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The Armando Marsans Story

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  • The Armando Marsans Story

    Here is some brief biographical information regarding Armando Marsans per Baseball Reference. He was born October 3, 1887 in Matanzas, Cuba and died September 3, 1960 in Havana, Cuba. He batted and threw right handed. He was 5' 10" and weighed 157 lb. His first major league game came on July 4, 1911
    and his final game was July 13, 1918.

    He played eight years in the majors and hit .269 lifetime with 612 hits and 171 stolen bases in just 655 games.
    Last edited by Bench 5; 12-26-2006, 09:56 PM.
    "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

    Rogers Hornsby, 1961

  • #2
    The Armando Marsans Story

    I’ve been reading several articles about some of the great Cuban ballplayers from the early 1900’s. I decided to put together a string of articles regarding Armando Marsans who played in the majors from 1911 to 1918. Marsans never became a superstar in the majors. However his success in the majors helped pave the way as a trailblazer for other Cuban players. Marsans played a bigger role in the history of the early game than he would otherwise get credit for based solely on his playing record. What makes Marsans extraordinary is the fact that he was a pioneer in two different manners during the early 20th century in baseball:
    1. Along with Rafael Almeida, he was the 1st Cuban baseball player to play in the majors in the 20th century making his debut on July 4, 1911.
    2. He also took part in a major legal case involving the upstart Federal League and the major leagues.

    For these reasons I think his career deserves further consideration. I am going to present several contemporaneous articles from research that I did using ProQuest and Baseball Magazine and the AAFLA's website. Here is a summary of how I am to present the information regarding the career of Armando Marsans:

    HTML Code:
    I. How Armando Marsans Became a Major Leaguer
         A. Cuba’s introduction to baseball
         B. Story of Marsans and Almeida
         C. Marsans Contributions to Baseball in Cuba
    II. Armando Marsans – What kind of ballplayer was he? 
    III. Marsans Legal Battles versus the Major Leagues
         A. What events caused Armando to jump leagues
         B. Details of the Marsans case 
         C. Armando’s Career post Federal League
    Last edited by Bench 5; 12-26-2006, 10:05 PM.
    "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

    Rogers Hornsby, 1961


    • #3
      How Armando Marsans Became a Major Leaguer

      I. How Armando Marsans Became a Major Leaguer

      A. Cuba’s introduction to baseball

      Washington Post May 12, 1956
      Bob Addie’s Column

      “….the first Cuban player in the big leagues was a gentleman with the un-Cuban name of William Henry Bellam, who was an infielder-outfielder for the Troy Haymakers and later the New York Mutuals, of the National League back in 1871.

      Like everything else about Cuba, the baseball history seems distorted too. For instance, many people think Cuba became a republic in 1898 after the United States stepped in and helped free the Wet Indies Island from the Spanish. Actually history tells us that the U.S. troops occupied Cuba for four years and it wasn’t until May 20, 1902, that Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood relinquished his executive powers to Cuba’s first president, Estrada Palma.
      Thus it is with the baseball history of Cuba (the corruption of an old Indian name, “Cuba-Nacon” which means “center-place”). Browsing through the record books you discover that Cubans were big-leaguers long before Washington discovered them (and perhaps long before the Nats).

      Baseball was first introduced to Cuba in 1878 by a group of Cuban students who had attended American universities. By 1890, the sport was booming on the island. The Cubans early loved the grace, finesse and competition of the game.

      In 1890 John McGraw, then winning fame with the Baltimore Orioles, brought a team of North Americans to Cuba and the “Little Napolean” was astounded by the competition his major leaguers received from the graceful Cubans.”

      Cuban Teams versus Major League and Negro League Teams from 1903-1915

      Last year, I compiled a list of the exhibition series between the Cuban teams versus Major League teams and Negro League teams during the 1st half of the 20th century. This information is based upon two sources: and books by John Holway. The article above mentions that John McGraw played in a series of games versus some of the Cuban teams. Although McGraw’s team went 5-0 versus the Cuban teams, McGraw was highly impressed and brought his teams to play in Cuba many years later. Several other major league teams played a series of exhibition games in Cuba after the end of the regular seasons. Accounts at the time indicate that the major league teams were highly impressed with the quality of play of the Cuban ballplayers. Most of the contemporaneous articles that I have read indicate that the Cuban players were noted for their outstanding defensive abilities and for having strong and accurate throwing arms. However, in general, they were noted as being weaker hitters than their major league counterparts.

      In 1908 the Cincinnati Reds played a series of ten games against Cuban teams and wound up splitting the series. In 1909 the Detroit Tigers, sans Ty Cobb, went 4-8 versus the Cuban teams. In 1910, the Tigers (with Cobb playing some of the games) posted a record of 7-4-1. The same year the Philadelphia Athletics went 4-6 during an exhibition series versus Cuban teams. In 1911, the Philadelphia Phillies went 5-4 versus Cuban teams while the New York Giants went 9-3. In 1912, the A’s visited the island again and went 10-2 during versus Cuban teams. In 1915, the St. Louis Federals played an exhibition series and went 7-2.

      Various All Star teams also visited the island and played against the Cuban teams. In 1909 a team of All Stars led by Three Finger Brown and Addie Joss went 2-5 during a series of exhibitions. In 1913, a team led by Casey Stengel went 10-5 versus the islanders.

      Over this period, Cuban teams compiled a record of 45-63 in the exhibition games versus major leaguers.

