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
Scott Simkus has posted another great piece of research on the record of Negro league teams versus lower-lower minor league teams. This one examines the performances of the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords against the Middle Atlantic League and Pennsylvania State Association, both Class C, from 1927 to 1937.
I think you can’t overestimate the importance of this and earlier studies by Scott, especially this one, which shows the relative success of major league and Negro league teams against teams of various minor league levels (in addition to semipro clubs). Such games are commonly dismissed as “meaningless” exhibitions, yet when you put together large numbers of them, unmistakable patterns begin to emerge. This argues for the ultimate usefulness of all games in studying Negro league and semipro players and relating them to their counterparts in organized baseball.
We haven’t come close to collecting and processing the full range of available data still hidden in hundreds of pre-war newspapers. But Scott’s work points the way and shows that the labor will definitely one day be worth it.
Louis Castro was not the only early twentieth-century baseball figure with Colombian origins. The Long Branch Cubans, who played in minor leagues and independently from 1913 to 1916, were owned by a New York physician named Carlos Louis Henriquez, and managed by his brother, Richard Anthony Henriquez (pictured right), also the team’s first baseman in 1913 and 1914.
Aside from Long Branch, the Cubans also based themselves at various times in Newark, Jersey City, Poughkeepsie, Harlem, and Newton, New Jersey. Especially when they were in Long Branch, a seaside resort town, they played a large number of exhibitions against major league teams, according to David Skinner compiling a record of 10-24 in these games. Most significantly, they helped funnel a number of players, including Adolfo Luque and Mike González, from the Cuban League to U.S. organized baseball.
Although the Henriquez brothers were usually assumed to be Cuban themselves, a number of records show a Colombian connection. In June 1886, about ten months after “Master Louis Castro” and his father Néstor arrived in New York, another family arrived on board the S.S. Niagara from Colombia (via Mexico and Cuba):
The family remained in the United States, appearing in the 1900 census, where the father, Louis N. Henriquez, and children are all born in the “U.S. of Columbia”; the children’s mother, who had passed away by now (Louis is widowed) is shown as born in Cuba.
In the 1910 census the brothers, both married now, are living together on W. 88th Street, the same address later given on some passenger lists by Long Branch Cubans players. Both give Colombia as their birthplace.
They filled out draft cards in 1918, only two years removed from the demise of the Long Branch Cubans. Unfortunately their cards did not ask for birth place. Both checked the space under “Citizen by Father’s Naturalization before Registrant’s Majority,” although Richard seems to have also written, below that, that he is a citizen of Colombia.
Both appeared in the 1920 census, Carlos as “Dr. Carl Henriquez,” listed for the first time as born in Cuba (his parents in South America). Richard’s census entry, on the other hand, is consistent with earlier records, showing born in South America, his father in South America and mother in Cuba). Both of Richard’s sons, one ten years old, the other “6 2/12” (to my eyes; Ancestry.com has recorded his age as 2 9/12), are listed as born in New Jersey.
The last sign of either brother I’ve found so far is Carlos in the 1930 census, living with in Yonkers, listing his employment as “none,” and supposedly born in New York. The names of his wife (“Jeannette”), son (“Carlo” or “Carlos”) and his mother-in-law, Cora Long, establish this as Carlos Henriquez. His name, however, is oddly given as “Henry Carlos Henriquez,” a strong indication that the information here is probably not entirely trustworthy.
The image of Richard Henriquez above is courtesy of David Skinner, but don’t blame him for the poor quality; I lifted it from a photocopied handout for his presentation on the L.B. Cubans.
You have probably heard of Louis Castro, the Philadelphia Athletics’ second baseman and graduate of Manhattan College who briefly replaced Nap Lajoie in 1902 when Lajoie was moved to Cleveland as part of the war with the National League. Recently a debate has raged about whether Castro was born in Colombia (which would make him the first native of a Latin American country to appear in the major leagues since Esteban Bellán in 1873) or in New York City.
Castro, it turns out, led an interesting life quite apart from the question of his place of birth. Personable and eloquent, he eventually became known as something of a baseball comedian. He was nicknamed at first “Judge” (which mutated into “Jud” at some point); as a minor leaguer he was known as “Count Castro.” At a postseason banquet in 1902, the Athletics players were each presented with a special watch fob in commemoration of the team’s American League pennant. Despite having been a mediocre rookie who had only played parts of the year, Castro was chosen to give “a short speech of acceptance” on behalf of the players. He also “sang a Spanish song,” and “on behalf of his fellow-players, crowned [Rube] Waddell with flowers from the table as ‘king of pitchers’, an honor which Waddell accepted blushingly but gracefully” (Sporting Life, October 11, 1902).
