Adventures in Baseball Archeology: the Negro Leagues, Latin American baseball, J-ball, the minors, the 19th century, and other hidden, overlooked, or unknown corners of baseball history...with occasional forays into other sports.
On September 22, 1922, Almendares Park hosted an old-timers’ game, featuring a bunch of familiar names. El Mundo published a full play-by-play account of the game and included photos of the participants:
(El Mundo, September 23, 1922, p. 8)
Here are some close-ups:
Julián Castillo, Carlos Morán
Francisco “Pancho” Morán, Luis Padrón
The teams were the “Umpires” (so named after their captain, José “Kiko” or “Quico” Magriñat, a former player who had become the top umpire in Cuba), and the “Reliquias de Yoyo,” or Yoyo’s Relics, Yo Yo being that team’s captain, the turn-of-the-century pitcherSalvador Rosado. The game ended after four innings in an amicable 3 to 3 tie.
I’ve recently been in touch with Francisco Morán, poet, SMU professor, and editor of La Habana Elegante, a journal inspired by the modernist publication of the same name. As it happens, Professor Morán is a distant relative of none other than Carlos Morán— left-handed third baseman and OBP machine for Fe, Habana, and the Cuban Stars during the 1900s and 1910s, and one of my favorite early Cuban players (or favorite players, period).
There was no way of knowing about his extraordinary plate discipline until I started compiling Cuban League statistics from box scores. Although I don’t have his whole career done yet, it turns out that Morán walked 160 times in 200 Cuban League games from 1904/05 through 1912/13—a rate more than twice the league average over this time. Overall he hit .284/.427/.321 in leagues that hit .220/.303/.266.
As for his southpaw handling of third base, the famous umpire Billy Evans, who accompanied the Detroit Tigers on their 1910 tour, wrote in the New York Times (December 18, 1910) that Morán “is quite a ball player. He plays the third sack brilliantly, is an adept bunter as well as a hard hitter, and like all the other natives, is the possessor of a strong throwing arm and is unusually fast on his feet.”
Carlos was one of three ballplaying brothers, the others being Angel and Francisco. They were of mixed black and Chinese heritage. The importation of Chinese labor to Cuba took place mostly from the 1850s to 1870s, in large part motivated by the abolition of slavery in Cuba in 1862. So it seems likely that the Morán brothers were second-generation Chinese-Cubans. They were from Matanzas, and their mother’s name was Nicolasa Benavides, though so far I’ve found their father named only as “E. Morán.” Angel was a marginal player, but Francisco enjoyed a fairly substantial career as an outfielder, spending at least two summers playing in the U.S. While he wasn’t the star Carlos was, Francisco shared some of his characteristics as a player, leading the Cuban League in walks himself two years in a row (1904/05 and 1905/06).
Professor Morán is not sure of his exact relationship with the ballplaying Morán brothers. Interestingly enough, though, his grandfather was named Francisco Morán Benavides—exactly the same as Carlos’s younger brother.
I wanted to pull this from the comments: Brent Moulton has finally found a contemporary reference to Carlos Morán throwing left-handed—hiding in plain sight, in the New York Times of all places! Here’s what Brent says:
While looking for something else, I finally ran across a reference to Morán throwing left handed in this article from The New York Times, December 18, 1910, about the Detroit Tigers series that had just concluded. The article was written by Hall-of-Fame umpire Billy Evans and was one of a series of articles published by the Times that winter about baseball in Cuba. (To read other articles in the series, go the nytimes.com site and type in the Search box: “billy evans” cuba baseball; then select NYT Archive 1851-1980.) This article also includes an interesting description of Julián Castillo as the Cecil Fielder of the deadball era. It would be interesting to see a contemporary photo of him; there's no way that he weighed 260-285 pounds when the picture was taken that appears on page 85 of Figueredo.
Another question -- both the Times article and the photo above use the name “Sam Lloyd” for John H. Lloyd - does anyone know what that's about?
A couple of comments:
1) This is the famous series where Lloyd (.500, 11 for 22), Grant Johnson (.412, 7 for 17—with 7 walks), and Bruce Petway (.389, 7 for 18) all outhit Sam Crawford (.360, 18 for 50) and Ty Cobb (.350, 7 for 20; Cobb was reported at 7 for 19, .368, but I’m pretty sure that’s wrong). (Carlos Morán, by the way, hit 8 for 24 with three walks in six games.) It’s also the series in which Petway was supposed to have thrown out Cobb stealing anywhere from three to seven straight times, whereupon Cobb supposedly swore never to step on a diamond with black players again.
I’ve only been able to document Petway throwing out Cobb once in the series, on his only known stolen base attempt in Cuba. Cobb played only five games total, two against Petway’s Habana team. For one of them, a 3-0 Habana win on November 28, I have a play by play account; in this one Petway nailed Cobb trying to steal second in the fourth inning. For Cobb’s other appearance against Habana, a 12 to 4 Detroit win on December 4, I have no play-by-play. Cobb came to the plate five times, going 2 for 5 with three runs scored. I suppose it’s possible that Cobb made it on base all five times (with errors, fielders’ choices, etc.), but he couldn’t have been thrown out stealing more than twice, since he scored three times. Petway does have two assists. It seems a little unlikely, though; since they made such a big deal out of Méndez fanning Cobb once, you’d think there’d be at least a mention if he’d been thrown out stealing twice in one game.
