I’ve been able to identify “C. Manela” of the 1921 Cincinnati Cuban Stars and 1921/22 Almendares as Claudio Manela, a Filipino lefty who lived in Brooklyn in the late 1910s and early 1920s. This is the headline from Diario de la Marina that finally confirmed it (October 27, 1921):
Here is the most relevant paragraph in the article:
“Manela is not, as we had thought, a product of a ‘sapatico de asentén’ [?] or a local product, but is instead a true ‘chino-manila’, that is to say, a legitimate Filipino, who left the crew of a steamship that called at Havana during the war, and was brought into contact with our baseball by Cueto, who had known him as a pitcher for a club in the American industrial leagues.”
(If anybody knows what “sapatico de asentén” means, let me know. And I have no clue about the last sentence, the bit with the “8” and the “36.”) The Diario story doesn’t mention it, but Manela evidently left the merchant marine to settle in New York, where he worked as a musician and played semipro ball. Here’s his World War I draft card:
Manuel Cueto played for the Tesreau Bears in 1921; if the Diario story is accurate, he might have been responsible for getting Manela signed by Tinti Molina and Abel Linares’s Cuban Stars. Manela then came to Cuba with the Cuban Stars in the fall of 1921, the only time he is known to have played in Cuba. He can be found on a passenger manifest for the S.S. Orizaba returning from Havana to New York on March 14, 1922:
He also filled out a World War II draft card, which gives a birthdate of April 12, 1893, and shows him living in Newark, New Jersey. He appears several times as a crewmember on ship manifests from 1946 to 1948. And Claudio Manela also appears in the Social Security Death Index, still residing, at the time of his death in November, 1975, in Newark.
Claudio Manela thus joins a rather select company of professional Filipino ballplayers to have come to the United States; to my knowledge, Bobby Chouinard is the only major league player ever born in the Philippines. And Manela was, I think, the only Filipino to play in the Negro Leagues.
UPDATE 7/7/07 See Scott’s comment. There have been at least three other players of Filipino heritage in the major leagues (though none were born in the Philippines): Bobby Balcena, Benny Agbayani, and Chris Aguila.
UPDATE 7/7/07 Evidently the Twins’ Jason Bartlett is also of Filipino descent.