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

Cuban League statistics are finally starting to be available online thanks to, 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 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.