Tag Archives: Armando Marsáns

“I have seen Men of all Nationalities do Splendid Work”

21 Jun

In 1911, Victor Munoz, the sports editor for the Cuban newspaper El Mundo spent part of 1911 traveling with the Cincinnati Reds and chronicling the experiences of Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida during their rookie season with the Reds.

victormunoz

Victor Munoz

After several months in the states Munoz shared his observations about baseball in America:

“I have often heard the United States referred to as a melting pot into which are dumped men, women and children of all nationalities, to be reduced to a precious metal, possessing the best elements of all, known as that wonderful alloy, the American citizen.

“During the visits to this country I have taken pains to ascertain if this was true.  I found the truth had been told, but a very important factor in the making of good American citizens had been overloaded.”

Munoz concluded that if America was the world’s melting pot, baseball “was the flame which brings the human metal to that state which makes the American citizen possible.”

Munoz said in his “study” of the game:

“I have seen (Napoleon) Lajoie, a Frenchman; (Ed) Abbaticchio, an Italian, and (Honus) Wagner, a German, play ball.  I have seen men of all nationalities do splendid work in the field and at bat.

“In New York I heard Irish fans cheer the brilliant work of an English player, and in Cincinnati I saw Germans go wild, when (Mike) Mitchell, an Irishman, cleaned up with a triple.  Spaniards cheer Americans, Frenchmen enthuse when a German makes a great catch or throw and I have even seen an Indian, a stoic in everyday life, toss his blanket when a favorite player made an especially fine play.”

Munoz said Marsans and Almeida coming to America convinced him baseball was becoming an international sport based on, “The purchase of two Cuban players, born and bred on the island, men of Spanish descent, convinced me that baseball is reaching out and gaining more friends and devotees.”

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Marsans and Almeida

As for his home country:

“Cuba has gone wild over the American game…I am told it is the same in Japan and I will not be surprised to hear of American scouts going to that country for players.”

Munoz also said he was “deeply impressed” by what a cosmopolitan team the Reds were:

“I found (Hank) Severeid, a Norwegian, (Mike) Balenti, an Indian; Mitchell and other Irishmen,  (Bob) Bescher and other Germans; (Clark) Griffith, of Welsh-Irish descent;  (Johnny) Bates of English parentage; (Harry) Gaspar, whose father was a Frenchman, and my Cuban companions members of the team.

“Nothing could emphasize the attractiveness of the sport more than this gathering of men of all nations, working, fighting, and playing together, for the purpose of defeating other clubs of almost the same cosmopolitan character.

“These men have been thrown together without a thought of their religious beliefs of their nationality.  They all know that a man can learn to play ball no matter what country he hails from; that the fact that his father was a German, Irishman, Indian or any other nationality cannot prove a handicap.”

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“I Haven’t Heard of any Club Owners Refusing to accept the Patronage of Colored People”

24 Apr

Damon Runyon called Dan Parker, “The most consistency brilliant of all sportswriters.”

Parker wrote a column and was sports editor of The New York Daily Mirror from 1926 until the paper folded in 1963.

 

danparker

Dan Parker

 

Parker often used his column, “Broadway Bugle” to agitate for change in sports.  He crusaded against fixed wrestling matches, disreputable “Racetrack touts,” and the influence of organized crime in boxing—these columns led to several investigations, the disbanding of the corrupt International Boxing Club, and several criminal convictions, including Frankie Carbo, a member of the Lucchese crime family.

Parker was also an early crusader for the integration of professional baseball.  In 1933, Parker lent his name and influence to The Pittsburgh Courier’s “Crusade for comments from baseball celebrities” who supported integration.

Parker wrote to Chester Washington, The Courier’s sports editor:

“I don’t see why the mere accident of birth should prove a bar to the Negro baseball players who aspire to places in organized baseball.  I haven’t heard of any club owners refusing to accept the patronage of colored people. Rutgers didn’t draw any color line when Paul Robeson proved himself the best man for the place he was fighting for on the football team.  The All-American selectors didn’t go into a huddle about Paul’s complexion when they picked him for a place on the mythical eleven, football’s highest honor.

