Entertainment

There Is Still A Lot Of Mystery About The First-Ever Latino To Play In The MLB

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When it comes to crossing racial barriers in baseball, Jackie Robinson is the first name that comes to mind for many. However, before there was Robinson, there was Luis “Lou” Manuel Castro, the first Latino player in baseball’s modern era and the first to play in Major League Baseball. While his name might not be in the same regard or even known to many like Robinson, Castro earned the important distinction.

But unlike Robinson, Castro’s playing career was short, only lasting 42 games for the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1902 season where he batted for a .245 average. This might be why Castro isn’t as highly regarded or well known as the baseball Hall of Famer who broke baseball’s color line in 1947.

There might be another reason the name Lou Castro isn’t a household name. There are conflicting reports on where he was actually born.

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

There is some mystery when it comes to the legacy of Castro that many point to where he was really born. There are some reports that say Castro listed New York City as his birthplace later in his place but it’s widely agreed that he was born in 1876 in Medellin, Colombia. Castro would only stay in Colombia for eight years as his family and he would move to the U.S. due to the country’s political instability during that period. Castro’s family traveled by boat to the U.S. where they arrived in New York. 

According to Nick Martinez, a baseball historian who studied Castro’s life, a list of passengers he researched shows that an 8-year-old Castro was indeed on the S.S. Colon, which arrived in New York City on October 16, 1885, supporting the case that he did arrive from Colombia.

During his teen years, Castro would pick up baseball and by the age of 17 years old, he joined the Manhattan College baseball team. He was known to have quite the sense of humor among teammates and garnered the nickname “Judge.” He’d continue his playing career across multiple minor league clubs before getting his big break at the major leagues. Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack got a good look at Castro and offered him a try-out that resulted in him joining the Philadelphia Athletics.

While his run as a major league player was short with the Athletics, Castro still made enough of an impact to say he contributed to the club clinching the 1902 American League pennant. According to Remezcla, the rookie was invited to be a part of the team’s year-end banquet where gave an acceptance speech on behalf of some fellow teammate. The celebration even resulted in him singing some songs in Spanish. 

There is also the highly debated theory that Castro was somehow related to Venezuelan President Cipriano Castro. 

Credit: Public Domain

The theories don’t just stop with this birthplace, Castro has been linked to being related to Venezuelan President Cipriano Castro. He has both claimed and denied being related to the infamous dictator. It was known that Castro frequently claimed to have been either the nephew or cousin (or even son) of Castro, who had prior family and business connections back in Castro’s home country of Colombia. 

The legacy of Lou Castro might be a bit complicated but he led the way for other Latino ballplayers to break into the big leagues. 

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

While his playing days were short, Castro’s baseball life continued as he became the first Latino to “manage a club in Organized Baseball” after he retired as a player. Castro would eventually die in New York at the age of 64 on Sept. 24, 1941. 

While Castro’s career didn’t immediately lead to a burst of Latin players making their way to the big leagues, it would be another decade before Latino players started to make an impact on the field, he still paved a way for many Latinos to follow. 

Iconic Latin stars like Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Francisco Giants respectively, would rise to fame in the late ’50s. In 2018, the number of Latino MLB players hit 31.9 percent, the highest in 20 years. The number is a testament to the ever-growing popularity of the game in Latin countries and the door that Castro opened back in 1902.  

While his story might not be as well know as other baseball players, Lou Castro does have his place in history. 

Specifically, Latino history. 

READ: This Victory Makes Christian Villanueva The Fifth Mexican Baseball Player In MLB Ever To Hit Three Home Runs In A Single Game

This MLB Team Just Swore In 15 New American Citizens And Our Hearts Are Overflowing With Emotion

Things That Matter

This MLB Team Just Swore In 15 New American Citizens And Our Hearts Are Overflowing With Emotion

Screen capture. CBS News.

