Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cienfuegos star Alejandro Crespo played 2-plus seasons with Habana

The 1952-53 Victoria No. 49 card of Cuban League star Alejandro Crespo, who was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.

This card, which was up for auction at CubanBaseballCards in September 2010, shows Crespo with Habana. He played for the Leones for two-plus winters between 1950-53.

His best seasons came with Cienfuegos, including 1945-46, when he was the league's MVP after leading Cienfuegos to the pennant.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Claro Duany starred in Cuban, Negro and Mexican leagues

March 28: On this day in 1997, Cuban League star Claro Duany died in Evanston, Ind.

That same year, Duany, who played mostly with Marianao during 12 winters in Cuba between 1942-55, was elected into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame.

Duany (shown in this 1945-46 Caramelo Deportes Felices card) ranks 10th in Cuban League history in doubles (93) and home runs (37), according to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961.

Twice he led the league in batting, compiling a .340 average in 1944-45 and a .368 mark in 1946-47.

In the Negro leagues, Duany played for the New York Cubans from 1944-47 and was a member of the Negro League East-West All-Star team in 1947. He also was the Mexican League batting champion in 1945-46.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Adolfo Luque was a legendary pitcher, manager in Cuban League

This 1947-48 Kellogg's Corn Flakes postcard features Cuban legend Adolfo Luque.

Up for auction at CubanBaseballCard in September 2010, it was postmarked March 23, 1948 and featured the stamping from the Association of Professional Baseball Players of Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1958, Luque played for Fe, Habana, Almendares, Orientales, Alacranes and Cienfuegos in 23 winters -- 14 with Almendares -- in Cuba from 1912-45.

He ranks first in Cuban League history in seasons pitched (22) and second in wins (106), according to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961. Seven times he led the league in games won.

In 30 seasons as a manager, Luque ranks second in Cuban League history behind Miguel Angel Gonzalez in victories (705) and pennants won (11).

In 20 major-league seasons, Luque compiled a 194-175 career record with a 3.24 ERA. His best season came in 1923 with the Cincinnati Reds. After losing 23 games despite a 3.31 ERA the previous season, Luque (left) led the National League with 27 wins (eight losses), a 1.93 ERA and six shutouts.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pop Lloyd ranks fourth in Cuban League history in batting

March 19: On this day in 1965, Negro leagues star and Hall of Famer John Henry "Pop" Lloyd died in Atlantic City, N.J.

Lloyd, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, played for Habana, Fe, San Francisco and Almendares in the Cuban League from 1908-1930.

He ranks fourth on the career batting list in Cuban League history with a .329 average, according to Who Who's in Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961. In his 13 winters in Cuba, Lloyd batted over .300 seven times.

Lloyd (shown in this photo from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum's eMuseum) was inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Santos Amaro, father of Ruben; grandfather of Ruben Jr., starred in Cuba and Mexico

March 14: On this day in 1908, Cuban star Santos Amaro was born in Havana, Cuba.

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

He ranks sixth in Cuban League history in hits (725) and ninth in RBI (321) and batted over .300 five times in his career, according to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961.

Amaro never reached the major leagues, playing in Cuba and the Mexican League with Veracruz and Tampico.

But his son, Ruben Amaro, who was born in Mexico, played for the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees and California Angels during 11 major-league seasons from 1958-69.

And Santos Amaro's grandson, Ruben Jr., now the senior vice president and general manager of the Phillies, played eight seasons -- six with the Phillies -- in the majors between 1991-98.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rene Monteagudo starred as a pitcher and outfielder in Cuba

March 12: On this day in 1916, Cuban League star Rene Monteagudo was born in Santa Clara, Las Villas, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986, Monteagudo was a pitcher and outfielder in Cuban and in the majors, where he played four seasons with the Washington Senators and Philadelphia Phillies between 1938-45.

In the Cuban League, Monteagudo (shown in this 1949-40 Alerta premium) played with Santa Clara, Almendares, Cienfuegos, Habana and Leones during 13 seasons between 1935-50.

Monteagudo, who died in 1973, was the father of former major-league pitcher Aurelio Monteagudo, who played for the Kansas City Athletics, Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals and California Angels during seven seasons from 1963-73.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dodgers were one of five MLB teams to play in Cuba in 1941

Two Brooklyn Dodgers players getting their spikes shined in Cuba, where the team held spring training in 1941.

This photo was up for auction at CubanBaseballCards in September, 2010, and according to description by Cesar Lopez, the creator of the Cuban Ball website, a sticker on the back of the photos reads "Property of Pee Wee Reese Library" and lists an address and phone number.
According to the description:
We tried to call this number just to make sure this photo was not stolen and then sold on the secondary market, but it was a wrong number. We've asked numerous industry experts if they know anything about this "Library" but none had heard of it. The lack of any information about a "Pee Wee Reese Library" leads us to believe that it was likely part of Pee Wee Reese's personal collection and was sold at some point after his death in 1999.
Reese was with the Dodgers when they went to Cuba in 1941, when five major-league teams came to play at La Tropical Stadium: the Dodgers, New York Giants, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox.