      Starting in 1903, many Negro League teams also played in a series of exhibitions versus the Cuban teams. During the period from 1903 to 1915, the Cuban ball clubs went 66-59 against the Negro League ball clubs.
      "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

      Rogers Hornsby, 1961


      • #4
        I. How Armando Marsans Became a Major Leaguer

        A. Cuba’s introduction to baseball

        Below are excerpts from an outstanding article written by Adrian Burgos Jr. The article provides some excellent background infromation on early ball in Cuba and Latin America. In included a couple points that provide some background infromation on Marsans.

        Baseball should follow the Flag: the Color Line, and Major League Baseball’s Globalization Strategies
        Presented to the Conference on Globalization and Sport in Historical Context, University of California, San Diego – March 2005
        By Adrian Burgos Jr.

        "The rush to corner the market on the new talent contributed to several controversies erupting over contractual and racial matters. In 1907, Cuban players Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans were at the center of an inter-league controversy as Scranton (Pennsylvania League) and New Britain (Connecticut League) made competing claims on their services. Unable to resolve their conflict, the issue went before Garry Herrmann, president of the National Commission, the organization that governed all the leagues within organized baseball. Herrmann decided to award the rights to Scranton. It turned out to be a temporary setback for New Britain.

        The following spring New Britain succeeded in its pursuit of Cuban players, signing four Cuban players for the 1908 season: Almeida, Marsans, Alfiedo “Cabbage” Cabrera, and Luis Padrón. All four enjoyed strong campaigns in the Class B minor league, the equivalent of today’s AA minor league, Padrón was the league’s fourth-leading hitter, with a .313 batting average whereas Almeida and Marsans ranked eleventh and fourteenth with .293 and .274 averages, respectively.

        Their inclusion did not proceed without protest. Protests by players and team owners prompted Connecticut League officials to institute a new color line after the 1908 season. The new policy forbade league teams to contract “black” players. Since no African American players participated in the league, the change specifically called into question the racial ancestry of New Britain’s Cuban players.

        Concerns about the Cuba players’ racial background were expressed as soon as New Britain had signed them. The Springfield Union alluded to the mounting suspicions in the weeks preceding the 1908 campaign: “Manager Humphrey is getting what looks like a good team together. He has signed up to four Cuban players ... It will not be surprising if a drive is made against them in organized base ball on the ground that they are negroes, and it is well known that the colored brethren are not welcome in organized bail.”

        Concerned with the league’s new racial policy, New Britain’s new manager, Billy Hanna, traveled to Cuba hoping to secure documentation that verified the racial eligibility of his Cuban players. A previous traveler to Cuba as a sportswriter that covered the Detroit Tigers 1908 visit, Hanna came back to the States with mixed results in his mission to find out whether his players were “genuine Cubans and not Negroes.” According to a published report, Hanna discovered that “all the players were real Cubans except Padron.”"

        Later in his article, Burgos Jr. goes on to state:

        "Engineered primarily through the efforts of Frank Bancroft, the door of opportunity for Cuban players to enter the Major Leagues was opened in the winter spanning late 1910 and early 1911. In December Bancroft traveled to Cuba with the Philadelphia Athletics, having agreed to lead the American League champion team during its Cuban tour as a favor to Connie Mack, Philadelphia’s regular manager. The two-week visit gave Bancroft the chance to survey the Cuban talent and to provide his regular employer, the Cincinnati Reds, with scouting reports on the Cuban talent.

        The Cuban teams Philadelphia faced during its tour featured native Cuban and African-American talent. Cuban infielder Rafael Almeida was especially impressive in the games versus the visiting major leaguers. Excited with the young Cuban’s performance, Bancroft wrote a letter to Cincinnati team president Gary Herrmann from his Havana hotel room. After providing an update on Philadelphia’s performance against the Cuban teams, Bancroft shared a brief scouting report on Almeida and concluded the letter: “Wish we had him. He is not colored”’ Alerting Herrmann that Almeida had already played in the minors the previous season with New Britain Bancroft set in motion the process whereby the Cincinnati Reds would not only sign Almeida but would also land fellow Cuban Armando Marsans for the 1911 season.

        “Bannv,” as local Cincinnati sportswriters referred to him, also shared news of his trip with local newspapers back home, informing the Cincinnati faithful of the game’s continuing development on the Island. The Cincinnati fans who read the December 2, edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer learned about the Cuban talent that was just waiting for a daring Major League organization. In his column that day, Enquirer sportswriter Jack Ryder updated fans on the Athletics tour and on Bancroft’s activities, providing in brief a scouting report on Cuban players. “Four of the Havana team would be in one of the big leagues if they were white men and four of the Cubans on the Almendares team play in the Connecticut League during the regular season, and at least one of these men is of major league caliber”.

        The following day Ryder informed Cincinnati followers of Bancroft’s specific interest in Rafael Almeida “Frank Bancroft is full of enthusiasm for a young Cuban athlete who played against the Athletics during their sojourn in Havana this fall.” “The young man’s name is Rafael Almeida” Ryder noted, “and he played third base for the Almendares team, which is composed entirely of native Cubans, of Spanish descent.” The Cincinnati sportswriter then attempted to assuage possible concerns about Almeida’s racial eligibility:"The young fellow is a real enough star. He would be a valuable addition to the infield candidates. He is a native Cuban, of Spanish blood and is not a Negro.”

        In order to gain support for their Cuban experiment, Cincinnati had to assert that there existed fine lines of racial difference among individuals from the Spanish-speaking Americas. The Reds organization thus had to convince fellow team owners that they were not breaking the racial compact in place that excluded blacks. Cincinnati’s defense for signing Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans validated the racial eligibility of a select few Cubans while continuing to designate other Cubans as either too racially ambiguous or as being of African descent.