As the 2020 presidential election draws near, every public act that involves issues of citizenship and migration becomes a political statement (perhaps involuntarily, but a statement nevertheless). That is why having a civic act involving issues of immigration in front of a stadium full of baseball fans is a super relevant ideological statement. Last weekend, at Citizen Bank Park in Philly, a few individuals had one of the most significant days of their lives. 

Fifteen new American citizens were sworn in before the Phillies-Red Sox game last Sunday.

Credit: Screen capture. CBS News.

Yes, 15 new American citizens of all kinds of origins were cheered as they waved flags and swore their allegiance to the United States. The new citizens, of all kinds of backgrounds, are a true snapshot of multicultural America, a representation that goes counter to the Trump Era vision of exclusivity and privilege.

As reported by CBS News, MLB has become an advocate for this kind of ceremonies: “Fifteen new Philadelphia-area residents from 11 different countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens Sunday at the game. The newly minted U.S. citizens are among the over 700 new citizens who have been naturalized at 11 professional ballparks this summer”. By the way, the Phillies lost 6-3 to Boston, but the evening had a celebratory vibe, of course!

And what could be more American than becoming a citizen in Philadelphia, right?

Credit: Giphy. Anonymous. 

After all, the United States Constitution was signed by the Founding Fathers there, right? What a moment it must have been for the 15 new citizens, some of whom surely had perilous migration paths, when they heard: “”Congratulation, you are now citizens of the United States of America. You now share the same rights, the same privilege, the same obligations as any citizen of this great country”. And to be honest, there are few things as American as a day at the ballpark. 

And let’s remember that Pennsylvania was all red after the 2016 presidential election, so statements like this are increasingly important for those who wish Trump to be kicked out of office.

Credit: Wikipedia

Just look at that red tide. Pennsylvania is heavily reliant on manufacturing industries that have been hit hard by global trade and the move of American companies overseas. The steel manufacturing industry, for instance, has lived under extreme duress for decades. This is perhaps why Trump’s message resonated with disgruntled workers. The state has large numbers of Latino presence, mainly Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. So statements of civil inclusion such as the citizenship ceremony at the stadium could send a message: we are all the same, we all deserve a shot, we are all equal. 

All it takes is a good hearted judge with a love for baseball.

Credit: Twitter. @PhillyInquirer

The ceremony was performed by Juan R. Sanchez, a judge of Puerto Rican origin who understood what multiculturalism really means on a personal level when baseball made him feel part of the community. He told CBS News: “We hope we remind people of the tremendous privileges we have under the constitution. And remind people that we have a responsibility to be engaged.” Preach, querido juez Sanchez. 

Last year the ceremony had 19 new Americans, so the trend is continuing that is just una chingonería.

Credit: Twitter. @GraceMarioano

The trend is constant now. Last year 19 new Americans were welcome at a Phillies game. By the way, those red hats are Phillies cachuchas, so don’t be alarmed!

But the trend goes back to the early 2010s, as reported by the Portland Press Herald. In 2012, before a Minor League game more than two dozen children were welcome as United States citizens: “The children were part of a pre-game ceremony that celebrated their new citizenship at Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs. The children, from Congo, Germany, the Philippines and Somalia, were presented certificates recognizing their citizenship, derived from their naturalized parents or adoption. After the ceremony was held between home plate and the backstop, the children and their families stayed for the Sea Dogs’ game with the Reading Phillies. The children held a giant American flag during the playing of the national anthem”.

Becoming a citizen of a foreign country is a big step in anyone’s life, particularly if they flee perilous circumstances at home, so having a whole stadium cheer you must be quite something!

Citizenship  ceremonies at Phillies’ games have a dual purpose: make new Americans feel welcome and educating the public.

Credit: Twitter. @SU2Citizenship

The best way to make a statement is a lived experience. The thousands of fans that have been overcome by emotion as new Americans are welcomed can see, and feel, how great cultural diversity is. This photo is from a ceremony in 2015. 

We are Los Dodgers fans, but the Philadelphia Phillies will always have a special place in our hearts.