 

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Paul Robeson

 

“The U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t consider Eddie Tolan’s or Ralph Metcalfe’s lineage when they were picking the strongest sprinting team possible for last summer’s games.  If the Negro athlete is accepted without question in college football and amateur track and field events, which are among the higher types of sports, I fail to see why baseball, which is as much a business as it is a sport, should draw the line.

“In my career as a sports writer, I have never encountered a colored athlete who didn’t conduct himself in a gentlemanly manner and who didn’t have a better idea of sportsmanship than many of his white brethren.  By all means, let the Negro ballplayer play in organized baseball.  As a kid, I saw a half dozen Cuban players break into organized baseball in the old Connecticut League.  I refer to players like (Armando) Marsans, (Rafael) Alameda, (Al) Cabrera and others (Almeida, Marsans, and Cabrera played with the New Britain Perfectos in the Connecticut State League in 1910). I recall the storm of protest from the One Hundred Per Centers at that time but I also recall that all the Cubans conducted themselves in such a manner that they reflected nothing but credit on themselves and those who favored admitting them to baseball’s select circle.

“The only possible objection I can find to lifting the color line in baseball is that the Yankees might then lose their great mascot.  I refer to my good friend, (Bill) “Bojangles” Robinson, who chased away the Yankee jinx last season with his famous salt-shaker. The Yanks didn’t draw the color line on their World Series special to Chicago for Bill accompanied us on the trip.  On the way back, at every town where we stopped for a few minutes, the crowd hollered for Babe Ruth. Babe would make an appearance and then introduce Bojangles who would tell a few stories, go into his dance and make the fans forget about baseball as he ‘shuffled off to Buffalo.’

 

bojangles

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

 

“I read your paper every week and find your sports pages well edited and thoroughly enjoyable.”

Parker’s letter was released shortly after Heywood Broun of The New York World-Telegram made waves at the 1933 Baseball Writers Association dinner when he said:

“I can see no reason why Negroes should not come into the National and American Leagues.”

Broun and Parker were joined by another prominent sports writer, Gordon Mackay, who had been sports editor at three Philadelphia papers—The Enquirer, The Press and The Public Ledger—who wrote to The Courier:

“I believe that there are scores of Negroes who would make good in the big minors and in the majors.  Take some of the men I used to know—John Henry Lloyd, Rube Foster, Big (Louis) SantopPhil Cockrell, Biz Mackey and others—why, Connie Mack or the Phillies would have been strengthened with any of them on the best teams they ever had.”

The Courier’s Washington was hopeful that the sentiments of three powerful sportswriters would have some impact:

“Fair-minded and impartial writers like Broun, Mackey, and Parker can do much towards breaking down the barricaded doors of opportunity to capable colored ballplayers which lead into the greatest American game’s charmed circle.  And we doff our derby to ‘em.”

Armando Marsans’ Tall Tale

19 Oct

Baseball writers were fascinated by every utterance of the Cincinnati Reds’ two Cuban players, Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida.  Marsans was the more popular—and more successful—of the two.   He was also the product of well-to-do background.

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                           Marsans and Almeida

William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star illustrated the cultural difference between the Reds’ two Cuban players:

“(S)omeone asked Almeida and Marsans if they wouldn’t like tickets to a grand opera.  ‘Si, si, accented Marsans, delightedly.  I love grand opera—eet ees fines’ of all entertainment for a gentleman.’

‘I thank you much,” negatived Almeida, “but I care not to go.  To me, grand opera eet sound like de screech of de beeg tomcat, and about so much sensible.’”

