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Early Major League Ventures into Cuba

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  • Early Major League Ventures into Cuba

    Early Major League Ventures into Cuba

    1879

    The first American professional team to visit Cuba played its first game on the island in Havana on December 21, 1879. The club called itself the Hop Bitters. It was led by Cincinnati promoter and recently-named manager of the National League’s Worcester (Massachusetts) club Frank Bancroft. Bancroft would led future tours to the island as well and play an instrumental role in bringing the first Cubans to the major leagues, Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida.

    The Americans easily won.

    The American club was composed of mainly the soon-to-be Worcester NL club of 1880 which was ascending from the minor National Association where it had played in 1879.

    The following players took part in the tour, leaving the U.S. in late November:
    George Wood
    Alonzo Knight
    Charlie Bennett
    Art Whitney
    J. F. “Chub” Sullivan
    C. J. “Curry” Foley
    A. J. “Doc” Bushong
    Arthur Irwin
    Frederick “Tricky” Nichols

    The players arrived back in the U.S. via New Orleans on December 31. The trip was financed by a Mr. Soule of Rochester, New York and was not a financial success. They may have played as little as two games in Cuba.

    1879-80

    The first U.S. ballplayers to play in the Cuban League were Jimmy Macullar and Hick Carpenter during the 1879-80-season for the Colon Baseball Club.

    1886

    Lew Simmons, manager of the 1886 American Association Philadelphia Athletics took 19 men with him to Cuba at the end of the season. They sailed for Cuba on November 6, 1886. They were scheduled to play two exhibition games a week through the end of the year.

    Simmons brought enough men for two nines which would compete against each other. The following major leaguers were among the contingent:

    Wilbert Robinson
    Ed Greer
    Chippy McGarr
    John Irvin
    Denny Lyons
    Cyclone Miller
    Ed Flanagan
    Sam Wise
    Ed Crane
    Ed Knouff
    Tony Cusick
    Cub Stricker
    Art Irwin
    Tom Poorman

    The unidentified others include:
    James P. Scott
    J. Tate – perhaps Pop Tate
    A. Nash – perhaps Billy Nash
    T. Shaffer – perhaps John Shaffer
    A.T. Stuart

    The men returned to the U.S. prematurely on November 22 complaining of a bleak financial disaster. They played only a few games before cutting the trip short.

    1891

    Al Lawson and a young John McGraw went to Cuba in early 1891 with a barnstorming club dubbed the All-Americans. The tours actually occurred in two parts, one in January and February. Lawson planned another tour for December 1891 but he backed out; the tour went on though. McGraw was the only player on both tours. The American roster had to be filled out with Cuban talent.

    In January/February a mixture of major and minor leaguers defeated Matanzas, Progreso, and Almendares, but lost to Habana, Fe, and an all-star team known as the All-Cubans.

    Bill Dahlan joined McGraw in December 1891. The club cruised to five straight wins by the scores of 17-0, 14-0, 11-4, 14-3, and 10-1. Cuban Antonio María García was lent to the All Americans; he led all hitters in the series. Supposedly McGraw tried to sign him for the Orioles, but Garcia refused citing better pay in Cuba.

    From http://www.lawsonsprogress.com/chapglory.htm:

    From Jacksonville's team, Lawson enticed veterans Ed Mars (Syracuse, American Association), George Kurtz (Cleveland, Player's League), and S. E. Stratton (Michigan League) for his Cuban tour. Lawson also found Jake Wells, formerly with the St. Louis Browns; Roger Connor Jr., a teammate from Cobleskill in the New York State League; Pat Luby, a starting pitcher from Anson's Chicago Colts; and Dan Minnehan, who later made the Louisville Colonels roster. Rounding out the troupe were Milt West and Will White, a veteran of the Cincinnati Red Stockings. From Ocala the All-Americans caught a steamer from Tampa to Havana, Cuba.

    Lawson’s Ocala All-Americans played a series of games against Cuban League clubs, with uneven results. On January 31, 1891, the All-Americans lost a close game against Habana (Havana). They won the next three games from Matanzas, Progreso, and Almendares. On Feb. 5, they lost to Fe by the lopsided score of 17-6. This was followed by a loss to a team of All-Cuban stars by an embarrassing 11-0 tally. Lawson had judged correctly that his team’s bright yellow uniforms would create a sensation (everyday fashions in Cuba’s upper crust society were very conservative.) John McGraw’s scampering style at shortstop earned him the nickname of “El mono amarillo,” the Yellow Monkey.