        Ethnicity thus worked as a critical factor in distinguishing among Cubans and among all those from the Spanish-speaking Americas. Major League officials and sportswriters sympathetic to the signing of Almeida and Marsans adopted ethnic labels such as Castilian and descriptions such as “Northern Spanish” to differentiate them from those deemed racially ineligible. The point that not all Cuban and Latino players were the same racially was repeatedly made to the Cincinnati faithful as the Reds considered signing Almeida and Marsans.

        Two weeks before the Cuban duo made their official debut with the Reds, a June 23, 1911, Cincinnati .Enquirer column cited Cuban sportswriter Victor Muñoz’s letter to Reds president Garry Herrmann as validation of the racial eligibility of Almeida and Marsans. ‘”Both of these men are pure Spaniards, without a trace of colored blood” In distinguishing among a group that most North Americans perceived as an undifferentiated mass, league officials and sportswriters participated in the creation of a hierarchy of ethno-racial types for Latinos. It was a process that made would make Castilians out of Latinos of various national origins who possessed the right blend of talent and physical features.

        The entry of Almeida and Marsans into the National League caused unease despite the precautions taken by the Cincinnati team management. The two Cubans made their first appearance on July 4th on the road versus the Chicago Cubs. Shortly after their debut several large urban newspapers, including the Detroit Free’ Press and the Philadelphia Enquirer, published a full-page story along with a photograph of the two Cubans in Reds uniform. Evidently, the Cuban’s appearance in print had unsettled some observers: the photo rendered their “race” visible and revealed physical features that caused alarm for those concerned with maintaining the racial barrier.
        A number of people speculated: Why did the Reds launch their Cuban experiment on the road? Was the ream trying to hide something?

        Concern about public perception compelled some local sportswriters to show their support in defense of the signing, a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter offered a grand introduction: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have in our midst two descendants of a noble Spanish race, both of no ignoble African blood to place a blot or spot on their escutcheons. Permit me to introduce two of the purest bars of Castilian soap that ever floated to these shores, Senors Alameda [Sic] and Marsans.” Other papers within the National League circuit would pick up on the lead of the Cincinnati .Enquirer. In short order, publications ranging from the New York Times to sporting periodicals such as The Sporting News were referring to Almeida and Marsans not iust as Cubans but also as Castilian and of Northern Spanish ancestry.

        “Adding Bronze to the Red” as a columnist referred to Cincinnati’s Cuban experiment, revealed part of the spectrum of baseball color line reserved for individuals from the Spanish- speaking Americas. The racial categories of “Bronze” and brown represented the intermediate space along professional baseball’s color line. These categories at times had to work against popular perceptions of Cubans as non-white individuals and as possibly black. This was apparent in a NewYork Times July 16th item about New York fan expectations about the physical appearance of Almeida and Marsans. Less than two weeks after the Cubans made their big league debut, the Times reported that fans had expected the Cubans to look like “Pullman porters” were “surprised” when the witnessed the lighter-skinned Cubans performing in the contests between Cincinnati and the New York Giants."
        "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

        Rogers Hornsby, 1961


        • #5
          I. How Armando Marsans Became a Major Leaguer

          B. Marsans and Almeida

          Washington Post, January 31, 1938
          Clark Griffith – 50 Years in Baseball (Chapter Sixteen)
          by Shirley Povich

          “To Griffith’s complete surprise and great chagrin, League President Johnson contrived to transfer Jimmy McAleer, St. Louis manager to Washington, ignoring Griffith’s request. In some heat at this seeming ingratitude of Johnson, Griffith cast his lot with the National League and accepted the Cincinnati management.

          Griffith’s three year term at Cincinnati was chiefly notable, perhaps for his acquisition of a star Cuban rookie, the first islander to make good in big league baseball.

          Secretary Bancroft, of the Cincinnati Club, in an off-season tour to Havana, had watched several Cuban ball games and returned to Cincinnati with glowing tales of the skill of Rafael Almeida, a Cuban third baseman. So persistent was Bancroft that Griffith finally agreed to give the Cuban a tryout.

          A cable dispatched to Almeida at Havana brought the following reply:
          “Will not come to Cincinnati unless expenses of my interpreter are also paid.”
          Mereley to satisfy Bancroft, Griffith agreed that the Cuban rookie be permitted the expense of an interpreter and in due time, the Cuban pair showed up at the Reds park for Almeida’s tryout. To Griffith’s surprise, the interpreter also trotted on the field in uniform and shagged flies in the outfield while Almeida was given a thorough test both at bat and in the field.
          Bancroft waxed enthusiastic as he watched the Cuban third baseman maneuver around the bag and take a beauteous cut at the ball. In the manner of Cuban ball players he doffed his cap at each applause, and bowed deeply whenever approached.

          “That Almeida looks great, doesn’t he, Griff?” Bancroft asked.
          Griffith had been watching Almeida’s actions and noted his overwhelmingly polite mannerisms.

          “No,” said Griffith simply. “That matador is no account. But that interpreter of his out there in the outfield: I’ve been watching him. Sign him to a contract right away. He’s a ball player.”