The Dodgers swept a pair of three-game series against the Giants and Indians, according to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961. But Brooklyn split a five-game series (there was a 7-7 tie) against a Cuban squad put together by manager Joseito Rodriguez. Gilberto Torres and Adrian Zabala were the winning pitchers for the Cuban team.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brooklyn Dodgers made Cuba their spring training home in 1942

Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese at La Tropical Stadium during the team's 1942 spring training trip to Havana, Cuba.

This is a William Vandivert photo from the Life magazine photo archive hosted by Google.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, the Dodgers split a pair of games with the New York Giants, but lost a five-game series three-games-to-two against a Cuban squad.

In those three victories by the local nine, Tomas de la Cruz, Rodolfo Fernandez and Agapito Mayor held the Dodgers to a combined six runs.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Famous for catch, Al Gionfriddo helped Almendares win a pennant

March 8:On this day in 1922, former major-leaguer Al Gionfriddo was born in Dysart, Pa.

Gionfriddo, who played for the Pirates and Brooklyn Dodgers during four major-league seasons, played two winters in the Cuban League with Almendares between 1948-50.

In 1948-49, Gionfriddo (shown in this 1949-50 Alerta premium) batted .308 as Almendares won the Cuban League pennant.

His best season in the majors came with the Pirates in 1945 as he hit .284 with 42 RBI. But Gionfriddo's claim to fame was a catch that came as a member of the Dodgers during the 1947 World Series.

With the Yankees leading the Series three games to two but trailing Game 6 by an 8-5 score, the Yankees had two on with two outs in the sixth inning when Joe DiMaggio laced a drive that appeared to be headed to the bullpen in left-center.

But Gionfriddo snagged the drive at the 415-foot mark of the short outfield fence, prompting the usually stoic DiMaggio to kick the dirt in frustration as he approached second base.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cool Papa Bell helped lead Cienfuegos to 1929-30 pennant

March 7: On this day in 1991, Negro leagues star James "Cool Papa" Bell died in St. Louis, Mo.
Enshrined into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1974, Bell was elected into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Between 1928-30, he played four seasons with Cienfuegos (including one independent season) and played for Almendares in 1940-41.

In this photo from, Bell is in the bottom row, far right with other members of the 1929-30 Cuban League champion Cienfuegos club.

According to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961, Bell was named the season's MVP. That same season, Bell became the first player in Cuban League history to hit three home runs -- each of which was inside the park.

Aside from Bell, the team included Harry Salmon (top row, far left), Willie Wells (top row, fourth from left) and Frank Duncan (top row, far right).

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cookie Rojas played for Cienfuegos, Habana in Cuban League

March 6: On this day in 1939, former major-league player and manager Octavio "Cookie" Rojas was born in Havana, Cuba.

Rojas, who's nickname in Cuba was "Cuqui" rather than the American version, was elected into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.

Rojas (shown in this photo that appears in Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961) played four Cuban League seasons mostly with Cienfuegos between 1957-61.

His best season came in 1960-61 when he led the league in batting (.322) playing for Cienfuegos and Habana.

Rojas, who managed the Angels in 1988 and the Marlins in 1996, was one of seven Cuban-born managers in major-league history. The others: Miguel Angel Gonzalez (1938, 1940 Cardinals), Preston Gomez (1969-72 Padres, 1974-75 Astros, 1980 Cubs), Marty Martinez (1986 Mariners), Tony Perez (1993 Reds, 2001 Marlins), Carlos Tosca (2002-04 Blue Jays) and Fredi Gonzalez (2011 Braves).

Rojas played 16 major-league seasons with the Reds, Phillies, Cardinals and Royals.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Red Sox played Reds at La Tropical in 1941 spring training series

Jimmie Foxx, left, and Bobby Doerr during the Boston Red Sox's 1941 spring training visit to Havana, Cuba for a series of exhibition games against the Cincinnati Reds.

This and seven other photos from that visit were up for auction at Cuban Baseball Cards in September, 2010.

Sarasota, as it was from 1933-42, was Boston's spring training base, but the team played three games against Cincinnati at La Tropical Stadium, according to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961. The Red Sox won the series 2 games to 1 without the services of Ted Williams, who remained back in Florida because of an ankle injury.

Jorge S. Figueredo's book also says Boston also played an all-star team of Cuban amateurs on March 17, with the local nine winning 2-1 as Juan Decall struck out the side (Doerr, Jim Tabor and Johnny Peacock) in the second inning.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chico Fernandez starred with Cienfuegos for eight seasons

March 2: On this day in 1932, Cuban League star Humberto "Chico" Fernandez was born in Havana, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, Fernandez played 10 Cuban League seasons -- eight with Cienfuegos -- from 1951-61.

Fernandez led the Cuban League in doubles in 1955-56 and stolen bases in 1953-54.

Fernandez (show in Cuba with the Brooklyn Dodgers' Montreal Royals affiliate in the Class AAA International League in the 1954 photo) also played eight seasons in the majors with the Dodgers, the Phillies, Tigers and Mets from 1956-63.

His best season came in 1962 when he hit 20 home runs for the Tigers.