    The series drew respectably sized and enthusiastic crowds, but Lawson miscalculated the total expenses of the trip, because they soon found themselves without enough funds to get back to Tampa. It does not take a great deal of imagination to conjecture how they raised the money to get back to the States. The temptation to lay bets against themselves and throw games would have been irresistible. After making enough to get from Havana to Key West, the squad was split in two and recruited other American and local players to form two complete teams and played games there. Once again, within a few days they had raised enough to get back to Tampa. On their arrival, Lawson found himself being asked questions by the Tampa papers about his team’s drinking and wagering—his denials were indignant, but the printed charge that they had thrown three games on purpose seems too specific to be spurious.

    After arrival back in Florida in Late February, 1891, the team did not return to Ocala.

    In November, 1891, Al Lawson tuned up his rested arm pitching for Mobile, Alabama; but he was soon involved in a scheme to round up another team of players to tour Cuba. The team he formed included more seasoned major leaguers than had made the Cuba trip ten months earlier: Billy Alvord, a third baseman most recently with NL Cleveland Spiders; also from Cleveland were Ed Seward and Big Ed McKean; John Dolan, a pitcher from the Cincinnati Reds; and Billy Earle, of the St. Louis Browns. Earle’s nickname was the “Little Globetrotter,” and had been one of the “All-Americas” on A.G. Spalding’s baseball world tour in 1888. The teams’ second baseman was John Newell, who broke into the majors earlier in 1891 on the Pittsburgh club. Newell brought along his teammate Doggie Miller. Also on the roster were Johnny McGraw, Bob Champion, Charlie Frank, and Lawson himself. Three other newcomers were invited: Bad Bill Dahlen was persuaded to come south to rendezvous with the others in New Orleans; John Dolan from the Columbus club was brought on to alternate pitching duties with Lawson; and Joe Neale, a lightly-used pitcher most recently with St. Louis. John McGraw was the only player on this second Cuba tour roster who had been with Lawson on his first tour. The ballplayers met in New Orleans in late November. They played a few exhibition games against Lawson’s recent Mobile teammates; the local New Orleans club; and Pensacola to get in shape. They then waited while Lawson arranged booking to Cuba from Mobile.

    Lawson’s Cuba trip hopes were pinned on advance backing from a shady New Orleans investor named P. H. McTague. Lawson had arranged to meet McTague at his hotel in New Orleans on the day following McTague's withdrawal of the trip funds from the bank. According to Lawson, McTague failed to appear, and Lawson investigated and found McTague drugged and robbed. Lawson told the players about the loss, and they were understandably upset. Lawson contacted his recent manager at Mobile, John F. Kelly, to ask for help in backing the trip. Kelly told Lawson that he would be willing to front one-way tickets to Havana. Lawson relayed that offer to the players, but they had heard the story of Lawson's first Cuba trip and demanded round-trip tickets. Lawson washed his hands of the affair at that point and packed his bags, and took the first steamer he could find going to Tampa, Florida. Kelly, meanwhile, talked to the owner of the Mobile team, oyster magnate J. E. "Jack" Hooper, who agreed to fully fund the trip. The ballplayers sailed from Mobile on Dec. 4, 1891 as "Hooper's All-American Base Ball Club," with John F. Kelly as their manager.

    These "All-Americans" were much more talented than the Ocala All-Americans that Lawson had brought to the island eleven months earlier. They had little problem defeating the Cuban League teams. Against Habana, the score was 17-0. Against Fe, the game ended 11-4. In a second game against Habana, the All-Americans won 10-1. Kelly’s men beat Almendares, 14-0; and finally beat the All-Cubans 14-3. To solve the problem of being shorthanded playing under the Cuban League's ten-man rule, Kelly recruited their biggest star, batting champion Antonio Maria Garcia, to play right field for the All-Americans. Garcia’s nickname was “El Ingles.” He spoke flawless English and had refined tastes, and was considered the best Cuban player of the nineteenth century.

