October 3 – Happy Birthday Armando Marsans

marsansArmando Marsans’ father was a wealthy Cuban merchant who took his family to New York City to live at the turn of the 20th century to shield them from the violence of the Spanish American War. By the time the 13-year-old boy returned to his homeland after the conflict ended, he had learned how to play America’s favorite pastime well enough to eventually become a star outfielder in the Cuban Winter League.

With Major League teams visiting the island country every winter to participate in exhibition games against Cuban native all-stars, it did not take long for Marsans to get signed by a big league organization, the Cincinnati Reds. In 1911, he and his long-time friend and teammate, pitcher Rafael Almeida became the first native Cubans to play in the Majors when they made their debut with the Reds. Marsans was ready for the challenge. He averaged .317 in 1912, his first full big league season and stole 35 bases. It wasn’t long before he was being touted as one of the best young outfielders in baseball.

That’s when Marsans got into a huge and prolonged argument with his Reds’ manager Buck Herzog that culminated in the outfielder’s suspension. An angry and offended Marsans responded by jumping to the newly formed Federal League, signing a sizable three-year contract to play for the St. Louis Terriers. The owner of the Cincinnati team responded by going to court and obtaining an injunction that prevented the Cuban from playing for the Terriers while a judge decided if he had violated the terms of his Reds’ contract. After playing just nine games for his new team and league, Marsans was forced off the field and returned to Cuba to await the judge’s decision. It wasn’t until the end of the 1915 regular season that the court permitted Marsans to resume playing with his new Federal League team while his case was being considered.

By then, the Federal League was staggering under financial difficulties that would force it to disband a few weeks later. Marsans ended up in the American League, playing for the St Louis Browns. He had a decent season for the Brownies in 1916, starting in their outfield, driving in 60 runs and finishing second in the AL with 46 stolen bases. But the almost two-year-layoff forced upon him by the Reds had a negative impact on Marsans overall game and he was never again the same player he had been before he jumped to the Federal League.

After he got off to a slow start with the Browns in 1917, he was traded to the Yankees in July of that season, for outfielder, Lee Magee. In New York, he joined fellow Cuban outfielder Angel Aragon. Unfortunately for Marsans, he broke his leg during just his 25th game in pinstripes. He went back to Cuba to heal and when he failed to report to the Yankees 1918 spring training camp, it looked like he was retiring. Two months later, he changed his mind and rejoined the team. After his first three starts during his second season in New York, Marsans had seven hits in his first 13 at bats and was averaging .538. But it was pretty much all downhill after that and when he left the team that July, the temperamental 30-year-old was averaging just .236.

He would unsuccessfully try to revive his baseball career in America a few years later but remained a force in Cuban baseball as both a player and a manager for years to come.

Marsans, who was a charter member of Cuba’s Baseball Hall of Fame, joins this US Baseball Hall-of-Fame member and this former Yankee pitcher as October 3rd Pinstripe Birthday Celebrants.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1917 NYY 25 100 88 10 20 4 0 0 15 6 8 3 .227 .292 .273 .564
1918 NYY 37 132 123 13 29 5 1 0 9 3 5 3 .236 .266 .293 .558
8 Yrs 655 2547 2273 267 612 67 19 2 221 171 173 117 .269 .325 .318 .643
CIN (4 yrs) 322 1224 1113 141 334 31 15 1 109 96 66 59 .300 .345 .358 .702
SLM (2 yrs) 45 188 164 21 36 3 2 0 8 9 17 5 .220 .293 .262 .555
NYY (2 yrs) 62 232 211 23 49 9 1 0 24 9 13 6 .232 .277 .284 .561
SLB (2 yrs) 226 903 785 82 193 24 1 1 80 57 77 47 .246 .318 .283 .601
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/2/2013.

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