Credit: Facebook. Philadelphia Phillies. 

As Angelenos and Latinos we remain loyal to our Dodgers, but we gotta admit that the Phillies are growing on us thanks to their approach. They make citizenship ceremonies a community affair 

Hispanic Heritage Month Is Meant To Celebrate Spanish-Speaking Cultures, But What Does That Mean In The Age Of Trump?

Culture

Hispanic Heritage Month Is Meant To Celebrate Spanish-Speaking Cultures, But What Does That Mean In The Age Of Trump?

This week is the start of a month long commemoration of Latino culture as Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, kicks off across the U.S. Compared to Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month starts in the middle of a month. This is due to September 15 and 16 marking the independence days of Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. 

The annual observance started back in in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson’s administration as a one-week celebration called Hispanic Heritage Week. It wouldn’t be until years later that President Ronald Reagan proposed extending this celebration into a month-long event. On Aug. 17, 1988, it was put into law officially designating the 30-day period starting on Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month.

But in the age of Trump where anti-Latino sentiments run high, what does this month truly represent beyond just a marketing opportunity for companies to cash in on our culture?

Credit:@itseduardosolis/Twitter

For the next few weeks, Latinos will be at the forefront when it comes to “representation”. In other words, Latinos will be involved in marketing campaigns, corporate social media accounts will attempt to tweet in Spanish and sugar skulls will be all the rage at your local Target. That’s Hispanic Heritage Month in 2019 and something doesn’t seem right about that. 

The problem with Hispanic Heritage Month is that it represents almost everything that our culture isn’t about. That starts with the name itself, Hispanic, which came into use after the 1980 Census to refer to Spanish and Latin American descendants living in the U.S. It’s this lumping of all Latino people under the Hispanic umbrella, whether it applies to us or not, that is problematic. It leaves out countless of groups of people like those who identify as Afro-Latino or Indigenous that are constantly overlooked or never given any representation whatsoever. 

Beyond just the name, the question of it’s purpose and its meaning in this day and age also comes into play. In reality, most Latinos don’t need a month to be acknowledged or be at the forefront of a marketing campaign to feel accepted. Most celebrate their cultural pride every single day.

Hispanic Heritage Month was created by and promoted by the U.S. government to show that we “arrived” as people in this country. Yet in the 31 years since HHM started, Latinos have more than just arrived. We have made ourselves at home and have contributed to U.S. culture, science and art in ways that deserve more than just a month when brands pander to us. 

While some look at Hispanic Heritage Month as a time to celebrate maybe it can serve a better purpose by letting us tell our own narrative for once. 

Credit:@ric_galvan/Twitter

The purpose of Hispanic Heritage Month needs a reboot rather than some faux-celebration about ethnic representation. Instead, the month should focus on how to move our communities forward and how we can share our own narratives and stories. 

For a population group that makes up 18.1% of the total U.S. population, representation has been hard to come by in recent years. The majority of this visibility has been succumbed to President Trump’s antipathy towards Latinos and demonization of migrant groups coming from the Southern border. Then came Aug. 3, when a shooter inspired by the President Trump anti-Latino rhetoric killed 22 people in El Paso. The deadly shooting sent shock waves to Latino communities across the country and placing fear in the minds of many. While this isn’t the first time Latinos have been targeted, the attack represented divisiveness that has once again reared it’s ugly head. 

Yet instead of living in fear, the best response can only be one of visibility and solidarity. The truth of the matter is that Latinos never needed government validation or permission to share our heritage, no matter what month of the year it may be. 

Rather than waste a month grasping onto what others perceive us as, we should embrace our own stories and bring to light the issues we face everyday. In reality, no month long celebration will ever validate our experiences or our stories. But as long as we have the platform, let’s make the best use of it and share our own narratives for once. 

READ: Latinos Are Still Waiting For Their Own Movie Moment As Hollywood Tries Casting More Diverse Films