Cobb, by the way, stole no bases at all in his three games against Almendares and Gervasio González. I have play-by-plays for two of the games, and he was not caught stealing in either of them; in the third he hit 1 for 5 and didn’t score, while González did have three assists, so it’s possible “Striker” got him.
I haven’t read Diario de la Marina’s accounts of this series yet (everything I have comes from La Lucha), so maybe we can fill in some gaps soon.
2) I’ve seen at least one photo of Castillo circa 1911-1912 where he looks pretty large, though I don’t know if I could tell whether he was at 260-285 lbs. Evans notes that he went hitless in the 1910 series against Detroit; indeed that was the case, as Castillo was 0 for 20 (with one walk) in five games for Almendares.
3) John Henry Lloyd was for some reason known as “Sam Lloyd” in Cuba around this time—I don’t have any explanation.
If you haven’t seen it already, Brent Moulton has posted a painstaking statistical study of Carlos Morán over at the Hall of Merit, concluding that he was similar to Stan Hack in career value among major league third basemen. I’ve been meaning to put together some posts specifically on Morán for a while—actually, ever since this blog started; but, well, I haven’t gotten to it yet. In the meantime, you can find some musings on Morán’s throwing hand buried in this rambling post, with a little more in this one. Morán is supposed to have thrown left-handed, and I’ve been trying to confirm it in contemporary sources—with no success so far.
I won’t list everything here, but in the “cuban statistics” category you can find Morán’s statistics in three seasons of regular Cuban League play, in three seasons of the Premio de Verano (Cuban Summer League), and in all exhibition series against visiting Negro League teams from 1904 through 1915. And here you can find Carlos Morán’s totals (and those of a number of other hitters) against major league teams visiting Cuba.
Also, the 1914 Fe photo I posted the other day (courtesy of David Skinner) shows a somewhat dejected-looking Morán (gloveless, naturally).
Brent was having some difficulty posting a link to a photo montage of some players for the 1911 Habana club, including Morán. Here’s the photo itself, from the Library of Congress site (I assume, since it dates from 1911, there are no copyright issues), which, incidentally, includes another view of Luis Padrón:
UPDATE 5/13/2007 David Skinner sent this note:
The 1911 Habana photo is from the 1911 Spalding Baseball Guide Spanish-American Edition, later called the Cuban Edition. I queried Spalding (now owned by Russell and of course long out of the publishing business) about using photos from the Cuban guides in my book. It is out of copyright and Spalding recognizes it as historical material which can be used freely. Dan Touhey, Spalding VP for Marketing, understandably is protective of the still-active brand name. He informed me that Spalding would consider my use of and crediting of the photos to be positive promotion for the brand.
I have run across another reference to Luis Padrón as “Luigi.” Although Padrón is an old Spanish surname, it would seem a solid possibility that he came from an Italian family, or had Italian connections of some sort. In the North American press, Padrón’s name was commonly spelled “Padrone,” probably because that word was commonly used in coverage of Italian immigrant communities. So when you run searches for “Padrón” in early 20th century U.S. newspapers, you come up with dozens, even hundreds of hits, almost all about Italians.
On Carlos Morán: I looked up the 1911 photo in La Lucha I referred to in the Padrón post. On the microfilm it’s dark but fairly clear; the anticlimax is that Morán’s slightly turned, with his left side toward the camera, and his right hand hidden behind his waist. He doesn’t have a glove on his left hand, but you can’t see the other hand at all.
Padrón is actually pictured right next to him. He has his arms folded across his chest, with no glove. So those particular photos are no help in determining their handedness. They are also too dark to scan and post here. The trip from old newsprint to microfilm to photocopy to scan is just too much for many photographs. The photo of Padrón holding his bat righthanded is actually quite clear on the microfilm (and the “HP” is unmistakable on his cap), but after scanning, it comes out looking like my dog chewed it up.
There’s a photo reproduced on page 49 of Mark Rucker and Peter Bjarkman’s beautiful book of Cuban baseball photographs, Smoke. It shows, according to the text, Opening Day, 1908, Fe vs. Almendares (January 1). Oddly, when I was looking at this the other day, the folder for that season was sitting open on my desk—with that very game on top!
(click to enlarge)
Pitching for Almendares that day was José Muñoz. Based on the very few photographs I have seen of him, the figure rearing back on the mound looks somewhat too portly (though I suppose you could be misled by a baggy uniform). That would mean Fe is in the field. Their pitcher was the very obscure African-American John Davis, the Philadelphia Giants’ workhorse during their 1907 Havana trip. It’s kind of cool to think that, as little as we know of this man, here might well be a photo of him in mid-windup.
Fe’s shortstop was Felix “Dick” Wallace, who would later captain/manage the St. Louis Giants, among other teams. The second baseman was Simón Valdés, a regular for several Cuban teams during this period. And Fe’s third baseman was none other than Carlos Morán—except that the photograph is cropped just short of third base. No chance to see which hand his glove was on. (His brother, Francisco, a.k.a. “Pancho,” was Fe’s catcher that day.)
You really can’t be certain it’s Fe in the field, though. Although the photo’s a bit clearer on the page than in the scan, these are still awfully small, blurry figures. And you can’t actually see the gloves on the infielders’ hands, anyway.
Oh, one more note: I see that Figueredo’s Who’s Who in Cuban Baseball lists the mysterious “J. Padrón” of the 1915/16 Almendares club as throwing and batting right-handed.