          Thus did Armando Marsans, regular Cincinnati outfielder for several years find his way into the big leagues. "

          Chicago Daily Tribune, January 19, 1944

          “The first Cuban baseball player to make good in the big leagues was an outfielder, Armando Marsana, who played with the Cincinnati Reds under Clark Griffith in 1910…..”Those early imports were interesting to watch,” Griffith recalls, “They had their early Spanish customs. Whenever one of them came to bat, he doffed his cap and bowed first to the pitcher, then to the fans, if any, in the grandstand.”
          Last edited by Bench 5; 12-26-2006, 09:51 PM.
          "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

          Rogers Hornsby, 1961


          • #6
            I. How Armando Marsans Became a Major Leaguer

            C. Marsans and Almeida’s Contributions to Cuban Baseball

            Washington Post February 4, 1912

            First Cubans to Play Baseball in Major Leagues Trying to Instill American Methods in Cuba

            Uncle Sam’s monopoly of the baseball market has been seriously threatened. South of the United States, in the Island of Cuba, a nation of little brown men whom Uncle Sam set up in the nation business by kicking Spain off the island, and showing these fellows how to run the business themselves, have been getting so all-fired fresh with Uncle’s favorite pastime that they are mighty apt at any time to rise up in their might and such other clothes as the customs of their country provides for and lick Sammy at his own game. Frank C. Bancroft, Secretary of the Cincinnati National League team, and ‘king of the barnstormers,” is authority for the statement that ‘the day is not too far distant,‘ when Cuban teams will have to be taken into consideration in deciding a world’s championship, or else the honors grabbed by the victor in the big after-session stuff, up here will have to be confined to the mere title of champions of United States.

            Baseball Brains of Cuba
            The progress made by these Cubans in the adoption of our national pastime is little less than marvelous, and when it comes to producing the real “bughouse” baseball “nut,” they’ve actually got us looking like a bunch of convalescents roosting on the sun porch.

            Probably the most potent factor in producing this baseball condition in Cuba, has been the baseball missionary work that has been done on the Island by Armando Marsans and Rafael Almelda, two Cubans who are now members of the Cincinnati National League team and who have the honor of being the first Cubans to break into big league baseball in the land that gave birth to the pastime.

            Marsans and Almeida have been the baseball brains of Cuba. Both of very wealthy parentage and aristocratic stock, Almeida being the direct descendant of a Portuguese marquis, they began to play baseball because they loved the game and found that they were naturally adapted to the sport, and they have stuck in the game for the same reason.

            As members of the best families of Cuba, they were both compelled to flee to this country during the Cuban revolution and previous to Uncle Sam’s intervention in the continual strife on the island, and it was while here as exiles from the tyranny of Spain that they picked up the rudiments of our national pastime. Both being boys of brains, they were quick to pick up the inside points of the game, and on their return to the island after Uncle Sam had kicked Spain back across the sea, they taught what they had learned here to their fellow players In Cuba.

            Break Into Big League
            Both being natural players, fast, good hitters, and with strong throwing arms, as all Cubans have, they returned to this country and played with semipro teams, where they made good to such an extent that the attention of minor league managers was attracted to their work, and the New Britain club, of the Connecticut League, and the Scranton club, of the New York League, started a fight for their possession, in which the national commission awarded them to Scranton. This was in 1907. The following year they went to New Britain, where they played so well that in June, 1911, Manager Griffith, of the Cincinnati National League team, fearing to lose their services if he waited for the drafting season, purchased their release, paying $3,500 for Almeida, and $2,500 for Marsans. Thus they became the first Cuban players to break into a big league team here, and the pioneers of others of their race, who will no doubt soon follow in their footsteps.

            Almeida alternated with Ed Grant at third for Cincinnati last year, and while not so fast a fielder, he proved such a good hitter that he supplanted the speedy Grant In games, where it was desired to increase the hitting strength of the team. In 29 games last season, after he had joined the Reds, Almeida hit our big league pitching for an average of .313, and led the Cincinnati team in hitting. When on the bench he was always used as the Reds’ leading pinch hitter.

            Almeida is not a superior sample of Cuban fielding ability, there being In- fielders down there who are faster and can put It all over him at this end of the game, the fast fielding and throwing of these Cuban players being something really marvelous, but he has always been Cuba’s leading performer with the bludgeon. In the games In Cuba against the world’s champion Athletics last year, Almeida’s hitting was mainly responsible for the defeats suffered by the world’s champions. Against Bender, Coombs, and Plank, Almeida in these games batted for an average of .637, which is going some against big league pitching if anybody should ask you. This year, in the two series played in Havana with the Phillies and the Giants, he hit for an average of .416 against the pitching of Mathewson, Crandall, and Wiltse of the Giants, and Chalmers, Stock, and Schultz, of the Phillies, which again is going some against the best of the big league pitching. One of .Almeida’s hits in these series was a home run made off Crandall, of the Giants, while in a game against ‘Mathewson, on November 14, he assaulted the great “Matty” for a double and two singles, and was mainly responsible for the Cubans beating Mathewson in this game.

            Batting Average and Ancestry
            Rafael Almeida was born in Havana in 1885. He is not actually of Cuban ancestry, being a direct descendant of a Portuguese marquis, who was compelled to leave the court of Lisbon in haste through some love sin in the beginning of the last century, and settle in Brazil, whence the Almeida family came to Cuba some years later. His real name is Rafael D’Almeida, and smacks strongly of the nobility. This is the name he signs to his baseball contracts as well as his love letters, of which he is a great writer. Almeida, or D’Almeida., does not like to be called an aristocrat as he takes more pride in his batting average than he does in his ancestry or position in society. Baseball is the big league stuff for Rafael D’Almeida.

            Armado.Marsans, the other half of the baseball brains of. Cuba, is an aristocrat by birth but a big league outfielder by choice. He was born In Matanzas, 55 miles from Havana, in 1885, being the same age as Almeida.

