Guest Blog article by Keith Robbins
With the upcoming Rays – Cuba game in Havana brings forth the question:
Q: Does that have anything to do with the Braves?
In over 20,000 games played, the Braves win some and lose some. In typical Braves fashion they can be the most benevolent of teams.
The first Cuban and thus the first Latin American professional baseball player was Estevan Enrique Bellán. His place in history is somewhat lost because his name is anglosized to Steve Bellan. Being part of baseball during the pre-professional era also cements his place as a one of Ppioneers of International baseball. He was featured in a SABRE bio.
He started baseball at Fordham, the same school of legendary announcer Vin Scully- albeit Bellán was there just a few years before, 1866-1868.
As a pro, Bellán played for one of greatest named franchises in sports: the Troy Haymakers. Overall these Haymakers did not make much hay in ‘71 going 13-15 and finished 6th of 9th in the old National Association.
Bellán was noted for being especially fast on the bases and a slick, graceful fielder at third or short stop. Hs graceful infield play gave him the nickname the “Cuban Sylph;” in the 19th Century that was a great compliment.
The day of Braves’ benevolence was August 3, 1871, and the beneficiary was Seňor Bellán. He was 5 for 5 with 5 RBI, a triple, one recorded stolen base, and started a double play.
No doubt the Haymakers’ infield was more akin to a hayfield for 15 errors were recording this game. Bellan had two, but so did his rival third-sacker Harry “Silk Stockings” Schaffer.
With bat running and gloveless fielding Bellán’s efforts powered the Haymakers to a 13 to 12 victory. The game line and box score can be found on retrosheet.org, http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1871/B08030TRO1871.htm
He was one, if not the first, of many ballplayes to have a career-best day courtesy of the Braves.
Recently the Rays team president noted that:
“For us, it’s about spreading goodwill through baseball.”
While this game occur in a few days from now, in baseball what is new is old. Or as Yogi said:
“It’s like deja-vu all over again.”
On August 3, 1871, Albert Goodwill Spalding did his baseball best to spread goodwill throughout the baseball world – from Troy to Havana – as the first Cuban to play pro ball, Estvan Bellán went 5 for 5.