Armando Marsans’ father was a wealthy Cuban merchant who took his family to New York City to live at the turn of the 20th century to shield them from the violence of the Spanish American War. By the time the 13-year-old boy returned to his homeland after the conflict ended, he had learned how to play America’s favorite pastime well enough to eventually become a star outfielder in the Cuban Winter League.
With Major League teams visiting the island country every winter to participate in exhibition games against Cuban native all-stars, it did not take long for Marsans to get signed by a big league organization, the Cincinnati Reds. In 1911, he and his long-time friend and teammate, pitcher Rafael Almeida became the first native Cubans to play in the Majors when they made their debut with the Reds. Marsans was ready for the challenge. He averaged .317 in 1912, his first full big league season and stole 35 bases. It wasn’t long before he was being touted as one of the best young outfielders in baseball.
That’s when Marsans got into a huge and prolonged argument with his Reds’ manager Buck Herzog that culminated in the outfielder’s suspension. An angry and offended Marsans responded by jumping to the newly formed Federal League, signing a sizable three-year contract to play for the St. Louis Terriers. The owner of the Cincinnati team responded by going to court and obtaining an injunction that prevented the Cuban from playing for the Terriers while a judge decided if he had violated the terms of his Reds’ contract. After playing just nine games for his new team and league, Marsans was forced off the field and returned to Cuba to await the judge’s decision. It wasn’t until the end of the 1915 regular season that the court permitted Marsans to resume playing with his new Federal League team while his case was being considered.
By then, the Federal League was staggering under financial difficulties that would force it to disband a few weeks later. Marsans ended up in the American League, playing for the St Louis Browns. He had a decent season for the Brownies in 1916, starting in their outfield, driving in 60 runs and finishing second in the AL with 46 stolen bases. But the almost two-year-layoff forced upon him by the Reds had a negative impact on Marsans overall game and he was never again the same player he had been before he jumped to the Federal League.
After he got off to a slow start with the Browns in 1917, he was traded to the Yankees in July of that season, for outfielder, Lee Magee. In New York, he joined fellow Cuban outfielder Angel Aragon. Unfortunately for Marsans, he broke his leg during just his 25th game in pinstripes. He went back to Cuba to heal and when he failed to report to the Yankees 1918 spring training camp, it looked like he was retiring. Two months later, he changed his mind and rejoined the team. After his first three starts during his second season in New York, Marsans had seven hits in his first 13 at bats and was averaging .538. But it was pretty much all downhill after that and when he left the team that July, the temperamental 30-year-old was averaging just .236.
He would unsuccessfully try to revive his baseball career in America a few years later but remained a force in Cuban baseball as both a player and a manager for years to come.
|CIN (4 yrs)||322||1224||1113||141||334||31||15||1||109||96||66||59||.300||.345||.358||.702|
|SLM (2 yrs)||45||188||164||21||36||3||2||0||8||9||17||5||.220||.293||.262||.555|
|NYY (2 yrs)||62||232||211||23||49||9||1||0||24||9||13||6||.232||.277||.284||.561|
|SLB (2 yrs)||226||903||785||82||193||24||1||1||80||57||77||47||.246||.318||.283||.601|
Johnny Broaca was one of the strangest dudes ever to wear the pinstripes. The son of poor Lithuanian immigrants, Johnny was a super athlete during his high school days in Lawrence, MA. He was a good enough pitcher to sign a big league contract out of high school but as Broaca explained to a Boys Life Magazine reporter during his rookie year with the Yankees, he realized a baseball career was short-lived and he knew a good education would be essential to a good life after
baseball so he worked his way through Yale. He was the best pitcher on the Bulldogs baseball team for three straight seasons but he was also a loner. Unlike many of his wealthier Yale teammates and classmates, Broaca had no time to socialize. When he wasn’t playing ball or studying, he was working and he soon formed an inferiority complex that would impact his ability to form relationships for the rest of his life.
He convinced a Yankee scout to sign him to a contract after his junior year of college and played for the Newark Bears in 1933. One year later he was wearing pinstripes in the Bronx and made Joe McCarthy’s starting rotation, finishing his 1934 rookie season with a 12-9 record for a Yankee team that finished second to the Tigers. He was even better in 1935, finishing 15-7 but once again the Yankees lost the AL pennant to Detroit. New York finally overcame the Tigers the following year, taking first place in the AL as Broaca finished with a 12-7 record. But Broaca didn’t make an appearance in the Yankees five game victory over the Giants in the 1936 World Series. It was all downhill from there for the bespectacled right hander. He got married during that off-season but according to his wife, he was a jealous, abusive and penny-pinching husband. He also lived with a sore right arm since his high school days and during the 1937 season he began arguing with McCarthy about the negative impact his practice and warm-up regimens were having on that soreness. When “Marse Joe” brought him into pitch relief in a mop-up role, Broaca jumped the team, the first Yankee in history to do so. At the time, his record was a miserable 1-4.