Perhaps made up on his own, perhaps captivated by the erudite Marsans, perhaps in on the joke—it wasn’t always clear when Phelon was in on the joke—he quoted Marsans spinning a tale of a Cuban legend in his column in 1912:

“I have seen all the great ballplayers of the present time.  I have been in post-season series against (Napoleon) Lajoie and (Joe) Jackson and have made trips just to see Ty Cobb.  They are wonderful ballplayers, but I give you my word that the greatest I ever looked upon was an Indian named Canella, and popularly called Cinnamon.

“Canella was of a strange Indian race that is supposed to be extinct—the Sibboneys [sic Ciboney] of Cuba, who populated the island when the Spaniards came.  The historians and scientific books all say that they are extinct, and it would doubtless be so, if it were not for the fact that they still live in eastern Cuba and have a little city of their own.  They are tall men with ancient Greek faces—nothing but the color of the Indian to make resemble such men and (John “Chief”) Meyers and (Charles “Chief”) Bender—and they are an athletic people, more agile and active by far than we.  Baseball is their own pet diversion, and Canella, known as Cinnamon, was the greatest of them all.

“Canella, who cannot be over 27 even now, came out a few years ago, and at once became the marvel of eastern Cuba.  He was a pitcher, and a star on the slab, but he was also a batsman, lightening base runner, and clever outfielder.  The records of six years ago show Canella, in some 60 games hit .446 and stole 55 bases.  Havana’s best clubs went up against him and found him invincible while he turned the tide of the closest games with his own batting.

“Canella received no offers from the big American leagues, They took it for granted he was a light colored negro, and when his friends explained that he was an Indian the Americans laughed and said ‘There are no Indians in Cuba—the Spaniards killed them all 400 years ago.’

Armando Marsans

Armando Marsans

“So Canella kept right on playing in Cuba, and he seemed to improve each succeeding season.  At least he became so terrible that even the Havana and Almendares clubs sought excuses to avoid meeting him, and the weaker clubs would face him and get shut out every time.  Finally, some influential Cubans managed to make an American magnate understand that Canella was no Negro, and all was arranged for his tryout in the coming spring.  And then came the news that Canella’s arm was gone, and he could never pitch again.

“It seems that the Indians of Sibboney [sic] still practice the games of their forefathers, and of their favorite sports which is throwing the javelin,  Coming home for a visit, Canella saw the young men of the tribe practicing the spear throw.  Laughingly, he said ‘It is many years since I have done thix—let me try.’ And picking up a slender spear, he hurled it with all his might—and something went snap, crack, in his upper arm as he let go of the javelin.  The arm, so long accustomed to throwing the baseball, gave way when he tried to throw the spear, and never since has Canella been able to throw a ball from the pitching slab as far as the catcher.  It was a shame because Cinnamon Canella was the greatest pitcher, the finest batter, and the fastest base runner that I have ever gazed upon.”

“Calvo has been the Victim of a Cruel and Merciless Conspiracy”

4 Jun

When he signed 18-year-old Jacinto “Jack” Calvo Gonzalez, Washington Senators manager/owner Clark Griffith was no stranger to Cuban players, having managed Armando Marsáns and Rafael Almeida with the Cincinnati Reds, but Calvo’s signing was the beginning of Griffith’s 40-plus year commitment to signing players from Cuba.  During his tenure the Senators signed more than half of the 63 Cuban players in the major leagues.

Calvo was “discovered” while playing with Almendares in the Cuban National League, where he hit .342 in 19 games.  He made even more of an impression during a series Almendares played against the New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association, Calvo hit .400 and his older brother Tomas hit .385.

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He also hit .400 during a six-game series with the Philadelphia Athletics, The Associated Press said he didn’t compile those numbers facing minor league pitchers picked up for the series, but “against (Eddie) Plank, (Jack) Coombs, and (Charles “Chief”) Bender.”

When rumors circulated that Washington might have signed Calvo, Bender said:

“I never saw a faster youngster in my life; he can hit too, and looks for the entire world like a class ball player…If Griffith has signed him he will never regret it, for there is no chance for him to be a failure.”

