Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lorenzo 'Chiquitin' Cabrera was a career .300 hitter in Cuban League

April 30: On this day in 1930, Cuban League star Lorenzo "Chiquitin" Cabrera was born in Las Villas, Cuba.

Elected into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985, Cabrera (shown in this 1953 photo that was up for auction on in September 2010) played 11 seasons in Cuba -- seven-plus with Marianao -- between 1942-57.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Cabrera ranks sixth on the all-time Cuban League doubles list and ninth with a career .307 batting average. He batted over .300 in six of his final eight Cuban League seasons.

In the Negro leagues, Cabrera played for the New York Cubans between 1947-50. He was a member of the 1947 team that won the Negro National League pennant over the Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro World Series.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pedro Ramos starred for Cienfuegos, twice leading Cuban League in wins

April 28: On this day in 1935, former major-league pitcher and Cuban League star Pedro Ramos was born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, Ramos pitched for Cienfuegos during seven Cuban League seasons from 1954-61.

According to Who's Who in Cuban Baseball, 1878-1961, Ramos ranks ninth all-time in  Cuban League history in winning percentage (.595) and is tied for the most times (four) winning 10 or more games in a season.

In being named rookie of the year in 1955-56, Ramos led the league with 13 victories (for a 13-5 record). In 1960-61, Ramos led the league with 16 wins (for a 16-7 record) and was the league MVP.

Ramos compiled an 5-1 record with a 3.19 ERA in eight games during three Caribbean Series in 1956, '58 an '60.

In the majors, Ramos, who was 19 when he broke into the majors on April 11, 1955, pitched for the Senators, Twins, Indians, Yankees, Phillies, Pirates and Reds, compiling a 117-160 record with a 4.08 career ERA during a 15-year career between 1955-70.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Carlos Blanco: One half of Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame brothers

April 25: On this day in 1914, Cuban League star Carlos Blanco was born in Bayamo, Oriente, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, Blanco (shown in this 1949-50 Alerta premium) played for Marianao, Santa Clara, Almendares, Cuba, Habana and Leones during 16 winters in Cuba from 1935-51.

Three times, Blanco batted over .300 in his Cuban League career.

Blanco's brother, Heberto Blanco, played for Santa Clara, Habana (eight seasons) and Marianao between 1940-51 and was elected into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

Heberto and Carlos’ half-brothers, Carlos and Federico De Souza also played in the Cuban League, although neither had Hall of Fame careers.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Popular Cuban comedy team was 'absorbed into the orbit of baseball'

A Colgate shaving cream ad in the 1950-51 Cuban League official program, featuring the popular Cuban comedy team of Alberto Garrido and Federico Piñero, known as "Chicharito y Sopeira."

They appear in this ad as "managers honorarios," honorary managers of Habana and Almendares.
As part of their stage, radio and television vaudeville act, Garrido appeared in blackface.

In his book, The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball, Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria describes them like this:
one portraying a Galician who pulled for Almendares, the other a black who favored Habana, stoked the fires of fandom throughout the island. The negrito and the gallego were stock figures in Cuban theater and vaudeville, who in "Garrido y Piñero" were absorbed into the orbit of baseball.
My dad once described them as sort of Cuba's Abbott and Costello.
Who's On First with blackface? Yikes.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Santiago Ullrich led Cuban League with 12 wins in 1943-44

April 21: On this day in 2000, Cuban League star Santiago Ullrich died in Florida.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, Ullrich pitched for Habana, Almendares, Leones, Cienfuegos and Marianao during 11 winters in Cuba between 1941-55.

His best season came in 1943-44 when he led the Cuban League in wins (12) while pitching for Almendares, where he played five seasons between 1942-47.

Ullrich (shown in this 1943-44 La Campaña Cubana card) played only two major-league seasons, compiling a 3-3 record with a 5.04 ERA with the Washington Senators in 1944 and '45.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

'Magazine Deportivo Alerta' commemorated the start of the 1950-51 Cuban League season

Cover of the October 1950 issue of Magazine Deportivo Alerta, depicting a drawing of El Gran Stadium of Havana.

