by Cuban teams:

Nov. 18, 1909— Eustaquio "Bombin" Pedroso no-hits the visiting American League champion Detroit Tigers (sans Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford) in a 2-1 victory. Pedroso held the Tigers hitless for 11 innings although they scored an unearned run in the seventh inning.

Feb. 21, 1952— Pitching for Habana in the Caribbean Series, Thomas Fine no-hits Venezuela's Cerveceria Caracas in a 1-0 victory in Panama.

July 12, 1947Conrado Marrero pitches a no-hitter for the Havana Cubans against Tampa at El Gran Stadium. Marrero allowed a baserunning in the first inning on a hit batsman then retired the next 25 batters.

Source: Smoke: The Romance and Lore of Cuban Baseball and Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ray Dandridge flashed the leather for Marianao, other Cuban teams

Feb. 12: On this day in 1994, Hall of Famer Ray Dandridge died in Palm Bay, Fla.

A Negro leagues star, mostly with the Newark Eagles, 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.

But it was his defensive prowess which drew the most praise. In Cuba, it was said of the bowlegged third baseman, "through Dandridge's legs could pass a train but not a ground ball."

Nicknamed "Talua" in Cuba, Dandridge (shown in this photo from The Attic and Closet Collectibles that's available on eBay) was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Born in 1913, Dandridge turned 34 years old the season Jackie Robinson broke the major-league color barrier in 1947, and he didn't begin playing in the minor leagues until age 35 with the Minneapolis Millers of the Class AAA American Association.

He played four seasons with the New York Giants' affiliate and between 1949-52 and spent the 1953 season with Oakland and Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League. But Dandridge never made it to the majors.

Despite that, Dandridge was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. by the Veterans Committee in 1987.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Conrado Marrero now oldest living former major-league player

With the death this week of former Brooklyn Dodgers infielder Tony Malinosky, Conrado Marrero apparently becomes the oldest living former major-league baseball players.

That's according to Baseball Reference and Bloomberg, among other sources.

Marrero, who was born April 25, 1911 in Sagua La Grande, Las Villas, Cuba, was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 after a long and stellar career in the amatuer and professional ranks in Cuba.

Marrero (shown in this photo from Cuban baseball historian Peter Bjarkman's story on the Havana Times website when Marrero turned 99 last year) played 13 professional seasons in the Cuban League, 10 with Almendares.

Among Marrero's accomplishments, Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961 lists:
  • 9th all-time in Cuban League victories (69)
  • Record for lowest ERA (1.12) and shutouts (eight) in a season (1947-48)
  • MVP of the 1947-48 season
  • 70-25 in three seasons from with the minor-league Havana Cubans between 1947-49
Despite all that, Marrero didn't make his major-league debut until April 21, 1950 at age 39, pitching for the Washington Senators until 1954, going 39-40 with a 3.67 ERA.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Joe Black: Stellar '51-52 season in Cuba, stellar rookie year in majors

Feb. 8: On this day in 1924, Joe Black was born in Plainfield, N.J.

Black pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Senators in a six-year major-league career, his best season coming in 1952 when he went 15-4 with a 2.15 ERA as a rookie with the Dodgers.

That season, Black became the first African-American pitcher ever to win a World Series game when he won Game 1 of the '52 Series against the Yankees (He went on to lose Game 4 and the decisive Game 7).

In the Cuban League, Black (right, with Cienfuegos teammate and catcher Rafael Noble) pitched two seasons for Cienfuegos from 1950-52.

His best of those two seasons came in 1951-52 when he led the Cuban League in wins (15-6), ERA (2.42) and strikeouts (78).

Despite Black's efforts, Cienfuegos finished second, two games behind pennant-winning Habana. But Cienfuegos manger Billy Herman earned manager of the year honors, according to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Limonar Martinez's no-hitter was the 7th in Cuban League history

Feb. 6: On this day in 1950, Rogelio “Limonar” Martinez threw the seventh no-hitter in Cuban League history.

According to Smoke: The Romance and Lore of Cuban Baseball, Martinez and Marianao blanked Almendares 3-0.

It was the first no-hitter at El Gran Stadium, according to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961.

Martinez retired the first 21 batters he faced, losing his bid for a perfect game when he hit Roberto Ortiz with a pitch to lead off the eighth inning.

Martinez received $1,000 check from Bohemia magazine for his feat.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

1887 team won Habana's sixth consecutive Cuban League title

A portion of a cabinet photo showing the board of directors of the Habana team, which won both the 1886 and 1887 Cuban League title.

The image of the nattily dressed officers includes Emilio Sabourin (standing left), one of the founders of the Cuban League. Draped across them is a championship flag, hand-colored in red.

This photo drew a winning bid of $1,867 at Leland's in June of 2005.

As Cuban Baseball Hall of Famer Adolfo Luján won five of the team's 10 victories, Habana won it's sixth consecutive championship despite Carlos Macía winning seven of Almendares' nine victories, according to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961.

One of Macia's victories, was the first no-hitter in Cuban League history, a 38-0 win against Carmelita. That game also saw the Blues complete the first triple play in league history and Macia, also enshrined in the Cuban League Hall of Fame, his the season's only home run, according to Jorge Figueredo's book.