The First Foreign-Born Latino Player In Major League History Wasn’t Dominican, Cuban, Puerto Rican Or Mexican

This year, nearly 30 percent of all players in Major League Baseball were born outside of the United States. Out of 868 players, 29.8 percent are foreign-born, the majority of them from countries in Latin America.

So, who was the first foreign-born Latino to play in the Major Leagues? The evidence points to Louis Castro, a Colombian-born pelotero who arrived to the United States in 1885, when he was just 8 years old. The son of a banker from Medellin, Colombia, Castro grew up in New York, where he played college ball at Manhattan College.

A second baseman and outfielder, Castro signed with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American League in 1902 (the Athletics eventually moved to Kansas City in 1955, then Oakland in 1968). That’s him in the bottom row, far left:

Library of Congress
CREDIT: Library of Congress

According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Castro was far from being the most talented player on the team (he batted .245), but was well regarded by teammates for his sense of humor and quick wit. Baseball writer Leonte Landino told Smithsonian Magazine that although Castro had darker skin than many of his teammates, he identified as white, which meant he didn’t face discrimination like black players of that era:

“Castro was a white player. Even though he was a Latino, he was white, and they didn’t have any problem with that.”

His stint with the Athletics only lasted 42 games, and by the following season, Castro was out of the league.

Years after Castro’s death, there were questions about where he was actually born. News articles from his playing days make it clear he was seen as a foreign-born player, but some people believed he was Venezuelan, not Colombian. As researchers continued to dig, they found a ship’s log and a financial assistance form the final years of Castro’s life which listed his place of birth as New York. Had Castro been lying the whole time? Probably not. Researchers believe Castro may have claimed American citizenship to avoid being deported or to help his chances at getting financial assistance.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, a biographer named Nick Martinez found a document that appeared to have the answer to the question of Castro’s birthplace. Martinez found a passenger list from the S.S. Colon, a ship that arrived in the United States in 1885. One of the passengers was an 8-year-old named Master Louis Castro and another person with the same last name listed as N. Castro. Martinez believes that name belongs to Louis’ father, Nestor Castro.

That would make Castro the first foreign-born Latino to play in the Major Leagues.

Although Castro made history decades ago, Colombian pelotero Orlando Cabrera told MLB.com in 2007 that most Colombians weren’t aware of him until recently: “Back home, I talk to players about him all the time. Nobody [back home] knew until the ’90s that he was from Colombia, that the first Latin player was from Colombia. They didn’t teach us about him in school or anything.”

WATCH: This Has To Be The Most Nonchalant Bat Catch In Baseball History

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Tito Puente, The Biggest Name In Salsa, Hated Calling It That Saying The Term "Salsa" Is For Spaghetti


Tito Puente, The Biggest Name In Salsa, Hated Calling It That Saying The Term “Salsa” Is For Spaghetti

via: latinos unidos / Pinterest

El Rey de Latin Jazz, Tito Puente, will be honored this year in a three-day-tribute kicking off on his birthday. You wish you could have a three-day birthday celebration. Shoot, Abraham Lincoln only gets one day.

Tito Puente will be honored this year in the Bronx with a three-day retrospective on his 50-year career.

Credit: Platinum Music Group / Youtube

The tribute will be part conference, part musical festival and part panel discussion on the life, and illustrious 50-year career, of the man who notoriously hated the word “salsa” to describe his music, saying salsa is what you put on spaghetti.

In the book “Tito Puente and the Making of Latin Music” by Steven Loza, there’s a large discussion of what to call his music. On the term “salsa” Puente said:

“…Yes, what does it mean? There’s no salsa music. They just put that word to the music that we were all doing all the time, the mambo, the cha-cha, the merengue: they called it “salsa.” Salsa is a condiment of food. You eat salsa. You don’t listen to it. You don’t dance to it, you know? It became a popular word and all American people… “Tito could you play me a salsa?” …Now I’ve joined them. I’m not going to fight it anymore, you know? the mambo, call it whatever you want! … Salsa is actually the condiment that you put on food. Salsa tomate, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce. The Mexicans have been using the word salsa for centuries.”

Immortalized in film, tv and most importantly as a character on “The Simpsons,” Puente made a huge mark in music and pop culture.

Tito Puente Drums GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Credit: JPeterBane / Reddit / Giphy / The Simpsons / Fox

There’s nothing like seeing your heroes portrayed on your favorite cartoon. Also, he released over 100 albums and won several Grammys awards, among other awards and accolades, no big deal.

When I arrived in L.A. as a tourist in my senior year of college, I did the walk of fame and took a photo with only ONE star.

Credit: Andrew Santiago

Besides the fact that there are only some, but not many Puerto Rican stars on the walk of fame (side-eye), my heart swelled seeing his name among the most famous people in all the world.

Puente is a source of pride for Puerto Ricans and Latinos everywhere, even Oscar the Grouch was feeling him. And he hated everyone.

Credit: Sesame Street / Youtube

Once you get to Sesame Street, you live in our hearts forever.

You can check the retrospective starting April 21st at the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture in the Bronx.

[H/T] Three-Day Tribute to Tito Puente to Kick Off on El Rey’s Birthday

READ: Shocked That Not Everyone In Puerto Rico Looks Like J.Lo, She Created An Account To Open Everyone Else’s Eyes

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