Stat-urday, 2/29/2020

Baseball fans and researchers are fortunate that we have the data and information available us from Baseball Reference. Below are the stats for Carlos Paula, the first black player for the Washington Senators:

Year Team League Level Affil-iate G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BA
1952 Decatur MSOH D 119 455 152 23 16 6 0.334
1953 2 Teams 2 Lgs B-D 123 464 464 139 27 12 9 0.300
1953 Paris BSTL B 97 366 113 20 9 6 0.309
1953 Decatur MSOH D 26 98 26 7 3 3 0.265
1954 WSH AL MLB WSH 9 26 24 2 4 1 0 0 2 0.167
1954 Charlotte SALL A WSH 132 495 153 24 13 14 0.309
1955 WSH AL MLB WSH 115 374 351 34 105 20 7 6 45 0.299
1956 3 Teams 2 Lgs AAA PHI 88 343 304 55 97 12 5 16 58
1956 WSH AL MLB WSH 33 92 82 8 15 2 1 3 13 0.183
1956 Miami IL AAA PHI 11 42 38 3 6 0 1 0 3 0.158
1956 Denver AA AAA NYY 25
1956 Louisville AA AAA WSH 52
1957 Minneapolis AA AAA NYG 104 347 312 48 90 18 3 6 45 0.288
1958 Sacramento PCL AAA 120 416 387 49 122 17 6 11 62 0.315
1959 2 Teams 2 Lgs AAA CIN 100 346 312 37 92 16 3 10 53 0.295
1959 Havana IL AAA CIN 88 309 276 34 86 16 3 10 51 0.312
1959 Sacramento PCL AAA MLN 12 37 36 3 6 0 0 0 2 0.167
1960 Mexico City Tigers MEX AA 85 283 236 44 80 11 5 5 57 0.339
MLB (3 seasons) MLB 157 492 457 44 124 23 8 9 60 0.271
Minors (7 seasons) Minors 786 2565 2463 137 754 125 54 56 163
Foreign (1 season) Foreign 85 283 236 44 80 11 5 5 57 0.339
All Levels (9 Seasons) 1028 3340 3156 225 958 159 67 70 280
AAA (4 seasons) Minors 412 1151 1049 137 310 51 13 27 163
A (1 season) Minors 132 495 495 153 24 13 14 0.309
B (1 season) Minors 97 366 366 113 20 9 6 0.309
D (2 seasons) Minors 145 553 553 178 30 19 9 0.322

Happy Stat-urday!

~ baseballrebecca


The Integration of the Washington Senators, Part 3

Merito Acosta, Washington AL (baseball) LCCN2014697356 (cropped).jpg

Merito Acosta in 1913 (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are a few more pieces of the story of the  integration of the Washington Senators, that need to be mentioned: the first Cuban and Latin players, the first African-American players, and the story of Joe Black.

The First Cubans and Other Latin Players

Although Carlos Paula was the first black Washington Senator (and the first black Cuban Washington Senator), several Cubans had played for the Senators before Paula. On Tuesday, I mentioned those who were likely signed by Cuban scout Joe Cambria. However, the first Cuban ballplayers appeared on the Senators’ roster in 1913: Merito Acosta and Jack Calvo. Although Calvo would only play 34 games with the Senators (17 each in 1913 and 1920), Acosta played parts of 1913-16 and 1918 in Washington. In 1920, the Senators added two more Cubans: Ricardo Torres and Jose Acosta, Merito’s brother. In 1926, the next Cuban player to make it to the team, Emilio Palmero, appeared in seven games for the Senators.

The other non-U.S.-born players to appear for the Senators prior to the 1950s, were Mel Almada of Mexico and Alex Carrasquel of Venezuela. Almada played only one season in Washington (1937), while Carrasquel played in 258 games as a pitcher for the Senators between 1939 and 1945.

File:Juan Delis 1957.jpg

Juan Delis in 1957 (photo courtesy of Wikipdia)

The First Black Players

Between 1935 and 1954, 25 Cubans appeared with the Senators, including Carlos Paula who debuted with the Senators in September 1954. According to Rick Swaine in his 2012 book, The Integration of Major League Baseball: A Team by Team History, after Paula, the second and third black players for the Senators were Cuban Juan Delis and Panamanian Vibert “Webbo” Clarke, both debuting for the Senators in 1955. Julio Becquer, another Cuban, arrived at the end of the 1955 season.

