Negro Leagues DB Update: 1915/16 Cuban League & Florida Hotel League
This week we’ve added two leagues from the 1915/16 winter season—the Cuban League and the Florida Hotel League—along with the 1907 Southern Championship contested between the Birmingham Giants and San Antonio Black Bronchos.
In Cuba, due to a labor dispute, the old Cuban National League was no more, replaced by a player-led league, the Cuban National Association. The players of the three former clubs–Almendares, Fe, and Habana—reorganized themselves into teams called Almendares Park, Habana Park, and San Francisco Park, presumably unable to use the old team names for legal reasons.
In 1914/15 Fe, despite hiring Spot Poles, Dick Redding, and several other black players from the United States, had finished with an abject 5-28 record. So it probably seemed safe for San Francisco Park, the team that took Fe’s place, to dispense with the Americans and add Eustaquio Pedroso, perhaps the most valuable player in Cuban baseball the past couple of winters. But Pedroso soon switched back to Almendares Park and San Francisco Park lost 21 out of 22 games, whereupon the league sent to the United States for Rube Foster and his Chicago American Giants to replace them. Foster’s team, still playing under the San Francisco name, won 5 and lost 9 before returning to the U.S., and a thrown-together outfit lost the club’s last three scheduled games. Altogether, the three different versions of San Francisco Park fielded a total of 56 players.
Despite the cosmetic name changes, Almendares and Habana fielded similar teams to their 1914/15 editions. Habana Park again featured mostly players from organized baseball in the U.S., including major leaguers Armando Marsans and Mike González, but lost the pennant to Almendares Park. The eventual champions starred Cristóbal Torriente (.401/.491/.562), Manuel Cueto (.403/.481/.493), Gervasio González (.370/.517/.407, with a league-leading 32 walks), and Dolf Luque (12-5, 2.80), along with the two-way threat Pedroso, who hit .451 and went 9-2 as a pitcher after leaving San Francisco Park for Almendares.
This would be the last winter season in old Almendares Park, which was torn down and replaced by a new stadium in time for the 1918/19 season.
Meanwhile in Palm Beach, Florida, the New York Lincoln Giants and the Indianapolis ABCs clashed in a 15-game series. The annual Florida Hotel League, also known as the Coconut League, had taken place from January to March since at least the mid-1900s. The teams represented the exclusive Breakers Hotel and Royal Poinciana Hotel. The 1916 series saw John Donaldson, already a legendary, fireballing southpaw for J. L. Wilkinson‘s All-Nations Club, make his big-time blackball debut. It was a rough start, as the equally legendary Cyclone Joe Williams out-dueled him several times. Unfortunately we only have box scores for 6 of 15 games that year, and in those games Donaldson went 0-4.
Our additions to the DB also bring us back to the start of Joe Williams’s career at the age of 21, with the San Antonio Black Bronchos in 1907, playing for the Southern black championship against C. I. Taylor’s Birmingham Giants.