    The Hooper All-Americans returned from Cuba with a tidy profit. News of Lawson's abandonment of the team spread through the community of major league players, and was recalled in later years as the first public example of Lawson’s tendency to solve his troubles by leaving the area where they occurred. Lawson tried to defend himself with impassioned letters to editors of sporting papers: Sporting News published one under the headline "Honorable (?) Al Lawson." Lawson argued, in fact, that he was due some thanks for paving the way for a venture that, after all, ended profitably; and for putting the players in touch with John F. Kelly. He claimed that he was bringing suit against McTague.

    John McGraw returned from Cuba and pleaded with Baltimore team owners to sign the man most responsible for the popularizing what came to be known as the "American Series" in Cuba. The player that McGraw was lobbying on behalf of was not his mentor Alfred Lawson...it was Antonio Maria Garcia. The recruitment failed. For his part, Garcia claimed he could earn more playing in Cuba; but it should be noted that it would be several more years before the first Latino player appeared in the major leagues.
    1892

    Pittsburgh National League manager Al Buckenberger announced plans in March 1892 to organize a barnstorming tour of Cuba at season’s end. I found no indication that the trip occurred.

    Charlie Duffee accompanied a ball club of lesser players to Cuba in November 1892; they were still there in January.

    1893

    Likewise, Jim Hart of the Cubs planned a similar trip for early 1893 but it was cancelled.

    1895

    Frank Bancroft planned another trip to Cuba in January 1895. He gathered Bid McPhee, Short Fuller and Jack Boyle among others to play their way to Cuba, first stopping in New Orleans and Florida.

    The team played one game in New Orleans and abandoned the tour by January 4 due to the cold and a bleak financial outlook.

    1898

    On September 17, 1898 Ted Sullivan announced his intentions of forming two teams and traveling to Cuba to put on an exhibition tour at the end of the season. He was eying potential profits due to the fact that 50,000 Americans soldiers were now stationed on the island. I found no indication that the tour took place.

    1899

    A group of players calling themselves the All-American Baseball Club left New Orleans for Cuba on December 28, 1899. The club was made up of talent from the majors and minors and one man named Beecher that they picked up at the last minute in New Orleans to play shortstop.

    The major leaguers included:
    Harry Steinfeldt
    Jake Beckley
    Cupid Childs
    Dan Phelan with New Orleans at the time
    Jim Delahanty with New Orleans at the time
    Sporty McAllister
    Doc Nance with New Orleans at the time

    Others:
    Johnny Gonding, a New Orleans local, catcher with Reading in the Pennsylvania League

    Abner Powell, skipper of New Orleans of the Southern League, managed the club. The All-American club played the Havana Reds and other clubs.

    1900

    Twenty-two members of the Brooklyn and New York National League clubs took off for Havana from New York on October 27, 1900. The trip was a financial failure in Havana, prompting ten members of the group to return home to New York on November 17. They are:
    Tom O’Brien
    Jesse Tannehill
    Tom Daly
    Pop Foster
    George Davis
    Cy Seymour
    Willie Keeler
    Mike Grady
    Charlie Hickman
    Pop Schriver

    The rest returned home on November 30, among them:
    Jim Sheckard
    Win Mercer
    Bill Donovan
    Bill Dahlen
    Bill Gleason
    Shad Barry
    Harry Howell
    Hughie Jennings
    Thomas C. Simpson

    From Steven Holbrook:

    In November of 1900, a more prominent group ventured to the island. Led by Thomas C. Simpson, secretary of the Brooklyn National League team, who arranged the trip, the Brooklyn and New York National League ball clubs played a series of games against each other in Cuba. Hughie Jennings played first base and managed the trip for the Brooklyn team while George Davis managed the New York team and played shortstop. The tour was in jeopardy shortly after the arrival of the U.S. teams, when Abel Linares, the Havana newspaperman who had offered the Americans $5,000 for the tour, did not live up to the contract in making arrangements for games and game sites. The Cuban players were engaged in a labor dispute with their local team owners and did not initially support the tour. The Americans were ready to leave, but a payment of “$2,000 in American gold” to Simpson kept the tour going. The $5,000 total never materialized and the Americans decided to split the receipts with their Cuban hosts and the tour ended with the U.S. team losing about $500. Ten of the touring team returned home early, disappointed with the experience. But those who stayed found the Cubans to be enthusiastic about seeing the top American professional players. The Americans also played some games against the best Cuban teams and at least two games against the U.S. troops still stationed on the island.
    20th Century Contests:
    http://www.cubanball.com/american.html

