Learn why Cleveland became the home for many Latin American and Caribbean baseball players and how many of these exceptionally talented ballplayers found their way into the Negro Leagues.
By 1947, the allure of playing in the Major Leagues was gripping many Latin American and Caribbean baseball players. Latin American and Caribbean players used the Negro Leagues as a stepping stone to get to the Major Leagues.
Baseball Diamond Cuba (20th Century)Baseball Heritage Museum
Baseball Diamond in Guantanamo, Cuba
Baseball was introduced to Cuba in the 1860s by Cuban students returning from U.S. colleges and American sailors who ported in the country.
Cuban Baseball Diamond Team Photo Back of Postcard (20th Century)Baseball Heritage Museum
Baseball travels around the Island
The sport spread quickly across the island nation after its introduction, with student Nemesio Guillot receiving popular credit for the game's growth in the mid-19th century.
...And the Walls Come Tumbling Down.
Overall, the Latin American players in the Negro Leagues were exceptional. Their talent and ability were undeniable. One our of every five Latin Americans playing in the Negro Leagues went on to be inducted into a Hall of Fame.
Ruthford "Chico" Salmon
Salmon graduated from Abel Bravo High School in Colon, Panama where he lettered in baseball, basketball, and track. He later attended Abel Bravo College, where he also played baseball. Salmon played seven of the nine fielding positions in his nine-year major-league career.
Learn more about Chico Salmon:
It was as a college student that Salmon played for the Panamanian baseball team during the 1959 Pan-American Games in Venezuela. Shortly after playing in that tournament, Chico was signed by the Pacific Coast League’s Denver club of the Milwaukee Braves organization. As far as bonus was concerned, “Not even a penny,” he later complained. “Not even a steak. But I think I would have got one if I waited longer. His contract with the Cleveland Indians would award Salmon with $900.00 a month.
Cleveland Indians Baseball Contract Ruthford "Chico" Salmon
American League Uniformed Players Contract for Panamanian baseballer, Ruthford E. Salmon. Salmon's compensation form 1964 was $900.00 which is the equivalent to $8,162 in present day.
In contrast to Salmon's $900 salary, the San Francisco Giants signed a superstar and top supporting player, Willie Mays a 1964 contract for $105,000.
Contracts like the one that Chico Salmon signed in 1963 with the Cleveland Indians were what players in the Hispanic, Caribbean and Latin American strived for throughout their careers as baseballers.
A series of interviews following the 1970 World Series, with several of the role players of the 1970 World Champion Baltimore Orioles including "Chico" Salmon
For most, Hispanic, Caribbean, and Latin American baseballers, Cards like these were the pinnacle of their careers.