They are, I think, clearly different people. This photo, showing the slender García on the cover of El Score, makes the difference more obvious. A. M. García did travel to the United States with Abel Linares’s All-Cubans in 1903, 1904, and 1905, but to my knowledge neither he nor any other Cuban player ever appeared with the Cuban Giants, which was a thoroughly African-American team. Moreover, El Inglés passed away in Cuba on July 24, 1923.
The García pictured in Sol White’s book appears in team photos of the Cuban Giants from 1902 (courtesy of Brian Campf) and 1903 (courtesy of John Thorn):
So who was he? The Elmira, N.Y., Daily Gazette and Free Press (October 15, 1904) gives us an idea:
“In the last two or three years that the Cuban Giants have played baseball in this city,the position of catcher has been filled by a little, round chap who did not look much like a baseball crack. He resembled more an apple dumpling than anything else, but when play commenced it was soon seen that he filled the bill. He was agile as a cat and gathered in wild pitches and foul flies with a regularity and deftness that won the admiration of even those whom he put out. He was John Garcia and had many friends here.”
The Daily Gazette was speaking in the past tense for a reason. For the full story let’s turn to this front page article in the New York Times of October 2, 1904:
I was able to obtain John García’s death certificate, which confirms the details here, and adds a little more. He was a “Base ball player” by trade who died on October 1, 1904, at King’s Park, Jamaica, from causes that aren’t completely legible in the (awful) copy I was given, but include an “aortic aneurysm and haemorrhage.” Moreover, while the Times was skeptical about his national identity, the death certificate asserts that he was born in Cuba, giving him the singular honor of being the only genuine Cuban on the “Genuine Cuban Giants.”
News of his death spread quickly through upstate New York, where the Cuban Giants had barnstormed and where Garcia had gained “many friends,” in Elmira and elsewhere. It soon emerged that he had taken his gregariousness further than anyone had imagined. The dumpling-shaped but dextrous catcher, it turned out, had two wives.
One was black and one was white, and both tried to claim his body. The dispute caused “considerable excitement” at Everitt’s, the black undertaking establishment where García had been taken. Evidently García had constructed two separate worlds and, possibly, two separate racial identities for himself. The newspapers didn’t name either woman, but the black Mrs. García was known to his teammates and to the black undertaker. Her address (874 Atlantic Ave.) was entered on his death certificate, which also classified García as “black.”
The other Mrs. García was a “buxom white woman,” according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (October 7, 1904), who lived at 149 Underhill Avenue in Brooklyn and maintained that García’s father had been an “Indian” (apparently in order to establish that he was not black.) In the words of the Daily Eagle, “she admitted that García occasionally stayed at 874 Atlantic avenue,” but produced a marriage certificate “dated last April in Brooklyn.” The response of the black Mrs. García, if any, was not recorded in the press.
Ultimately the white Mrs. García carried the day, securing her husband’s removal to the Underhill address under the care of a different undertaker, and arranging for his burial in Evergreen Cemetery. Presumably the “little round chap” who gave his life for the Genuine Cuban Giants still resides there today.
This piece was originally published in the Outsider Baseball Bulletin (Vol. I, Issue 16; September 29, 2010).