    http://www.cubanball.com/timeline.html

  • #2
    1910 The Philadelphia Athletics and Detroit Tigers played a long series of games against Cuban teams. Ty Cobb was thrown out three straight times, while trying to steal second base, by catchers Bruce Petway and Gervasio "Strike" Gonzalez

    1920 Babe Ruth plays several exhibition games in Cuba as a member of the visiting New York Giants team. In a game on November 14 he was bested by Cuban Cristobal Torriente who hit 3 homers and hit a double with Babe Ruth pitching


    http://www.cubanball.com/timeline.html

    Comment


    • #3
      Don't forget the Orioles!

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks!
        I have read some Sporting Life notices of the prospective tours in Fall 1898, 1899, 1900 (all three?) but no followup. Also some early 20c scheme(s) by Abner Powell that did not bear fruit (I think).

        Maybe this would have blossomed before 1908-1913 without the American League majority. After the 1901 season there was the prospect of putting AL and NL players on the field together in the United States. In 1901 and later there was the prospect of playing city series and state series (Ohio) organized by the local/regional AL and NL rival clubs.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by bkmckenna View Post
          1886

          Lew Simmons, manager of the 1886 American Association Philadelphia Athletics took 19 men with him to Cuba at the end of the season. They sailed for Cuba on November 6, 1886. They were scheduled to play two exhibition games a week through the end of the year.

          Simmons brought enough men for two nines which would compete against each other. The following major leaguers were among the contingent:
          . . .
          The unidentified others include:
          James P. Scott
          J. Tate – perhaps Pop Tate
          A. Nash – perhaps Billy Nash
          T. Shaffer – perhaps John Shaffer
          A.T. Stuart
          presumably Taylor Shafer, PHI AA 1890, younger brother of the famous veteran George "Orator Shaffer", born Shafer, a member of the Athletics in 1886.
          both Shafer brothers were born in Philadelphia, 1851 and 1866.
          Last edited by Paul Wendt; 02-09-2008, 06:36 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            I am very interested in documenting whether S.K. Govern, the manager of the original Cuban Giants, led his Washington Manhattans to Cuba circa 1881 or 1882. There are also mentions that the Cuban Giants may have gone to Cuba in the winter of 1885-86. However, the limited evidence is problematic.

            I tried finding something in the national linrary when I visited Havana, but no go.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by VIBaseball View Post
              I am very interested in documenting whether S.K. Govern, the manager of the original Cuban Giants, led his Washington Manhattans to Cuba circa 1881 or 1882. There are also mentions that the Cuban Giants may have gone to Cuba in the winter of 1885-86. However, the limited evidence is problematic.

              I tried finding something in the national linrary when I visited Havana, but no go.
              Does this mean Manhattan Base Ball Club of Washington, DC?
              Do you know a newspaper that covered Manhattans home games in 1881, 1882?

              By the way, did the club pay any salaries?

              Comment


              • #8
                Not sure about your first question, Paul...but I've tried with the newspapers. Especially when it came to black ball in that era, there are just a few tiny grains of information to be gleaned by sifting through microfilm.

                There may have been a little money there for the players, but that hasn't really been my focus. I just want to find any and all tangible mentions of S.K. Govern's name. Tying him to Cuba would be great, but of even greater interest to me would be proving a hunch I have that he brought baseball to his birthplace, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

                Comment


                • #9
                  emphasis mine
                  Originally posted by Brian McKenna View Post
                  Early Major League Ventures into Cuba

                  1879

                  The first American professional team to visit Cuba played its first game on the island in Havana on December 21, 1879. The club called itself the Hop Bitters. It was led by Cincinnati promoter and recently-named manager of the National League’s Worcester (Massachusetts) club Frank Bancroft.

                  Bancroft would led future tours to the island as well and play an instrumental role in bringing the first Cubans to the major leagues, Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida.