            Teach Game to Cubans
            Marsans returned to this country with Almeida about six years ago, and played on semi-pro teams, whence they have worked their way into the big leagues by way of Scranton and New Britain. During the winter months they returned to Cuba, and taught their countrymen what they have learned of the finer points of the game while playing in the States and it has been mainlt through the expert coaching and the enthusiasm put in the game down there by these two intelligent lads that our national game has made such progress in Cuba.

            It has been Marsans and Almeida who have brought baseball in Cuba up to that class of efficiency where the national commission felt it necessary for them to pass a rule forbidding our championship teams to play in Cuba, recognizing those barnstorming trips as a dangerous winter sport that required our teams here to be in the best of condition to retain their honors against the crack teams of Havana.

            Marsans - Ty Cobb of Island
            Marsans, while not so heavy a hitter as Almeida, is an Intelligent “inside’ player, a star outfielder, and extremely fast and daring on the bases. His forte is his speed and his judgment He is the Ty Cobb of Cuba on the base paths, and leads all the Cuban players a mile or two in stolen bases, his daring and speed completely upsetting the strong-armed Cuban catchers. He is a fitting teammate to the speedy Bescher on the Cincinnati team, and is another man whom the National League catchers will have to watch during the coming season.

            Now, Marsans has started’ to agitate a new reform in baseball affairs in Cuba. In spite of the special permit granted by President Herrmann to both Almeida and Marsans to play winter bail in Cuba, Marsans this season refused to play under the old order of things there, and is agitating a change to the system in vogue in the leagues here. In Cuba, baseball has always been conducted on the cooperative plan, there being no management to the teams and the players all sharing in the gate receipts for their remuneration.

            Marsans having had his experience with organized baseball in the States, sees great prospects for the improvement of the sport in his own country through an organized system such as is employed here, recognizing the fact that the cooperative system is a natural object in the way of the development of new material. And in the interest of the future good of the game in Cuba, he, with others whom he has enlisted in the work, is working hard for organized baseball in Cuba.
            "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

            Rogers Hornsby, 1961


            • #7
              I. How Armando Marsans Became a Major Leaguer

              C. Marsans and Almeida’s Contributions to Cuban Baseball

              October 21, 1911 Chicago Defender

              In Venezuela, according to Armando Marsans, the Cincinnati outfielder, who has relatives there, the people are just as wild over baseball as in America. The umpires down there, says Armando are crafty. Before every game they take out accident insurance policies. The most violent rooters in Venezuela are the president and treasurer of the local insurance companies and they take no chances. They guard and protect the umpires defending them against the crowds and, ar the same time, preventing any sudden demand upon their own treasuries.

              “I fail to unnerstan’ de American spich,” complains Senor Almeida, the Mexican player on the Cincinnati team. “Senor McLean he say to me de ozzer day dat I am full of prunes. Why he mak’ such accusat’, when he eat wiz me an’ know perfectly well I have not even touched one prune?”

              Washington Post August 25, 1912

              Marsans Gets Gold Medal
              Havana Cuba city council has voted Armando Marsans, who has made good on the Cincinnati National league baseball nine, a $200 gold medal in recognition of his ability in playing the national sport of the United States. It will be represented to Marsans upon his return to Cuba at the end of the baseball season.

              June 1, 1913 Washington Post

              “I have seen all of the great ballplayers of the present time,” says Armando Marsans, the Cincinnati outfielder, “but I give you my word that the greatest I ever looked upon was an Indian named Canella. Canella was of a strange Indian race that is supposed to be extinct – the Silboneys of Cuba. Canella who cannot be over 27, 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, lighting base runner, and a clever outfielder.

              American clubs took it for granted that he was a negro and did not sign him. Finally some influential Cuban managers succeeded in making an American magistrate understand that Canella was no negro and all was arranged for his try-out the upcoming spring. And then came the news that Canella’s arm was gone. Going home for a visit, Canella saw the young men of the tribe practicing throwing the javelin. 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 the javelin. The arm so long accustomed to throwing a 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.”
              Last edited by Bench 5; 12-27-2006, 04:34 PM.
              "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

              Rogers Hornsby, 1961


              • #8
                With all due respect, Bench5, can we get back to the "X vs. Y" polls, the enumerative ranking threads, and the incessant throwing of numbers back and forth? All this historical information and "heavy reading" is bound to prove overwhelming to most of the netizens here....

                Let's drop the history and get back to the statistical palavers. After all, what's the purpose of a history forum?


                (Thank you for the enlightenment on a recondite figure in baseball.)


                • #9
                  There's more where that came from Chris.

                  But I will post the rest tomorrow as it is getting late.

                  I guess what struck me about this guy was that he really isn't famous at all but he was an integral part of the Cuban wave of players in the early part of the century as well as probably the most pivotal player in the war between the majors leagues and the Federal leagues. But his story got lost in time somehow.
                  "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                  Rogers Hornsby, 1961


                  • #10
                    II. Armando Marsans – What kind of ballplayer was he?

                    Here are some basic facts about Marsans as a player from 1911 to 1914:
                    In his first year in the majors he hit .261 with 11 stolen bases. The next year in 1912, he hit .317 with 35 stolen bases. He ranked 8th in batting average and 9th in stolen bases. He also finished 18th in the MVP voting. Throw in the fact that he was considered an outstanding defensive player and you have a star in the making.

                    In 1913, he hit .297 with 37 stolen bases. He finished 8th in stolen bases and 24th in MVP voting.

                    In 1914, he only played 45 games due to factors that we will look at next. He hit .311 for the year with 17 steals. When his ensuing legal battles with the major leagues took place, he was considered an outstanding young ballplayer. Below are some articles that illustrate how he was perceived at the time.

