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:
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.
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.”
It looks like scandal just can’t stay away from A-Rod. The former Yankees all-star is now facing controversy based off of the claims filed in a lawsuit by his former brother-in-law, Constantine Scurtis.
The lawsuit alleges that Rodriguez is a pathological liar and cheater who embezzled millions of dollars through shady real estate deals.
The lawsuit states: “Defendant Alex Rodriguez, a former Yankees baseball player, is a serial cheater and liar. After cheating on his wife, Cynthia, and lying about his affairs, Alex Rodriguez then lied to and cheated his brother in law in their real estate partnership.”
According to Scurtis, he and Rodriguez formed a real estate partnership around the beginning of A-Rod’s marriage to his sister, Cynthia. The initial deal was that the duo would leverage A-Rod’s star power to attract clients and sales and would get 95% of the profits. Scurtis would get the rest of the profits, including acquisition fees when applicable.
Scurtis says that A-Rod sold their joint company without his consent and without giving him any of the profits.
But per Scurtis, in 2008, around the time that Rodriguez’s marriage to his first wife dissolved, A-Rod abruptly booted Scurtis from the partnership. Scurtis alleges that, up until that point, Rodriguez had previously lied to him and assured him that nothing would change in their business dealings.
The lawsuit also alleges that Rodriguez committed various acts of fraud, including concocting a “scheme to profit off of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ike.”
Hurricane Ike was a natural disaster that resulted in at least 195 deaths and billions of dollars in damage in 2008.
Scurtis says that Rodriguez committed insurance fraud, faking accounting records to claim that his properties sustained significantly more damage than they actually did.
The lawsuit alleges that A-Rod bribed an official who caught wind of the scheme to keep quiet.
“Through their racketeering,” the lawsuit said, “Rodriguez and his co-conspirators have caused Scurtis many millions of dollars in damages.”
Scurtis’s lawyer says that A-Rod will “face a jury on August 2, 2021, to answer claims that he and his co-conspirators engaged in a pattern of racketeering and embezzlement.”
“Scurtis never suspected that the tussle over the day-to-day operation of the business arising from his sister’s divorce would be followed by a systematic and fraudulent effort to eliminate Scurtis’s equity in the venture and strip him of the future financial rewards to which he was rightfully entitled,” says the lawsuit.
It should be noted that this is not the first time that Scurtis has brought a lawsuit against his ex-brother-in-law.
There seems to be no love lost between these two former business partners. Over the years, Scurtis has filed a multiple lawsuits against the Dominican ex-MVP, including a $100 million one in 2015 that included many of the same allegations. It is unclear how that situation ended, but judging by the newest lawsuit, Scurtis’s previous ones have not been successful.
As for A-Rod, he is hitting back at Scurtis’s claims, and filed a countersuit denying the accusations. We guess we’ll just keep our eyes peeled to see how this all turns out.
Latin American and U.S. Latino athletes have given the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world countless moments of joy, pride, and hope. Latin American sportswomen and men usually come from disadvantaged backgrounds so their stories of pride and success inspire us even more. It would be almost impossible to enumerate all the triumphs achieved by Latin American athletes, but we are listing the Most Iconic Moments In Sports. Sí se puede!
When Diego Armando Maradona scored the infamous but glorious goal known as “La mano de Dios” (“The hand of God”) June 22, 1986, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, in a quarterfinals game against bitter rivals England
This has got to be the single most controversial moment in World Cup history. Argentina was facing England in the quarterfinals and Maradona jumped to hit the ball with his head. But thing is, he actually hit it with his hand and the ball penetrated the net. The English were of course appalled, but this event remains one of the most memorable in the long history of joy and drama of the Argentinian national team. We got to also remember that there was some bad blood between Argentina and England at the time, a product of the Falklands War.
When Ana Gabriela Guevara excelled in an Olympic event that was uncharted territory for Latina athletes 2004 Olympic Games, Athens, Greece
Ana Gabriela Guevara, who is now a very controversial politician, gained notoriety for scoring a silver medal in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. She competed in 400m, a test that Mexican track athletes don’t generally excel. But she proved that she is one of a kind.
