More than a year and a half ago I reported on a couple of items from Cuban newspapers in 1909 claiming that Luis Padrón’s contract had actually been purchased by the Chicago White Sox when he tried out for them on July 22. According to the pseudonymous correspondent “Bancroft,” who was supposedly reporting from Chicago, Comiskey paid Abel Linares and Tinti Molina $1000 for the rights to Padrón. The player wasn’t supposed to report to the White Sox until mid-September. If true, this would mean not only that Padrón was twice the property of a major league club without being called up (the other team being the 1913 Boston Braves), but that he was the first Cuban League product to have been signed by the major leagues, predating Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans by nearly two years (even if he never actually played).
At the time I actually thought this story sounded unlikely, in large part because I strongly doubted that a major league club would bother to pay a club outside organized baseball—especially one that employed black players and played on the blackball circuit—for a player. There was, I supposed, the chance that Comiskey might have wanted to cultivate a relationship with Linares and Molina in the hopes of establishing a permanent pipeline of Cuban talent to the White Sox. That would have been a pretty noteworthy development, considering that no Cuban League players had made it to the majors yet, so I was dubious.
That was before I had heard of Rule 50, a clause added to the National Agreement in July 1909, right before Padrón’s tryout with the White Sox. Here’s the account in Sporting Life (July 10, 1909):
It may be worth noting that sources in the U.S. reported (mistakenly, I had previously assumed) that Comiskey had actually signed Padrón, as in this note from Sporting Life (July 31, 1909):
So protection was extended to semiprofessional clubs, especially those in the Chicago area, in early July, 1909—and within a few weeks Luis Padrón of the Cuban Stars (who spent a large portion of their summer in Chicago) was reported to have been signed by the White Sox for a fee. Coincidence?
There was also talk in early 1910 that the semipro Chicago City League would become formally a part of Organized Baseball. Considering that the League had featured one black team for several years (the Leland Giants in 1908 and 1909, the Chicago Giants in 1910) this would have been quite a landmark. The notion came to nothing, of course. One assumes in any case that if the Chicago League had joined OB, the black teams would have been kicked out—as in fact they were after 1910 anyway.
Rule 50—which became Rule 52 in 1910—and its protection of semiprofessional contracts lasted for less than a year. Francis Richter explains in Sporting Life (June 18, 1910)
NOTE: The image of the Luis Padrón baseball card, from the 1909 Cabañas set, can be found at Cubanball.com.