After 1902 Castro continued to play in the minors for a number of years. In 1907 he took a job as an undertaker in Atlanta, and apparently continued to do off-season mortuary work over the next few years while still playing ball in the summer. He became a boxing promoter in the 1910s and in 1921 headed a Rhode Island group that wanted to buy Jersey City’s International League club and move it to Providence. In the 1930 census, at the age of 52, he’s listed as a “Ball Player”; this most likely points to work as a semi-pro manager or promoter, though I haven’t been able to substantiate that.
During his career he was always understood to have been born in Colombia (or sometimes Venezuela); most famously, he was frequently said to be the nephew or cousin (or even son) of Cipriano Castro, the president of Venezuela at the time, who had extensive familial and business connections to Colombia. Baseball reference books accepted his Colombian birth until 2001, when Dick Beverage found Castro’s file at the Association of Professional Ball Players of America, dating from the late 1930s, in which Louis Castro gives his birthplace as New York City. Combined with his 1941 death certificate and a 1930 census entry, this led SABR’s Biographical Committee to decide he had been born in New York. For some, the change removed Castro’s status as a pioneering Latin player, although Castro was undoubtedly perceived and treated as Latino during his career, regardless of the actual facts of his birth.
Anyway, the consensus, led by the work of Nick Martinez, Leo Landino, Gilberto Garcia (“Louis ‘Count’ Castro: The Story of a Forgotten Latino Major Leaguer,” Nine 16:2 , pp. 35-51), Adrian Burgos (Playing America’s Game, pp. 85-86), and an archivist from Manhattan College whose name I unfortunately don’t have at the moment, seems to have swung back in the direction of a Colombian birth for Castro. This in my opinion certainly fits the evidence best. A quick summary:
--A passenger list for the ship Colón, arriving in New York from Aspinwall, Colombia (now Colón, Panama), on October 14, 1885, which includes Louis Castro, 8, citizen of the “United States of Colombia,” traveling with his father N. Castro, 50, a banker (Leo Landino posted the passenger list, originally found by Nick Martinez);
--Manhattan College records from the 1890s showing Castro’s father’s address as Medellín, Colombia, though Garcia notes that some of these records also indicate that Castro was born in Venezuela;
--A biographical sketch in Sporting Life (October 4, 1902, p. 5) that says Castro “was born in the United States of Colombia, in 1877”;
--Numerous press reports, from ca. 1903 to as late as 1914, that Castro was the nephew, cousin, or son of Venezuelan president Cipriano Castro, which sometimes also state that Castro was himself Venezuelan;
(Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1904, p. B4)
--The 1910 U.S. census, showing Louis M. Castro, a 33-year-old undertaker living in Atlanta, born (like his parents) in “Medellin U.S. Col.,” which is crossed out with “So. America Spanish” written above it.
--A passenger list for the ship Vandyck, arriving in New York from Rio de Janeiro on April 11, 1922, showing a Louis Castro, 45, married, born November 25, 1876, in New York City.
--The 1930 U.S. census, which shows Louis Castro, 51, “Ball Player, Base Ball Team,” born in New York and living in Queens.
--Castro’s file, Association of Professional Ball Players of America, late 1930s, showing him born in New York.
--His 1941 death certificate, also showing Castro born in New York.
Note that from 1886 through 1914 or so Castro was said in every press notice or official record to be from Colombia (or in some instances Venezuela). According to his entry in the 1910 census he was an alien, not a citizen of the United States.
However, from 1922 until his death the records we have all show him born in New York. It could be that Castro at some point discovered the truth about his origins. The above chronology would suggest that this epiphany, if it occurred, must have taken place sometime in the late 1910s or early 1920s.
But I have found a document, one I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere, that might better explain why Castro might have switched his birthplace from Medellín to New York later in his life. It’s his passport application, dated January 30, 1922. It shows Louis Castro, born in New York on November 25, 1876 (providing affidavits by two people to this effect), and claiming never to have been outside the United States. Castro also says that his father, Nestor Castro, deceased, was born in New York.