                    Washington Post February 4, 1912
                    Marsans - Ty Cobb of Island

                    "Marsans, while not so heavy a hitter as Almeida, is an Intelligent “inside’ player, a star outfielder, and extremely fast and daring on the bases. His forte is his speed and his judgment He is the Ty Cobb of Cuba on the base paths, and leads all the Cuban players a mile or two in stolen bases, his daring and speed completely upsetting the strong-armed Cuban catchers. He is a fitting teammate to the speedy Bescher on the Cincinnati team, and is another man whom the National League catchers will have to watch during the coming season."

                    December 1913 Baseball Magazine - Base Hits and Errors
                    Suggestions of the “Big Series”—A Lesson to the Croakers
                    With the Players On and Off the Field
                    By WM. A. PHELON

                    "McGraw is quoted as saying that he wants Bob Bescher, and will offer a bunch of cash and athletes for him. The tip is out though that the wily McGraw only figures on talking Bescher as a mask and that the man he is really after is Armando Marsans. The Cuban for my money, is the most valuable centerfielder in the National League. Where is there one to equal him when you count up the batting, fielding, and base- running? Marsans can go and get them a mile down the field, and can throw with speed, strength, and accuracy. Crippled by a bad ankle, which stopped his stealing and slowed him too much to outrace grounders, he yet batted an even .300 and had stolen 38 bases at the time his ankle gave down. I don’t know of anyone to equal him in all particulars, while he can play an elegant first or any other infield place. In the last two games played here by the Reds Armando covered third and did it superbly.

                    Had McGraw possessed Marsans, what a cinch the big series would have been for the Giants! The triple of Schang’s misjudged fatally by Shafer would have been his easiest meat, and one other long hit, falling safe between Murray and Shafer would have been soft for him. The ball that the crippled Snodgrass couldn’t reach in the third game would have been a pipe for Armando—and how his bat would have rung and crashed in each important crisis! "

                    April 1916 Baseball Magazine - Stars of the Federal

                    Leading Players of the Defunct Circuit who are Counted Upon to Strengthen the Major Clubs

                    ARMANDO MARSANS
                    "Armando Marsans was the most brilliant of the Cuban recruits who have gained admission into major league ranks. With Cincinnati he became one of the fastest outfielders in the league, and then, at outs with the local management and attracted by the grand offers of the Federal League he joined that circuit. Marsans was one of the few additions to the new league who every one admitted was a star player. So determined was organized baseball to regain possession of him that they effectually prevented him from fulfilling his new contract. Marsans has several times been quoted as saying that he would not return to baseball in the States. But three-hundred hitters are always in great demand, and Marsans clinched hIs claim on that healthy batting average during his short but spectacular career. He ought to come back stronger than ever for his long rest. "

                    July 1918 Baseball Magazine - Who’s Who on the Diamond

                    Thumb Nail Sketches of Baseball‘s Leading Stars

                    ARMANDO MARSANS
                    "A well known big league scout after returning from Cuba some years ago imparted this information to a New York daily scribe: Them Cubans are fast, snappy fielders boy, but they cant hit. And that was the impression fandom had of Cuban ball tossers for a long time. They could field like blazes but they couldn’t kiss the onion.

                    Then Senor A. Marsans hove in sight bearing a big bat and wearing the Cincinnati lively. He proceeded to soak the apple to the tune of .317 in 110 games, stole 35 bases and scorched the outfield with his speed. Fandom rubbed its eyes and gazed at Senor Marsans. For here, in very truth was a Cuban baby who could hit like sin, field like the devil, and run the satchels like Hades. Marsans made considerable record for the Reds during his first three years in the majors, his lowest swat mark being 297."


                    “Marsans was born in Havana. Cuba in 1886. learned the game there and in 1907 was signed for the first regular engagement in the U. S. A. by New London. He is frail in build, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, scales slightly under 160 pounds and is a real speed merchant. “

                    September 1914 Baseball Magazine - The Famous Marsans Case

                    The Great Cuban Outfielder and the Federal League vs. Organized Baseball. Garry Herrrnann, Chairman of National Commission, Defends the Written Contract As a Bindihg Instrument

                    By HUGH C. WEIR

                    "Armando Marsans is a good ball player, a very good ball player. The situation which has developed does not reflect in any way on Mr. Marsans ability. We bought Marsans from New Britain and paid six thousand dollars for his release. Marsans was receiving $150 a month for his services. We started him at $350 a month and increased this the next year to $400. "
                    Last edited by Bench 5; 12-26-2006, 10:31 PM.
                    "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                    Rogers Hornsby, 1961


                    • #11
                      Anyone heard of Esteban Bellán?? :o

                      This article courtesy of SABR historian Eric Enders:

                      Armando Marsans

                      A brilliant defensive outfielder who briefly starred with the Cincinnati Reds, Armando Marsáns was the first Cuban player to make an impact in the major leagues. Dubbed "an aristocrat by birth, but a big league outfielder by choice," he was among baseball's top stars before his career was derailed by an ill-fated attempt to challenge the reserve clause. Marsáns was known for his aggressive base running and was often praised for stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples. "There is not a more intelligent player in the game than Marsans, who seems to have an uncanny knack of knowing what to do and when to do it," wrote one reporter. He was also versatile. As a youngster in Cuba, Marsáns had learned to play all nine positions, and before he was through in the majors he played everywhere but pitcher and catcher.

