December 22, 2014

Negro Leagues Database Update: American Series in Cuba, 1904-1915

October 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

In the 1900s and 1910s, with Cuba newly independent from Spain but under heavy U.S. influence (and sometimes occupation), a baseball exchange formed between the two countries.  In the summers teams of the best Cuban players toured the U.S. as the “All-Cubans” or the “Cuban Stars”; in the fall American teams traveled to Havana to play exhibition series against Cuban League clubs.

These fall games, which served as a prelude to the regular Cuban Winter League season, were major events in Cuba.  The fans there called it La Temporada Americana, or the American Series, and it gave them a chance to see some of the greatest teams and players in the world.  Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers, Christy Mathewson and the New York Giants, and Eddie Collins and the Philadelphia A’s all played in Havana during these years, as did famous Negro league teams like Rube Foster’s Leland Giants and John Henry Lloyd‘s Lincoln Giants.

There was no color line in the American Series, so these games featured rare matchups between white and black players.  Almendares Park in these years saw the likes of Grant Johnson and Pete Hill stepping in to bat against Chief Bender and Eddie Plank, while José Méndez faced down Cobb, Collins, and Sam Crawford.

We’ve just added more than ten years of American Series games to the Negro Leagues Database.  This includes 101 games of major league teams playing Cuban teams from 1908 to 1913, and 126 games involving Negro league teams versus the Cuban Leaguers from 1904 to 1915.  Detailed records, with many play-by-play accounts, have allowed us to include some often elusive data such as caught stealing and sacrifice flies (separated from overall sacrifice hits).  Like several Cuban League seasons from this era, the American Series sometimes allows us a glimpse of batters’ strikeouts.

A few of the classic moments from these series:

José Méndez throwing 25 consecutive scoreless innings against the Cincinnati Reds in 1908.

Eustaquio Pedroso stunning the American League champion Detroit Tigers with an 11-inning no-hitter in 1909.

Ty Cobb‘s famous trip to Cuba in 1910, the only time he ever faced the best black American players of his day.  (And by the way: was he really thrown out stealing three straight times by Bruce Petway?)

•Philadelphia Athletics’ ace Jack Coombs‘s 8-0 performance in Cuba, including a no-hitter against Habana in 1912.

•The great New York Lincoln Giants struggling to a 5-8 record against the Cuban Leaguers in 1912.

Luis Padrón hitting .538 against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1913.

Also, since Negro league seasons could be pretty unstable with players switching teams constantly, we have changed the default view for player pages to show combined stats for any given year.  Click the Individual button to break the numbers down by teams.

Cuban Punch cigar cards for José Méndez and Ty Cobb, 1910


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