Tag Archives: Jack Calvo

“Calvo May Come Out But No One Cares”

5 Jun

Jacinto Calvo and San Francisco Seals owner Charlie Graham were unable to come to terms on a contract for 1918, and the local press quickly turned on the outfielder.

The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“(Calvo) is a simple-minded Cuban boy…When he is hitting he can go around the bases in nothing flat.  When he has a batting slump, he develops water on the knee and can hardly limp up to the plate.”

He remained in Cuba and served as a police officer in Havana.

It was rumored again in 1919 that Calvo might return to the Seals, but The Chronicle, under the headline “Calvo May Come Out But No One Cares,” made it clear that twelve months had not softened opinions about the holdout outfielder:

“Calvo has written friends that he wants to come back, but if he stays in that dear old Havana until Charlie Graham coaxes him back, he will grow whiskers a foot long.  Graham really tried to get Calvo last year, for he was in a bad way for lack of outfielders, but if there is any coaxing to be done this year, Calvo will do it.”

Calvo

Calvo

Terms were not reached for 1919, and Calvo remained in Havana for another year.

In February of 1920 The Chronicle said Calvo, “Who bobs up every year about this time,” had written Graham saying he wanted to return to the Seals, then in March the paper reported that “The Havana World” said that Calvo “has joined the Franklin, PA independent team together with (Manuel) Cueto.”

Neither report proved true; instead, Calvo was signed by Clark Griffith for a second tour of duty with the Washington Senators.  In 17 games he had only one hit, a triple, in 23 at-bats before being sent to the Little Rock Travelers in the Southern Association in July.

Calvo could not hit American League pitching, but no one questioned his throwing arm; except teammate Stanley “Bucky” Harris.  The future Hall of Famer wrote in 1925, in a series of articles he wrote for The North American Newspaper Alliance, that his doubts about Calvo’s arm almost cost him his career:

“I thought I could hurl a baseball farther than anyone on the club and entered into a contest with Jack Calvo, an outfielder.  The Cuban has a reputation for having a great arm.  I had won a long-distance throwing contest…while with the Buffalo club.  That convinced me I could hold my own.”

Despite being warned against taking on Calvo by teammate Clyde Milan, Harris went ahead with the contest, the two stood in the infield:

“(Calvo) cut loose.  He threw the ball over the right field bleacher wall.  I realized it was a truly wonderful peg.”

Harris said he was concerned about being caught by manager Clark Griffith and rushed his throw:

“My elbow cracked as the ball left my hand.  It sounded to me as if a board had been broken across a fence…The ball dropped yards inside the park.”

Harris said for three weeks he “wondered if I ever would be able to throw a ball again.”  By the time Harris returned to the lineup, Calvo was on his way to Little Rock where he hit .306.

From 1921 through 1926 Calvo spent his summers playing baseball in the states; most notably in Fort Worth, where he helped lead the Texas league Panthers to two Dixie Series victories over the Southern Association champions in 1923 and ’24.  His winters were spent working as a lieutenant in Havana’s Harbor police and playing baseball in the Cuban League.

Calvo’s career ended abruptly in September of 1926.  The San Antonio Light reported that the former Fort Worth outfielder, then with the Memphis Chickasaws in the Southern Association “must forego baseball…and return to his job, his leave of absence was about to expire, and he packed up and beat it for a boat.”

Calvo played briefly in Cuba that winter but never played professionally again.  He was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1948 and died in Miami in 1965.

“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.