                      The son of a well-to-do Havana merchant, Armando Marsáns was born in Matanzas, Cuba, on October 3, 1887. His family, like many wealthy Cubans at the time, moved to New York City in 1898 to escape the Spanish-American War. Eleven-year-old Armando took to baseball, playing regularly in Central Park. When his family returned to Cuba after a year and a half, the love of the game came back to Cuba with him. In 1905 Armando signed with Almendares, a powerful team in the professional Cuban Winter League. Marsáns and another promising youngster, Rafael Almeida, combined to lead the team to the pennant. In 1907 the team won another title, defeating a Fé team that included Negro League stars Rube Foster, Pete Hill, Charlie Grant, and Bill Monroe.

                      In 1908 the Cincinnati Reds visited Cuba for a series of exhibition games against the best teams on the island. Marsáns' Almendares club won four of its five games against the Reds, thanks mostly to pitcher José Méndez, but also with contributions from Marsáns, who scored the only run in a 1-0 victory on November 13, 1908. By that time Marsáns and Almeida both were playing in the US minor leagues, signing with New Britain of the Connecticut State League for the 1908 season. Marsáns was an outstanding player for New Britain, batting .285 over four seasons there. In June 1911 the Cincinnati Reds purchased his and Almeida's contracts on the recommendation of Reds secretary Frank Bancroft, who remembered the Cuban pair as a result of his annual exhibition trips to the island nation. At the time, the sale prices were reported as $2,500 for Marsáns and $3,500 for Almeida. During Marsáns' later legal battles with the Reds, owner Garry Herrmann claimed that he paid $6,000 for Marsáns alone.

                      Marsáns and Almeida were the first Cubans to reach the majors since 1873, and there were whispers around baseball that they had some "Negro" blood. The Reds refuted this at length, calling Marsáns and Almeida "two of the purest bars of Castilian soap ever floated to these shores," and insisting that they were entirely of European descent. In fact that was probably true, as the surname Marsáns is of Catalán rather than Spanish origin. In the late 19th century about 8,000 people--Marsáns' family likely among them--emigrated from Catalonia to Cuba. Racial mixing was fairly uncommon among the light-skinned catalanes, who ranked at the top of Cuba's skin color-based caste system.

                      Whatever their racial background, Marsáns and Almeida got along well with their new teammates. "The gentlemanly deportment and fast work on the field of these boys have already made them popular with other members of the Reds," the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on July 1, before the pair had even gotten into a game. Only about 15,000 Cubans lived in the United States in 1911, but the Reds acquired the Cuban players in part because, according to the Enquirer, they were "figuring on Marsáns and Almeida being good drawing cards in New York and Philadelphia, where there are thousands of Cubans." Fans back in Cuba, meanwhile, were so enthusiastic that Marsáns and Almeida even had their own media escort. Victor Muñoz, sports editor of El Mundo in Havana, accompanied the Reds everywhere they went, much as the Japanese media followed Hideo Nomo and Ichiro Suzuki nearly a century later.

                      On July 4, 1911, in the midst of one of the biggest heat waves ever to hit the Midwest, Marsáns and Almeida finally made their debuts against the Cubs at Chicago's West Side Park. The heat was so sweltering that it caused 27 deaths in Chicago that day, and with the Reds comfortably ahead in the first game of a doubleheader, Marsáns entered as a defensive replacement for exhausted right fielder Mike Mitchell. He went 1 for 2, and to the Enquirer's Jack Ryder he "looked good at the bat and fast on his feet." Marsáns spent the rest of the 1911 season as the Reds' fourth outfielder.

                      Though there is no record of what their personal relationship was like, Marsáns and Almeida became inseparable in the public's eye after spending nearly a decade as teammates with Almendares, New Britain, and Cincinnati. But Almeida failed to impress the Reds either at bat or in the field and was dispatched to the minors after three years on the bench. Marsáns, meanwhile, became one of the brightest young stars in the National League, and one of the fastest. In 1912, his first full season, his .317 batting average and 35 stolen bases both ranked in the NL's top ten. In 1913 he increased his stolen bases to 37 while batting .297, 35 points above the league average.

                      Marsáns made a strong impression on his first major league manager, Clark Griffith, who left after the 1911 season to take over the Washington Senators. In the spring of 1912 Griffith offered the Reds $5,000 for Marsáns but was refused. Griffith never did obtain Marsáns' services, but he did develop an affinity for Cuban players unparalleled in baseball history. During Griffith's 44 years in charge of the Washington club, 63 Cubans debuted in the majors--35 of them with the Senators.

                      A genteel man who spoke and wrote near-flawless English, Marsáns was the antithesis of what later became the Latin American baseball stereotype. He reportedly attended college in the United States, though that is not confirmed. Still, American sportswriters always emphasized that he was "of wealthy parentage and aristocratic stock." In 1912 the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that Marsáns and Almeida "are both large land owners in Cuba and have independent incomes, and the fact that they continue to be ball players instead of prominent men of affairs on the island is simply because that is what they prefer to be." Marsáns spent his off-seasons managing a tobacco factory that he owned in Havana, and was well-liked enough by fans in Cincinnati to open a successful cigar store there. By 1914 his annual baseball earnings were $4,400, more than double what he had earned as a rookie.