(click to enlarge)
Castro gives his employment as “salesman,” gives us the name of the ship (the Van Dyck) upon whose passenger list he later appears (see above), and lists the countries he plans to visit: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Jamaica. He lists the “object” of his visit as “travel,” so it’s unclear whether or not this is a business trip of some sort. For what it’s worth, there doesn’t seem to be a passport application on file for his wife, Margaret, which might tend to indicate the trip was for business.
If Castro indeed came to the United States as an eight-year-old youngster, and if his father returned to Colombia (as it seems the Manhattan College records suggest), it’s possible Louis was never naturalized. If he didn’t leave the United States from 1886 to 1922, the issue of his birth and citizenship might never have come up. But when he did leave, it became necessary to obtain travel documents. He applied for a U.S. passport on January 30, 1922, and gave the date of his departure as February 4, so it was either a relatively unexpected trip, or he had left everything until the last minute. Either way, he needed the passport quickly.
Even without that complication, it might have been quite difficult to obtain documents from Colombia after having been absent for 35 years. Castro’s father was dead, and perhaps he had fallen out of touch with his family there. In any event, it was doubtless much easier to find a couple of friends to swear to his birth in the United States than to do whatever he would have had to do to get a Colombian passport. What I want to suggest is that Louis Castro may have simply decided to claim he was born in the United States as a bureaucratic expediency. He then adopted that fiction for all official purposes for the rest of his life.
Another crucial source needs to be examined. There is a World War I draft card for “Lou Castro,” born November 25, 1877, and living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the form he used did not ask for birth place, and worse, the card’s image is missing from Ancestry.com’s digitization (and presumably the original microfilm), so we can’t check any other information that might be on it, such as his occupation, employer, nearest relative, and, most crucially, his citizenship status (alien, naturalized U.S. citizen, or native-born citizen). If anyone wants to examine the actual, physical card in whichever National Archives branch has it, it is supposed to be in Roll 1907607, Draft Board 7, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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.)
On December 21, [1879,] an American team named the Hop Bitters, headed by Cincinnati promoter Frank Bancroft, visited Havana and easily disposed of a Cuban squad that scored a single run by Carlos Zaldo, who got on base following a successful bunt, the first native player to master this particular craft.
In Cuba the team was indeed promoted as the “Hop Bitters,” a name usually associated with Rochester, New York. And in fact the trip appears to have been financed by a “Mr. Soule of Rochester, N.Y.” (New York Clipper, November 29, 1879). But it turns out that Bancroft’s team was really, as the Clipper remarked in its November 29 issue, “composed entirely of the Worcesters of 1880”—that is, the Worcester, Massachusetts, club of the (minor) National Association of 1879, with the players they intended to use the following season. The Worcesters joined the National League for the 1880 season, and would play there through 1882 (they are called in all the reference books the “Worcester Ruby Legs,” though I’m not sure how prevalent that nickname was at the time); so the nine that visited Cuba in 1879 was, if not technically a “major league” club, practically one. The latest standings I could find for the 1879 NA shows the Worcesters at fourth place of nine clubs with a 19-23 record. In 1880 they would fare about the same in the NL, at 40-43 and fifth (though with Lee Richmond and Fred Corey added on the mound, and Harry Stovey in the outfield). The roster is listed in the Clipper (November 22, 1879); here is the passenger manifest for their return to the United States, arriving at New Orleans on December 31:
The players are: George Wood Alonzo Knight Charlie Bennett Art Whitney J. F. “Chub” Sullivan C. J. “Curry” Foley A. J. “Doc” Bushong Arthur Irwin Frederick “Tricky” Nichols
Seven of these players (all but Foley, who would go to Boston, and Nichols, who would only pitch two games for Worcester) would be regulars for Worcester in 1880.
The trip was not a financial success. As far as I can tell, they ended playing only two games in Cuba, spending the rest of the winter in New Orleans. This piece, from the Clipper (January 3, 1880), explains it from the American point of view:
It’s important to remember that the United States had made several attempts to acquire Cuba, most recently offering to purchase the island in 1869, just after the Ten Years’ War, a Cuban rebellion, had begun. Baseball, probably considered a symbol and symptom of U.S. subversion, was banned by Spanish authorities in that same year (though the ban was apparently flouted often, or only intermittently enforced). In 1873, war had nearly broken out between the United States and Spain over the “Virginius Affair,” a Bay of Pigs-like incident involving an American-manned ship caught attempting to smuggle arms, ammunition, revolutionary leaders, and about 100 soldiers into Cuba (you will be hearing more about this soon). When the Worcester players visited in 1879, the Ten Years’ War had been over for only a year, and the atmosphere they encountered was surely tense.