In 1957, Joe Black became the fifth black player – and first African American – to play for the Senators after signing as a free agent in August (more on Black below). In 1959, Lenny Green became the second U.S.-born black Senator and Cuban Zoilo Versalles joined the team. Rounding out the list of black players for the Senators were Earl Battey, signed in 1960, and Bob Thurman, a 43-year old outfielder who had played for the Homestead Grays, was acquired in 1961. In 1962, the Senators moved to Minneapolis, ending that chapter of baseball in Washington.

File:Joe Black 1953.png

Joe Black with the Dodgers, 1953

Joe Black

The Senators signed pitcher Joe Black in 1957, making him the first African-American on the team, more than 10 years after Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier with the Dodgers. Though Black is known as the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game (game 1 of the 1952 World Series, when he was a Dodger), little has been written about his time with the Senators. This is likely because he had only a short tenure with the club at the end of his career – and he wasn’t signed until August.

Joe Black began his career in the Negro Leagues, pitching for the Baltimore Elite Giants. He also attended college in Baltimore, graduating from Morgan State University in 1950. The Brooklyn Dodgers purchased his contract before the 1951 season and he played for both Montreal and St. Paul that year. The following year, on May 1, he made his Major League debut with the Dodgers at the age of 28.

Black played for the Dodgers three and a half seasons, with an ERA of 3.45 and a record of 22-7. In June 1955, he was traded to the Cincinnati Redlegs where, after a year and half, he had a record of 8-4 with a 4.34 ERA. In 1957, he began the year with the Seattle Rainiers, the Reds’ triple-A team. In May, his contract was purchased by the Phillies, but they released him less than two months later. Eventually, he was signed by the Senators on August 6. In only seven games with the Senators he went 0-1 with a 7.11 ERA. After the season, Black decided to retire, and the Senators released him on November 25, 1957.

Black’s baseball career did not end there, however. He was scout for the Senators, was a board director for the Baseball Assistance Team, and worked in community relations for the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2002, the Arizona Fall League named its Most Valuable Player award after Black, and in 2010, the Washington Nationals introduced the Joe Black Award. This award is given each year to a Washington-area organization that supports and promotes baseball in Black communities.

Joe Black passed away on May 17, 2002, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Rest in peace, Mr. Black and thank you for your contributions to baseball.

~ baseballrebecca

The Integration of the Washington Senators, Part 2


My new baseball card: Paula’s 1955 card

As I noted yesterday, on September 6, 1954, more than seven years after Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball, Carlos Paula became the first black player for the Washington Senators. Paula has become one of my favorite players not only because he broke the color barrier with the Senators, but because relatively little seems to have been written about him. Aside from some stats on Baseball Reference, a woefully incomplete Wikipedia page, and an interesting (but also incomplete) piece by author Larry Brunt on the Baseball Hall of Fame (HoF) website, there are only passing mentions of Paula in a few books. Even the various sources for his stats don’t really match up. Carlos Paula deserves more than that.

Nonetheless, this is his story:

Carlos Paula Conill was born on November 28, 1927, in Havana, Cuba. His career in the U.S. began in Decatur, Illinois, where he played for the Decatur Commodores of the Class D Mississippi-Ohio Valley League in 1952, helping them win the league championship that year. Paula appeared in 119 games for Decatur, amassing a batting average of .334 with 6 home runs, and was selected for the All-Star team that year.

He returned to the Commodores the next year, hitting .265 in 26 games before moving up to the Class B Paris Indians of the Big State League, a team that also featured pitcher Alex Carrasquel. (Carrasquel was the first player from Venezuela in the Major Leagues. Alex made his MLB debut with the Washington Senators in April 1939; he was the uncle of Chico Carrasquel, the third Venezuelan in the Major Leagues.)

Paula likely continued to play winter ball in Cuba, where he would have caught the attention of the Washington Senators’ scout in Cuba, Joe Cambria. Brunt’s HoF article quoted Cambria as saying Paula had “’the best throwing arm in the outfield, is a terror on the bases, and can hit big league pitching,’” to which Senators’ Manager Bucky Harris reportedly replied, “’If this fellow is such a great hitter, then how come he hit only .309 in the Big State League?’”