                  The Americans easily won.

                  The American club was composed of mainly the soon-to-be Worcester NL club of 1880 which was ascending from the minor National Association where it had played in 1879.
                  Future Cincinnati promoter Frank Bancroft was the Worcester NA manager throughout the 1879 season; the New Bedford manager in 1878.
                  --from the short biography by John Husman in Nineteenth Century Stars (SABR 1989)

                  The following players took part in the tour, leaving the U.S. in late November:
                  George Wood
                  Alonzo Knight
                  Charlie Bennett
                  Art Whitney
                  J. F. “Chub” Sullivan
                  C. J. “Curry” Foley
                  A. J. “Doc” Bushong
                  Arthur Irwin
                  Frederick “Tricky” Nichols
                  Referring to the official 1879 statistics:
                  Alll but Curry Foley were regular players for Worcester, eight of the ten players I would call regulars. They were missing only 2B Steve Brady, with the lowest batting average on the first nine, and their mvp, pitcher J Lee Richmond. Tricky Nichols was the second pitcher. He had tricks and Richmond had stuff.

                  Referring to 1878 statistics compiled by a SABR member:
                  Curry Foley, p-1b, Lowell, had been one of the strongest batters and weakest pitchers in the league one year earlier.

                  The players arrived back in the U.S. via New Orleans on December 31. The trip was financed by a Mr. Soule of Rochester, New York and was not a financial success. They may have played as little as two games in Cuba.
                  The official 1879 statistics list the Rochester-based team as 'Hop Bitters'. It was the weakest of nine teams competing for the championship and it played about half as many games as the others.

                  Rochester was back in the league for its 1880 finale. I don't recognize Mr. Soule but I guess he was involved.

                  1879-80

                  The first U.S. ballplayers to play in the Cuban League were Jimmy Macullar and Hick Carpenter during the 1879-80-season for the Colon Baseball Club.
                  Carpenter and Macullar were regular players for Syracuse NL in 1879.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Dr. Soule's Hop Bitters

                    tidbits on Hop Bitters, A.T. Soule, Rochester, baseball

                    crucial paragraph
                    >>
                    Soule strengthened the formula, changed the name to Hop Bitters, the invalid’s friend and hope, and moved the plant to Rochester in 1873. The product took off, and Soule eventually became a millionaire. He began to sponsor amateur sports, offering prizes. Baseball was gaining in popularity and Soule took on the city of Rochester team. Soon he bought the bankrupt club of Albany and re-named them “Hop Bitters”; The local ballpark became “Hop Bitters Park”. Soule ventured into other sports promotions, none of which were very successful.
                    <<

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      By Troy Soos:

                      Worcester Brown Stockings
                      In 1879, local boosters formed the Worcester Baseball Association and fielded a team in the minor league National Association. The club’s backers launched an aggressive effort to promote the new team and bring the caliber of play up to the standards of a major league nine. They enlisted Worcester mayor Charles B. Pratt to serve as the team president, and convinced Frank Bancroft, “the prince of baseball managers,” to leave New Bedford and take on the managing job.

                      Home field for the team was the Worcester County Agricultural Fairgrounds, a 20-acre plot bounded by Highland, Sever, Cedar, and Agricultural Streets. The site was also known as the Driving Park because it included a track for horse trotting. Rights to use the fairgrounds for the baseball season were acquired for a payment of $500.

                      The team struggled early in 1879, and by late May the backers gave Bancroft an ultimatum to win games or lose his job. Bancroft promptly acquired two players who were to turn the team’s fortunes around: pitcher J. Lee Richmond, captain of the Brown University baseball team, and shortstop Arthur Irwin, an amateur player from Boston. Richmond and Irwin both made their professional debuts on June 2, in an exhibition game against the National League Chicago White Stockings. Richmond shocked the White Stockings—and most Worcester fans—by no-hitting the powerful Chicago squad and taking a 11–0 win in a seven-inning contest. For the rest of the season, the Worcester club continued to improve, ending the year with a respectable record of 26 wins and 31 losses, including a number of wins in matches against National League teams.