This issue, which was up for auction at in September 2010, was dedicated to baseball to commemorate the beginning of the 1950-51 season.

According to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961, Habana and Almendares were tied atop the standings at the conclusion of the regular season, forcing a one-game playoff between the eternal rivals.

In the first such game since the 1936-37 Cuban League season, the Lions won 4-2 with Adrian Zabala on the mound. Habana’s pitching staff also included Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm, who went 8-6 with a league-leading 2.36 ERA.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Before joining Dodgers, Jackie Robinson was in Cuba with Royals

April 15: On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, thus breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

What was the most socially significant event baseball history began that spring in Havana, Cuba, where the Dodgers and their Montreal Royals farm team -- which included Robinson --held spring training.

In this photo that was up for auction at Leland's in February 2007, Robinson shakes hands with Dodgers manager Leo Durocher at El Gran Stadium de la Habana, where the Dodgers played exhibition games.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Salvador Hernandez's finest stint as manager came in Federation League

A 1947-48 Kellogg's postcard of catcher Salvador Hernandez with Leones of the Players Federation League.

This was up for auction at
in September 2010.

Hernandez was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

Serving as a player-manager with Leones of the short-lived Players Federation, which operated outside Organized Baseball at Stadium La Tropical, Hernandez led the team to that league’s pennant over Cuba, Alacranes and Santiago.

Hernandez played 10-plus seasons for Habana during 15 winters in Cuba from 1935-51, but he only played two seasons in the majors -- 1942 and '43 with the Chicago Cubs.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chuck Connors had acting in his blood even when he played in Cuba

April 10: On this day in 1921, Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors was born in Brooklyn, N.Y.

If the name doesn't ring a bell, how about Chuck Connors of The Rifleman fame?

Before he embarked on his acting career, Connors was a Brooklyn Dodgers farmhand and played two seasons with Almendares, winning back-to-back Cuban League pennants from 1948-50.

In Cuba, Connors batted .257 with three home runs and 35 RBI during the 1948-49 season and .287 with three homers and 17 RBI in 1949-50.

As this photo might indicate, Connors was interested in the movies and acting even while he was playing in Cuba, according to former Almendares teammates and major-league catcher Mike Sandlock:
“When I got to Cuba … and [Connors] found out I was traded or sold from Montreal ... and he found out I was going to Hollywood [to play with the Class AAA Stars], oh jeez, he got in my ear and he says, 'When you get there, do some talking for me. I want to be up there.' Suddenly he got hooked up with L.A. [the Class AAA Angels]. The next thing you know, he got his foot in the door with acting.”

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Octavio Rubert starred for Almendares in the 1940s and '50s

April 9: On this day in 1925, Cuban League star Octavio Rubert was born in Sancti Spiritus, Las Villas, Cuba.

Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, Rubert pitched seven winters for Almendares between 1947-54.

His best seasons came over three consecutive winters as Rubert went 8-1 with a Cuban League-leading 1.63 ERA (1948-49), 5-1 with a 3.70 ERA (1949-50) and 7-2 with a 1.79 ERA (1950-51).

Rubert never reached the majors, instead playing 10 seasons in the minors.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Adolfo Luque, Cristobal Torriente led Almendares to 1915-16 pennant

The 1915-16 Almendares team that won the Cuban League pennant.

Adolfo Luque led the league with 12 victories, and Eustaquio Pedroso led the league with a .413 average and Cristobal Torriente led the league in runs, hits, triples, home runs and stolen bases, according to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961.

Almendares edged Habana by 2 1/2 games after the San Francisco entry in the league withdrew on March 23, 1916.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Club Habana's motto: The red beating takes time but it arrives

A 1952-53 Crusellas y Cia team card for Havana, which won its third consecutive pannant under manager Miguel Angel Gonzalez that season.

The card displays the Leones' team motto: "La leña roja tarda pero llega," The red beating takes time but it arrives.

In 1952-53, Habana’s Lou Klein led the league with a single-season record 16 home runs and teammate Pedro Formental drove in a league-high 57, but Marianao’s Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso (.327, 13 home runs, 42 RBI) was named MVP, according to Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961.