                      Though almost universally well-liked, Marsáns was known for being headstrong and temperamental. According to a friend, "there is really only one man who is his master, and who can reason and talk to him, and that man is his father." In 1914 Marsáns' quick temper led to the biggest scandal of his career. In June he got into a heated argument with his manager, Buck Herzog, who "said a number of things not at all to the liking of the classy outfielder." Herzog suspended Marsáns, and Marsáns demanded to be traded, a request that was refused by Herrmann. Marsáns responded by jumping his contract with Cincinnati and leaving for St. Louis, where he was wined and dined by the owners of the outlaw Federal League franchise. Marsáns was offered a three-year, $21,000 contract by the Feds, which he accepted after giving the Reds 10 days' notice, the same notice a ball club was required to give before terminating a contract with a player. Cincinnati immediately filed a lawsuit in, ironically, Federal Court, claiming that its "property" had been jeopardized. After Marsáns had played only nine games with St. Louis, the court issued an injunction barring him from playing in the Federal League pending the outcome of trial.

                      The Reds also retaliated by impounding the clothing and baseball equipment Marsáns had left in his locker in Cincinnati. Because Marsáns owned a cigar shop there, the club also tried to appeal to his business interests. "Marsans is very enthusiastic about his cigar business, and holds it close to his heart," a correspondent wrote to Herrmann. "If he can be made to realize that his actions with the Cincinnati Baseball Club will not help the sale of his cigars, I am sure that he will act differently."

                      Marsáns' case, along with that of Hal Chase, became a cause célèbre for supporters of the Federal League. Baseball Magazine dubbed it "the sensational Marsans case, one of the series of recent legal battles which have thrown the baseball world into an upheaval, and which threaten to wreck the entire game." Unable to play while the two sides battled in court, Marsáns could do little but return to Havana, where he spent his days shark fishing in the bay. "We are not restraining Marsans and Chase from playing, but trying to get them to play," Herrmann insisted. "It is the Federal League that is keeping them from playing, if any one is." In a bizarre twist, Marsáns' younger brother Francisco showed up in Cincinnati in September 1914, apologized to the Reds for any trouble Armando had caused them, and offered his own services to replace Armando in the outfield. Not surprisingly, the team declined.

                      Because the National Commission had threatened to ban any player who competed against Marsáns, he was forced to play the 1914-15 Cuban Winter League season under the assumed name "Mendromedo." In February 1915, with Marsáns still on the sidelines, his friend John McGraw visited him in Cuba, offering to trade for him if he would return to the NL with the Giants. But Marsáns would have none of it. He believed that the press, and New York writers in particular, treated him unfairly, saying they "always thought it funny to poke jokes at me." Finally, on August 19, 1915, a federal judge in St. Louis set aside Herrmann's injunction, ruling that Marsáns could play in the Federal League until the case was decided in appeals court. Marsáns returned to the Terriers the next day, and the team finished the season only percentage points out of first place.

                      But the legal battles had ruined Marsáns' career. After the Federal League folded his contract was assigned to the St. Louis Browns, but he was no longer the player he had been after being out of the majors for nearly two years. Disappointed with his performance, the Browns traded him to the Yankees for Lee Magee on July 15, 1917. Baseball Magazine predicted that going to New York would revitalize Marsáns, as he was "a brilliant outfielder, once a .300 hitter and even now a most dangerous man on the bases." But Marsáns had always been injury prone, and soon after reporting to the Yankees he suffered a broken leg that ended his season. In 1918, at age 30, Marsans gave it one more try with the Yankees but batted only .236 in what turned out to be his final major league season.

                      In 1923, after a four-year absence from American baseball, Marsáns returned to bat .319 in a brief minor league stint with Louisville. Also in 1923, he briefly joined Martín Dihigo on the Cuban Stars of the Eastern Colored League, becoming the first player to play in both the major leagues and the formally organized Negro Leagues. In 1924, his last season in the United States, Marsáns became the first Cuban manager in the minor leagues, serving as player-manager of the Elmira Colonels in the New York-Penn League. He batted .280 in his farewell to American baseball. Marsáns played a few more winters in Cuba before retiring there, too, after the 1927-28 season.

                      In all, Marsáns played on 10 pennant-winning teams in his 21 seasons in the Cuban Winter League, posting a lifetime average there of .261 in 455 games. He twice led the notorious pitchers' circuit in runs scored, and in 1913 won the batting title with a .400 average. He also led the league in stolen bases three times. Playing most of his career in spacious Almendares Park, he hit only two lifetime home runs in 1,632 at bats. Marsáns also was a longtime manager in the league, leading Orientales to the championship as player-manager in 1917. In the 1940s he managed Marianao, where his players included Ray Dandridge, future batting champion Roberto Ávila, and rookie outfielder Orestes "Minnie" Miñoso. He also managed Tampico in the Mexican League from 1945-47, winning championships in 1945 and 1946.

                      On July 26, 1939, Marsáns became one of the first ten men inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame. The inductees were honored with a bronze plaque placed at La Tropical stadium in Havana, where it still stands today. Little is known of Marsáns' post-baseball life. His reaction to the Cuban Revolution of 1959 is unknown, but since the rebellion's goal was to overthrow the wealthy aristocracy to which Marsáns belonged, it's hard to imagine him supporting the revolutionaries. Marsáns died in Havana a little over a year after Fidel Castro's takeover, on September 3, 1960.


                      • #12
                        Armando Marsans Pictures

                        Hopefully this will post into the box. It is from Baseball Magazine:
                        Attached Files
                        "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                        Rogers Hornsby, 1961


                        • #13
                          Armando Marsans Pictures

                          Another Marsans pic from Baseball Magazine
                          Attached Files
                          "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                          Rogers Hornsby, 1961


                          • #14
                            Armando Marsans Pictures

                            Another pic from Baseball Magazine
                            Attached Files
                            "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                            Rogers Hornsby, 1961


                            • #15
                              Chicago Tribune August 20, 1915
                              Attached Files
                              "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                              Rogers Hornsby, 1961


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