Monday, August 13, 2007

1st Latino Pioneers

Latinos have been a part of professional baseball for over a century. Playing throughout the many varied leagues in the United States, Latinos have played an important role in not only advancing the game in The United States but also in their homelands. Here is the list of the 1st Latino ballplayers from Latin America. Though the list is not in order of appearance for each individual Latino, it is broken down by the 1st player from each represented country to play in the Major Leagues.

Colombia: Luis Castro 1902 Philadelphia Athletics
Cuba: Armando Marsans/Rafael Almeida 1911 Cincinnati Reds
Mexico: Baldomero “Mel” Almada 1933 Boston Red Sox
Venezuela: Alejandro Carrasquel 1939 Washington Senators
Puerto Rico: Hiram Bithorn 1942 Chicago Cubs
Panama: Humberto Robinson 1955 Milwaukee Braves
Dominican Republic: Osvaldo Virgil Sr. 1956 New York Giants
Nicaragua: Dennis Martinez 1976 Baltimore Orioles
Honduras: Gerald Young 1987 Houston Astros

Now, technically the 1st Latino to play professional baseball in the United States was Esteban Enrique Bellan (1850-8/8/1932) of Cuba. Also known as Steve Bellan, he played his college baseball at The University of Fordham during the years of 1863-1868 on the Fordham Rose Hill Baseball Club. The Fordham Baseball Club had the distinction of being the first school to play in the first ever nine-man team college baseball game in the United States against St. Francis Xavier College on November 3, 1859.

Professionally, Bellan played for the Unions of Morrisania, an upstate New York team. In 1869 Bellan joined the Troy Haymakers for whom he played third base until 1872. In 1871 the Haymakers joined the National Association of Professional Baseball Players (NAPBBP) also known as the National Association. Eventually a number of its teams became the National League on February 2, 1876.

After his time with the Haymakers, Bellan played a year with the New York Mutuals and then returned to Cuba. On December 27, 1874 Bellan played in the first organized baseball game in Cuba. From 1878-1886 he served as both a player and manager for the recently founded Havana baseball team. He led Havana to multiple Cuban baseball championships (1878-79, 1879-1880, and 1882-1883).

Why is Bellan not recognized as the 1st Latino to play in MLB?
Though the National Association is commonly considered the first professional baseball league, its status as the first Major league disputed. By the official history of Major League Baseball, the National Association is not recognized as one of the recognized historical major leagues and MLB does not recognize the compiled statistics from that league. So, based on that reasoning, Bellan is not considered to be the 1st Latino to play in MLB.

In future posts, I will attempt to highlight each of the 1st Latino Baseball players. If you have any questions and/or comments, please feel free to post and comment. Any and all information helps to round out my blog.

Thank You.
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