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.
By the way: this guy (“Ramon Herrara”) is Ramón Herrera. Herrera actually started the 1922 season on the Bridgeport Americans, also of the Eastern League, alongside Cuban Hall of Famer Joseíto Rodríguez, though it evidently didn’t show up in the guides. He must have played very little with Bridgeport (fewer than ten games) before moving to Springfield.
Herrera and Claudio Manela thus joined the Eastern League from the Negro National League at the same time, though Manela didn’t stick. Both were nicknamed “Mike,” for whatever reason. (At least Mike González was actually named Miguel.)
Thanks to Tito Rondon, who has provided an explanation for an obscure remark (found in the Diario de la Marina article excerpted in this post) concerning the Filipino pitcher Claudio Manela: “Todavía no sabe el verdadero significado del 8 y del 36” (“He still doesn’t know the true meaning of the ‘8’ and the ‘36’”).
ABOUT 8 AND 36 (MANELA) No doubt you have played charades, complete with three fingers up meaning “three words” or “syllables.” A Cuban version of the game (I have learned) used hints based on numbers; each number meant something. For instance, “one” was a “horse.” The Cubans also had a public lottery game called “bolita” (numbers racket in the U.S.). And so, dreams became associated with numbers. If you dreamed of a cat, for instance, you had to bet combinations that had a four in it (I think bolita had three or four numbers, it was run daily). Everybody played it, so if you arrived in Cuba and stayed a few months, in time you learned the significance of the numbers. Manela did not stay long enough to learn that 8 is “muerto” (dead man) or that 36 is “cachimba” (pipe used to smoke).
A check of the Hartford Courant confirms that the “C. Manela” who pitched briefly for the Hartford Senators of the Eastern League was the same C. Manela who pitched in Cuba in the fall of 1921 (and thus the same Manela who pitched for Tinti Molina’s Cincinnati Cuban Stars in the 1921 Negro National League).
Manela’s mentioned in several articles from March 29 to May 5, 1922. He’s not given a first name, only the initial “C.” There is, unsurprisingly, no mention of his work in the Negro National League the previous season. He’s referred to as Cuban, not Filipino, and was nicknamed “Mike,” which may have been some kind of generic nickname for Cubans at the time. Ramón Herrera, who entered the Eastern League at the same time, also came to be known as “Mike.” I suppose it might have come from the catcher Miguel Angel González, who at this point would have been (with Adolfo Luque) the best-known Cuban player in white organized baseball in the U.S.
The Courant twice calls Manela a southpaw, making for a total of four references I’ve seen to his lefthandedness. Several times he’s referred to as “the little Cuban hurler,” and on April 14 the Courant remarks that he is “about the size of ‘Dickie’ Kerr of the White Sox.” Claudio Manela’s World War II draft card, filled out when he was 49 years old, lists him as 5’6”, 145 pounds. Kerr is listed by baseball-reference.com as 5’7”, 155 pounds.
It turns out that there was a dispute over the rights to Manela between Hartford and Jersey City of the International League:
“Owner James H. Clarkin [of the Hartford Senators] yesterday was assured the services of the swarthy heaver when he was notified by Secretary Farrell that after weighing the evidence in the contest for the pitcher in which the Jerseys City Internationals disputed the property of the pitcher he ruled the Cuban belonged to the Senators.” (Courant 3/29/1922)
Claudio Manela, in fact, had arrived in New York from Havana on March 14.
Despite a small amount of hype in the Courant (which included reprinting a box score for a 3 to 1 victory by Manela, pitching for Almendares, over the Brooklyn Dodgers in Cuba the previous fall), Manela never got untracked in Connecticut. On May 4, as the Senators prepared for a road trip to Albany, he was cut loose:
“Manager Jack Coffey handed ‘Mike’ Manela, the little Cuban pitcher, his outright release. The weather has handicapped the Cubin [sic] in his efforts to get into shape and a result failed to show the stuff when assigned to the mound.” (Courant 5/4/1922)
Thanks to Dick Thompson for pointing me toward the Hartford Courant’s online search engine (which, btw, is not free).
I found the following line score for an exhibition game in the New York Times (April 15, 1922):
If anybody has a guide that covers the 1922 season, check to see if “Manela” (or a similar name) appears with the Hartford Senators of the Eastern League. It would be interesting to see if he attempted to make the jump from the Negro National League to the Eastern League (just as Ramón Herrera did at about the same time).
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.