                      Based on its 1879 performance, Worcester was under consideration for admission to the National League. The only stumbling block was that the city didn’t have the required minimum population of 75,000. This was remedied by simply “redefining” the Worcester boundary to include all residents within four miles of the city proper. With the population issue resolved, a National League franchise was awarded for the 1880 season.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Cuban X Giants to Cuba, winter 1900

                        The Cuban X Giants managed by E.B. Lamar, Jr., traveled to Cuba in February 1900, perhaps until April.

                        The Chicago Tribune published three items retrievable by search for "x giants". The first is communication from Lamar 02-09 (published 02-11 p18), covered the teams plans for the season. Among other things,
                        02-10 planned departure to Cuba
                        04-15 planned return to New York City "about April 15"

                        The others are blurbs and box scores for two games by "Special Correspondence" (publ 02-28 p6; 03-04 p18)
                        02-22 at Havana. X Giants 7, Cuba 5
                        02-25 at Havana. "Cuban Giants" 6, Cuba 5

                        [Some public and many university libraries provide access to ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Check it out.]
                        Last edited by Paul Wendt; 06-04-2008, 02:04 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Can't find the passenger list for 1900 but I did for the X Giants' 1903 trip:

                          return to NY on the USS Vigilancia on 12/27/1903 (Left Havana on 12/22)

                          Edward B. Lamarr, 35, manager

                          ballplayers:
                          Robert Jordan, 39
                          Daniel McClleland, 25
                          Ray Wilson, 38
                          Edward Wilson, 25
                          John Hill, 27
                          Clarence Williams, 38
                          Charles Grant, 25
                          Grant Johnson, 30
                          Andrew Foster, 24 -- Rube Foster

                          Interesting that they only traveled with nine ballplayers.

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                          • #14
                            Found them again:
                            on 11/05/1904 arriving from Havana on the USS Monterey
                            1/28/1905, USS Monterey
                            4/19/1907, USS Merida
                            4/17/1908, USS Merida
                            4/6/1911 (into New Orleans), USS Chalmette
                            Last edited by Brian McKenna; 06-05-2008, 11:14 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Cuban X Giants (black Americans) in Cuba, 1900

                              Thanks.
                              In that Feb 9 correspondence --one day before planned departure from New York, published in Chicago Tribune Feb 11-- the Cuban X Giants manager Edward B. Lamar Jr. listed who would make up the team in Cuba (10 players; call them "planned tourists") and who would probably make up the X Giants during the season (15 prospects including nine in common with the planned tourists). The two box scores from Havana both identify nine players who do not match the planned tourists. This table provides a correspondence.
                              Code:
                              02-09	02-22	02-09	= report date
                              tour	lineup	season
                              	1,s	c	Jordan
                              1b	2,1	1b	Wilson
                              2b	3,2	2b	Grant
                              c	4,c	c	Williams
                              3b	5,3	3b	A. Jackson
                              p	6,p-r	p	Nelson
                              p	7,m	p	Robinson
                              	8,l	2b	Parker
                              p	9,r-p	p	McClellan
                              p		p	Carter
                              c		c	Smith
                              ss		ss	Stewart
                              		2b	White 
                              		p	Howard
                              		1b	Ray [Hay?]
                              		lf	W. Jackson
                              Column two gives the lineup in Havana, Feb 22. According to the box scores, the only difference three days later was that Nelson, p, and McClellan, rf, did not switch fielding positions, so the two boxes identify only nine players. Columns one and three give the traveling team for Cuba and the prospective team for the upcoming season, according to that communication by Lamar.

                              Regarding the three outfield positions in Cuba, Lamar said "either a catcher or a pitcher". Regarding cf and rf for the upcoming season he said "either a catcher or a pitcher".

                              All that is according to the Chicago Tribune, dates above.

                              I think that explains the table.

                              [Lamar did not get Sol White at second for the 1900 season. That would be White's one season in the west. Charlie Grant and Grant Johnson were still there too (all three based in Chicago). That is Frank Grant at second.]

                              add:
                              Checking the New York Times for Feb-Mar 1900, I get no hits for 'x giants' or 'cuban giants' and no useful hit for 'Havana'. Did other New York newspapers publish reports of this series?
                              Last edited by Paul Wendt; 06-15-2008, 04:38 AM. Reason: improve wording

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