By December of 1912 Griffith had Calvo under contract.  The Pittsburgh Press said:

“The young Cuban sent a letter to Griff, written in Spanish.  ‘They did not teach Spanish where I went to school,’ said The Old Fox, ‘so I can’t translate the missive.  However, as he signed his contract I guess everything is alright.’”

The Boston Red Sox signed Tomas Calvo later in December.

While Tomas never made it in Boston, Jacinto made his debut with the Senators on May 9; he hit only .242, but everyone noticed his arm.  After a June game with the St. Louis Browns, The Associated Press said:

“The youngster astonished the bugs yesterday with his remarkable throwing arm.  At one time he heaved the ball from the right field fence directly to (Germany) Schaefer’s hands at second.”

On August 13 Calvo was sent to the Atlanta Crackers in the Southern Association and made his first appearance with the team the following day, batting seventh, going 1 for 4.  The Atlanta Constitution said “He’s fast, fields pretty well, throws like a shot and meets the ball squarely.”

Calvo only lasted 10 days in Atlanta.  He was hit on the right arm with a pitch thrown by Charles “Curly” Brown of the Montgomery Rebels.  He was returned to the Senators and did not appear in another game that season.  (Some sources show Calvo with the Long Branch Cubans in the New York New Jersey League—it was most likely his brother Tomas, an infielder, rather than career outfielder Jacinto, who played shortstop for the team in 94 games).

Calvo started the 1914 season with the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League.  After only 11 games (he was 4-8 with one double, one triple and a stolen base) he was sent to the Victoria Bees in the Northwestern League.  Later in the season a story came out explaining his abrupt departure from Los Angeles.

Calvo with the Washington Senators

Calvo with the Washington Senators

The Spokane Spokesman-Review said, “Calvo has been the victim of a cruel and merciless conspiracy,” despite the fact that “in the exhibition games last spring against the White Sox Calvo loomed up head and shoulders above the other Angel gardeners, out hitting them by a wide margin and displaying more speed on the bags than the whole Angel team combined.”

The paper claimed that a female reporter:

“(o)n one of the local papers…dragged out of him the fact that his father was a rich sugar planter in Havana, and that he played baseball for fun and not for money…That was the beginning of the end for little Calvo. “

The story said fans began harassing Calvo, and:

“Instead of coming to his rescue, the players on the Angel team ‘rode’ the boy unmercifully.  It was pathetic to see the friendless little Cuban trying to get into the good graces of his teammates.  One day, in the clubhouse the boy sat down on a bench and cried before them all.  His spirit was broken.”

Calvo hit .289 for Victoria in 1914, and spent the spring of 1915 with the Senators before being release before the beginning of the season.  After his release he played with his brother Tomas for the Long Branch Cubans, by then a member of the Independent Negro League; he also played for Havana in the Cuban-American Negro Clubs Series.

Calvo next played for the Vancouver Beavers in the Northwestern League and the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League, hitting .329 in 1916, and slipping to .263 in 1917. After the 1917 season, the outfielder returned, unsigned, the contract sent to him by Seals owner Charlie Graham.

Calvo had been very popular in San Francisco during his nearly two seasons with the Seals, but was criticised by fans and local press for his holdout, especially because he was holding out on the even more popular Graham.  The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“He sent his terms, and as they were exactly what he asked for before.  (Charlie) Graham is wondering why the Cuban went to the trouble to wire at all.”  The paper criticised Calvo for “asking for more money than he got last year,” while “better players than he have submitted to a salary slash on account of war conditions.”

San Francisco Seals owner Charlie Graham

San Francisco Seals owner Charlie Graham

The Chronicle lamented the fact that Seals outfielder Biff Schaller would miss the entire season with an injury, otherwise “Calvo could have stayed in Havana for all that anyone here cares.”

As it turned out, Calvo did stay in Havana.  For all of 1918 and ’19, not returning to the states until 1920.  Tomorrow–Jacinto Calvo’s return.