Nonetheless, the Senators purchased Paula’s contract from the Paris Indians in 1954 and invited him to Spring Training, where, according to the HoF article: “Teammates told the [Washington] Post that Paula was the most exciting new player in camp … But Harris tempered the enthusiasm: Paula had a hitch in his swing, he said. Paula chased too many balls low and away, he said. Paula wasn’t ready, he decided, and he sent the Cuban down to the Senators’ Charlotte Hornets farm team of the Class A Sally League.”

While with Charlotte, Paula was the team leader in hits (153), doubles (24), and triples (13), with a batting average of .309. He also hit 14 home runs. At the end of the Hornets’ season, Paula was called up to the Majors. On September 6, 1954, he made his debut with the Washington Senators with little fanfare. The Washington Post simply stated at the end of its story on the game: “’Carlos Paula, Cuban outfielder, became the first Negro player to break into action in a regular game with the Senators. He had a double and a single in the first game, but went hitless in the second game.’”

Paula remained with the Senators for the 1955 season, earning a regular spot in the outfield by the end of May. Despite impressive stats, Paula’s feats were ignored by the papers like the Baltimore Afro-American and diminished by the Washington Post. According to an article by NBC Sports (referencing the HoF piece):

“… there seemed to be an almost pathological fixation on what Paula didn’t do well as opposed to what he did do well. In 1955 he went on a 22-game stretch when he hit .450, with 10 doubles, 3 triples and a homer among his 36 hits and struck out only 4 times. It was barely covered by the press. A lot of play, however, was given to his mistakes and an alleged ‘hitch’ in his swing about which his manager complained but no one else really seemed to see. He’d go 3-for-5 and an article would appear that only mentioned his base running mistake. Stuff like that.

More troubling was the way in which he was profiled by the press on a personal basis. His heavily accented English was phonetically reproduced in the paper, with the clear purpose of making him out to sound uneducated. There were stories of his life in Cuba — some obvious fabrications — which made him out to be a rube. Over time he literally became a punchline. And not just during his playing career. Paula’s name was invoked for decades after he was out of baseball, used exclusively for a dumb or mistake-prone player. One high-profile Boston scribe continuing to use Paula’s name as a go-to joke into the 1980s.”

According to the HoF article, during Spring Training in 1956 Paula returned to Cuba to care for his mother who’d had a heart attack. When he did not return when expected, the team threated to fine him. Paula returned to training camp, but just before Opening Day he was optioned to the Denver Bears. After hitting .375 in 22 games, he re-joined the Senators in May. Unfortunately, Paula got off to a slow start upon his return, batting just .183 in 33 games, so the Senators optioned him to the Louisville Colonels. (Baseball Reference also notes that he was demoted in 1956 to the Miami Marlins, but the timeline is unclear.)

Paula 1956

My other recent acquisition: Paula’s 1956 baseball card

Before the beginning of the 1957 season, Paula was optioned again, this time to the Minneapolis Millers. In 1958, the team was out of options, meaning that the Senators had to keep him, trade him, or place him on waivers. They decided to trade him to the Sacramento Solons, a team in the Pacific Coast League with no MLB affiliation. Although Paula hit .315 with the Solons in 1958, his batting average fell to .167 in 1959 and he only appeared in 12 games. (In 1959, by the way, the Solons were affiliated with the Milwaukee Braves.)

However, Paula appears to have left the Solons for the Havana Sugar Kings, a Cincinnati affiliate, with whom he played 88 games, batting .312 with 10 home runs. The Sugar Kings won the Junior World Series that year under manager Preston Gomez, who had played for the Senators in 1944. In 1960, at age 32, Carlos Paula played for the Mexico City Tigres of the Mexican League, a team that also included Bobby Avila and a 19-year old Luis Tiant. Paula appeared in 85 games for the Tigres and hit .339.

And this is where the story of Carlos Paula’s baseball career ends, yet so many questions remained unanswered. Where did he play in Cuba (I saw one reference to Almendares during the winters)? How did he end up in the United States? When was he signed by the Senators? What did he do after his apparent retirement from baseball after the 1960 season?

All we know is that Carlos Paula passed away on April 25, 1983, in Miami, Florida.

Rest in peace, Mr. Paula. Thank you for being a trail-blazer.