I finally got a chance to look up some 1914-15 North Carolina newspapers to see if Francisco Muñoz and Luis Padrón played for the Raleigh Capitals of the North Carolina League (as evidence collected by David Skinner and Patrick Rock seemed to suggest).
First, Padrón in 1914: According to the Raleigh News and Observer, a certain “George Pennele,” who came from Baltimore and had played briefly for the Orioles, was acquired by Earle Mack for the Raleigh club and played his first game on June 11, 1914. Then the next day his name changes (without explanation) to Pedrone, then alternates between Pedrone and Pedone (in the box scores he is "Pedone" seven times, "Pedrone" three times, and "Pennele" once). I'm certain they're the same person, as the newspaper was pretty scrupulous about recording the comings and goings of players. Altogether Pennele/Pedrone/Pedone played 11 games, June 11 through June 24; according to the box scores, he batted 10 for 40 with no extra base hits, collected 26 putouts and 2 errors, all in center field. The stats are very slightly different from what David Skinner found in the Spalding Record Book for "Pedrone" in 1914, but not by much. He batted eighth in the first three games, then second in the next five, then led off in his last three games. When he was released, the News and Observer commented: "Pedone is a nice little outfielder, but is almost invisible in front of a catcher. He just naturally hits weakly." That just doesn't sound like Padrón, whose heavy hitting was always remarked upon wherever he went. Plus, Padrón was always a story when he played in the minors; it seems unlikely he would have made such an underwhelming impression for a Class D club.
I briefly thought that perhaps the "Pennele" name and the bit about Baltimore might have been a cover story (soon abandoned) to hide his identity. The publisher of the News and Observer at the time was still Josephus Daniels, one of the men who had orchestrated the 1898 coup d'etat that ended the last vestige of reconstruction in the south (the so-called "Wilmington race riot"); certainly the climate could not have been friendly for someone suspected of African ancestry. Still, that didn't quite add up, since claims of a Baltimore origin would hardly deter suspicions of blackness. Cuba would have been much safer (that was the whole point of using "Cubanness" as a dodge). Plus, Francisco Muñoz (as well as J. M. Gutiérrez) did play for Raleigh the next season, as it turns out, and were openly known as Cubans, and nobody seemed to care.
Anyway, according to Marshall Wright’s book of International League stats, "Pedone," no first name, did play for the Baltimore Orioles in 1914. He appeared in 7 games as an outfielder and hit 2 for 19 (two singles). Then I searched for Pedone in the WWI draft cards. It was actually a fairly well-represented name (87 Pedones registered for the draft). Several were in Baltimore; one was named George, the same first name the News and Observer had given "Pennele" when he first arrived. And, as his card shows, he listed himself as a professional ballplayer:
So the whole thing turns out to be an odd coincidence, a similar name rendered even more similar by a typo (“Pedrone” for “Pedone”), on a team for which one (actually two) of Padrón’s Long Branch teammates would play the following season.
And Francisco Muñoz did indeed play for Raleigh in 1915. The Long Branch Cubans, evidently playing their way north, visited Asheville in April, 1915, for a three-game series, during which the Asheville Mountaineers signed Muñoz and catcher Manuel Jiménez to form a Cuban battery. Shortly thereafter (though I haven't checked for the precise circumstances) the Raleigh Capitals signed J. M. Gutiérrez to catch and play right field. Muñoz pitched well for Asheville, going 5-2 as they led the Carolina League toward the end of May; however, rosters had to be reduced from 15 to 13 on May 25, and for some reason never explained Asheville manager Jack Corbett decided to get rid of his Cuban battery. Earle Mack pounced immediately (the Capitals were actually in Asheville at the time), and Muñoz was signed; Jiménez, however, was sent back to the Long Branch Cubans. The move did not work out for Asheville; in first place at the time they dumped the Cubans, the Mountaineers ended up dead last with a 43-73 record (the Capitals weren't great either, finishing fourth in a six-team league).
A couple of random notes:
1) The North Carolina League was usually referred to as simply the “Carolina League.”
2) The Asheville News-Gazette in 1915 carried an astronomy column by H. P. Lovecraft, and also featured a “Socialist Column,” put together by the “Socialist Local of Asheville.”
Soon to come: Luis Padrón’s minor league peregrinations in 1909-1911.
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).