Since its origins, baseball has been an American sport. However, it has received a lot of Latin American influence throughout time. In this way, what at first seemed to be a discipline meant just for native American athletes then took some of the world’s potential to become a high-quality mixed sport. But, how did this mixture begin? Who was the first athlete to put his foot down and break the ethnic barrier?
In 1947, Jack Roosevelt Robinson was the first African American baseball player to play in the MLB. Four years later, Chico Carrasquel became the first Latin American player to start an All-Star Game. Venezuelan Luis Aparicio was the first foreign athlete to receive the Rookie of the Year award.
Nowadays, more than 35% of Major League Baseball players are non-American. Thanks to this, we can now enjoy the highest quality performances in the top baseball league in the world. However, it took some time for this American discipline to lower its barriers and let foreigners take part in what used to be the national sport. This article will commemorate those who took a step forward and achieved this ethnic mixture, benefitting society and the sports industry.
During modern times, baseball used to have a color barrier that prevented any colored people from playing in the Major Leagues. For that matter, there was a Negro league in which African American players could perform. This was an evident influence of segregation and racism from society into the sports industry. This league proved to be of excellent playing quality. Baseball stars like Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and Judy Johnson displayed astonishing performances in it. However, Jackie Robinson decided he was not going to be one of them.
In November 1944, one of the most significant people for color segregation in baseball died. Under the name of Kenesaw Mountain Landis, this powerful federal judge had also been in charge of organized, professional baseball. His death gave place to one of the major events in baseball history: the inclusion of the Negro league in the MLB. Due to this event, Jackie Robinson broke this differential barrier between colored and non-colored skin. In 1946, he arrived at the minor leagues, where he stayed for a whole year playing for the Montreal Royals.
It took Jackie Robinson just a year to prove his superb quality as a baseball player. The Dodgers called him up to the Major League six days before the 1947 season started. And thus, on April 11th, 1947, Jack Roosevelt Robinson became the first African-American baseball player to perform in this high-standard league in the modern era. This event was of no minor issue, resulting in the Negro league’s biggest aspiration. Besides, it also gave place to many other influences in a sport that had missed out on players of excellent quality due to an elite-like appearance.
A year after Jackie Robinson’s breakthrough, Cuban Saturnino Orestes Arrieta Miñoso, also known as Minnie Miñoso, arrived at the MLB. Known for his speed and baserunning ability, he had played for three years in the Negro league for the New York Cubans. The first step for Latin American baseball players in the MLB, Miñoso found it quite hard to adapt initially, with just nine games with the Cleveland Indians that season.
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After his time in the minor leagues, it was Miñoso’s time to shine. He signed with the Chicago White Sox, becoming the first black player in the franchise’s history. An outfielder, Miñoso displayed his excellent baseballer quality on the pitch. His .326 batting average and 31 stolen bases took him to second place in the American League Rookie of the Year award voting. Another great moment for Latin American sports culture in the baseball industry.
But, big as it already was, this was not Minoso’s only achievement. At the age of 53, he became the second-oldest player to get a base hit in a major league game. Although he played for just three games for the White Sox during that 1976 season, they were enough for him to show he still had the touch. Thus, he added a notch to his already astonishing statistics.
Venezuelan player Luis Aparicio was another Latin American player who left his mark in the American baseball industry. In fact, he left several of them after arriving at the Chicago White Sox when he was just 22 years. In his debut, he replaced Chico Carrasquel as a shortstop in 1956. After that game, his baseball career would be full of acknowledgments, many of which were a first for Venezuelan baseballers.
In the same year of his major league debut, Aparicio became the first Latin American player to receive the American League Rookie of the Year award. After leading the American League in stolen bases, assists, and putouts that season, Aparicio left no place for doubts about who deserved the prize.
In the 1958 season, Aparicio was among the top shortstops in major league baseball and was selected to be the starting one for the American League in the 1958 All-Star Game. That same year, he would become the first Latin American shortstop to receive the Gold Glove Award. This was the first of nine times he would receive such recognition during his whole career.
Even though it has always been America’s national sport, the positive Latin American players’ influence on baseball is undeniable. Of course, it was not an easy task for those who decided to become pioneers in the industry. But, thanks to them, all Latin American athletes can aspire to get a place in the highest quality baseball league in the world. At Inmersivo, Empointe’s learning platform, we salute and commemorate them. We do the same and encourage every athlete who fights and makes an effort to be part of the history of worldwide sports.
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