~ baseballrebecca

PS  Carlos Paula’s story was just the beginning of the integration of the Washington Senators. Tomorrow, I’ll post more about those who came before and after him – up until the Senators’ departure from the Nation’s capital in 1962.




The Integration of the Washington Senators, Part 1

Jackie Robinson integrated the Brooklyn Dodgers and Major League Baseball in 1947. But who were the trailblazers for other teams and when did they integrate? For the Washington Senators it was Carlos Paula. Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1927, Paula was the first black Senator. It would take until 1954, however, to see Paula break the color barrier in Washington.

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Bobby Estalella in 1941 with the St. Louis Browns (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Before signing Paula, the Senators had several Cuban players who passed as White. In fact, the Baseball Hall of Fame website notes that the Senators’ scout in Cuba, Joe Cambria, was authorized to only scout light-skinned Cubans. La Vida Baseball reports that Cambria “assured the parent organization the Cubans were Castilian heritage, but suspicions followed the Cubans wherever they played.” The first Cuban signed by Cambria to play for the Senators was Roberto Estalella. Estalella made his MLB debut on September 7, 1935. He played third base for the Senators, going 1 for 4. He appeared in 14 more games that season hitting .314 with 2 home runs and 10 RBI. Estalella also played for Washington in 1936 before being sent to the minors in 1937 and 1938. He returned to the Senators in 1939. According to La Vida Baseball, “The Cuban’s appearance with the Senators during the 1935 season and thereafter created a stir. Some sportswriters and ballplayers considered him Black by U.S. standards. This prompted Povich to write “‘Estalella was the first of the Cubans in the American League in a couple of decades and it was a tribute to him that he did hit .400 one season while ducking dust-off pitches from guys who didn’t cotton to his particular pigmentation.’”

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Mike Guerra, aka Mickey Guerra, in 1949 with the Philadelphia Athletics (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

In 1937, catcher Mike Guerra, of Havana, Cuba, debuted with the Senators, though he only appeared in one game. He remained in the minors through 1943, returning to the Senators for the 1944-1946 seasons before going to Philadelphia in 1947. The next Cuban to play for the Senators was Rene Monteagudo, another September call-up, who made his debut in 1938. After appearing in five games in 1938, Monteagudo spent most of 1939 through 1944, in the minors, briefly returning to the Senators in 1944.

And so it went with the Senators – Cuban players got a taste of the Majors for a just few games, generally in September, before being sent back to the minors. Some eventually made it back to the big leagues, others did not. These early Cuban Senators were (their debut year is in parentheses):

  1. Gil Torres (1940)
  2. Roberto Ortiz (1941)
  3. Preston Gomez (1944)
  4. Sandy Ullrich (1944)
  5. Baby Ortiz (1944)
  6. Roy Valdez (1944)
  7. Armando Roche (1945)
  8. Jose Zardon (1945)
  9. Angel Fleitas (1948)
  10. Ramon Garcia (1948)
  11. Julio Gonzalez (1949)
  12. Sandy Consuegra (1950)
  13. Connie Marerro (1950)
  14. Rogelio Martinez (1950)
  15. Carlos Pascual (1950)
  16. Frank Campos (1951)
  17. Willy Miranda (1951)
  18. Julio Moreno (1951)
  19. Mike Fornieles (1952)
  20. Raul Sanchez (1952)
  21. Camilo Pascual (1954)
File:Connie Marrero 1950s.JPG

Connie Marrero with the Senators in the 1950s (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Zardon, Consuegra, Marrero, and Camilo Pascual were the only Cubans that were in more than 15 games in their first season with the Senators. Zardon appeared in 54 games in 1945, his only season with the Senators. He returned to the minors in 1946, where he remained through 1954. Consuegra made his debut in June 1950 and appeared in 21 games in his first season with Washington. He was with the Senators from 1950 through part of 1953. Marrero, a pitcher, debuted on April 21, 1950, and appeared in 27 games that season. He remained with the Senators through 1954, appearing in 20-plus games each season. Camilo Pacual, another pitcher appeared in 48 games in 1954, and remained with the Senators through the 1959 season.

These 24 Cuban players perhaps paved the way for Carlos Paula’s debut with the Washington Senators on September 6, 1954. As the first Black player for the Washington Senators, his story deserves more attention – so tune in for more tomorrow!

~ baseballrebecca