When Mexican boxing legend Julio César Chávez pulled off a miracle and knocked out Meldrick Taylor in the last few seconds of their championship unification fight March 17, 1990, Las Vegas, Nevada
In a rare encounter, the world’s two best boxers met for a unification fight. Both were unbeaten and Chávez was heralded as a national hero in his native Mexico. The fight was as tough as it gets, with both boxers sustaining enormous amounts of punishment. With 17 seconds left on the clock and behind in the scorecards Julio César connected with a massive right hand. The contest was stopped with two seconds left: a boxing miracle of the highest order.
When Fernando Valenzuela became a baseball hero and an icon of Mexican-American pride and excellence 1981-1986
Fernando “El Toro” Valenzuela became an icon of Latino sportsmanship after an excellent 1981 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was one of the first Mexicans to break into the mainstream in the United States. He inspired and continues to inspire, millions of paisanos. He was an All-Star in each season of his incredible 1981-1986 run.
When Gabriela Sabatini demonstrated that Latinas can excel in the tennis court US Open, 1990, Womens’ Tennis champion!
Tennis is a perilous sport for Latin Americans because it is mostly dominated by the United States and Europe. But Gaby Sabatini showed that Latino girls can be ace too! She won the U.S. Open in 1990, defeating the German Stefi Graf. Una dama del deporte blanco en toda la extensión de la palabra.
When Colombian dynamo Nairo Quintana reached the stars on his bike Since 2012
Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas is perhaps the greatest Colombian cyclist of all time. That is a big claim considering the long and glorious history of the sport in Colombia. Quintana is known for his sustained attacks during steep hills: when most of his adversaries struggle, he has his best performance. He was won multiple stages of the Tour de France and the Giro di Italia.
When Felipe “Tibio” Muñoz swam toward a gold medal and got a whole country celebrating after some pretty traumatizing events 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City
Prior to the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, Mexicans had experienced a traumatizing event when the army attacked a group of students and civilians who were protesting at the Tlatelolco Square. The country was split emotionally and politically. But then came “El Tibio” and at least for a brief moment, the country was united behind a young man who swam his way to a gold medal. The memory of his accomplishment is still brought up today when thinking of the greatest sporting moments in Latin American history.
When Ecuadorian athlete Jefferson Perez won an Olympic gold medal in the Atlanta Olympic Games Atlanta Olympic Games, 1996
Ecuador doesn’t have a strong Olympic team, and medals have been few and far in between. That is why Jefferson Perez is a standout in the sporting history of this proud South American nation. During the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, Perez did the unthinkable. As Rihannon Walker writes in The Undefeated: “Ecuador’s Jefferson Pérez, Russia’s Ilya Markov and Mexico’s Bernardo Segura struggled to find separation from one another as they neared the finish of the 20-kilometer walk at the 1996 Olympics. Then Pérez began to take advantage of having the youngest legs of the trio and powered himself into the lead. As a crowd of 85,000 waited to see who would be the first to appear at Olympic Stadium, Pérez made a dramatic solo entrance and finished in 1 hour, 20 minutes and 7 seconds to become the youngest gold medalist in the 20-km event at 22. His victory also secured Ecuador’s first Olympic medal.” Just wow, a moment to remember forever.
When Teófilo Stevenson reigned supreme in amateur boxing. Viva Cuba! 1972, 1975, and 1980 Olympic Games in Munich, Montreal, and Moscow
In the 1970s Muhammad Ali was the greatest name in heavyweight boxing, but he was perhaps not the best. Many believe that amateur legend Teofilo Stevenson of Cuba would have beat the great Ali. But, alas, Cuban boxers were not allowed to turn professional and a fight between the two never materialized. Stevenson’s amateur career extended 20 years, from 1969 to 1986. He won a total of three gold medals, un logro extraordinario.
When “Las espectaculares morenas del Caribe” Cuban female volleyball team captured the world’s imagination and won three consecutive Olympic gold medals Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 Olympic Games
This group of amazing Cuban ladies totally dominated volleyball for three Olympic Games, and then won the bronze in their fourth attempt. Puro Cuba!
When Costa Rican swimmer Claudia Poll surprised everyone and became a national icon Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games
This amazing woman was born in Nicaragua but later became a Costa Rican citizen. She won a gold medal in the Atlanta Games (a big year for Latino athletes!) and is considered the greatest sports figure in the history of the Central American nation. She also won two bronze medals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. A true force of nature.