In the next few years, Broaca divorced his wife, tried professional boxing and then took a low paying job back in his hometown just so he could minimize the alimony and child support payments to his former Mrs. In researching this post, I also discovered that Broaca was not only one of the worst hitters in baseball history, he actually hated to even take batting practice. At the plate, he got to a point where he would stand there with his bat on his shoulder and wait for the opposing pitcher to strike him out. He once actually walked back to the dugout when with two strikes on him, the opposing pitcher was still in his windup. The umpire had to call him back to the plate when the pitch was ruled a ball. During batting practice,Yankee pitchers back then were required to field balls in the outfield. Johnny would stand there with a glove on his hand and refuse to go after any ball hit near him. He did not want to stress his sore arm on throws back to the infield. When he finished his career with the Indians, Broaca once got in a fake fight with a Cleveland teammate in the dugout so that a wild punch could “accidentally” be thrown at the team’s highly disliked manager. Johnny Broaca, a Yale University graduate and former Yankee starting pitcher ended up dying from a heart attack, at the age of 75, while living the life of a recluse in his tiny Lawrence apartment.
|NYY (4 yrs)||40||27||.597||4.04||99||84||9||42||4||3||628.1||695||327||282||46||227||245||1.467|
|CLE (1 yr)||4||2||.667||4.70||22||2||9||0||0||0||46.0||53||39||24||5||28||13||1.761|
As hard as he tried and he tried real hard, George Steinbrenner couldn’t get me and quite a few other Yankee fans to dislike this very talented, hardworking outfielder. I’ve been following Yankee baseball passionately since 1960 and I’ve seen no starting left fielder perform any better in Pinstripes than Mr. Winfield did.
Let’s go back in time. By 1976 after over a decade of mediocre team performances, Yankee fans were starving for postseason play and we were ready to accept anybody or anything that could get us there. In George Steinbrenner, we had an owner who would do absolutely anything to make the Yankees winners again and when free agency dawned, the perfect storm situation necessary to get New York back to the World Series was in place. But we fans had to pay a price for the return to glory and that price included Billy Martin’s embarrassing behavior, the Bronx Zoo clubhouse atmosphere, and Mr. Steinbrenner’s inability to understand that success on the field was not always directly proportional to how much money a team spent.
The Boss’s first wave of free agent investments had indeed returned almost instant dividends. Expensive hired hands like Catfish Hunter, Don Gullett, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage helped the Yankees not just get back to the World Series after a dozen-year absence, but also win two of the three the team played in during the second half of the 1970s. But by 1980, Gullett and Hunter were gone, Steinbrenner had tired of Jackson’s ego and after Thurman Munson’s death and the Yankee’s loss to the Royals in the 1980 ALCS, the Boss was ready to again open the Yankee wallet and buy the player who he felt would lead New York to a whole new decade of World Championships. That player was supposed to be Dave Winfield.
The Boss absolutely believed that because he gave Winfield a ton of cash and a ten-year contract to play for the Yankees, he had single-handedly guaranteed not just a slew of postseason appearances for his team but postseason success. Before that could happen, however, the 1981 player strike seriously degraded the relationship between owners and players. Then the Yankee’s new left-fielder hit .054 in the 1981 World Series. Even worse, that 1981 Fall Classic defeat to the Dodgers turned out to be the Yankees’ last postseason appearance for the next 14 seasons. George behaved as if he honestly felt this disastrous turn in his team’s fortunes was Winfield’s fault. He derisively nicknamed him Mr. May and then got himself embroiled up to his turtlenecked neck in the now infamous Howie Spira scandal to try and get rid of the future Hall-of-Famer and his contract.
Winfield just kept on playing. In spite of being pilfered in the NY media and actually getting booed by Yankee fans for challenging Don Mattingly for the 1984 AL batting title, the guy played every inning of every Yankee game at full and focused speed. He drove in runners, he hit more home runs than a right hand hitter is expected to hit in Yankee Stadium, and he kept himself out of the spotlight off the field. He was a great Yankee who played for the team at the wrong time and got a raw deal.
It was nice to see that Steinbrenner had buried his animosity with Winfield and invited him back to the Yankee family. It’s even nicer to see that Winfield has
graciously accepted that invitation. Dave was born in St Paul and turns sixty-years-old today.
Winfield shares his October 3rd birthday with one of the strangest pitchers to ever wear a Yankee uniform and one of the first Cuban ballplayers in big league history.
|NYY (9 yrs)||1172||5021||4485||722||1300||236||35||205||818||76||477||652||.290||.356||.495||.851|
|SDP (8 yrs)||1117||4512||3997||599||1134||179||39||154||626||133||463||585||.284||.357||.464||.821|
|MIN (2 yrs)||220||922||841||107||222||42||5||31||119||4||76||157||.264||.324||.436||.760|
|CAL (2 yrs)||262||1103||982||138||263||45||6||47||158||7||104||177||.268||.335||.469||.805|
|CLE (1 yr)||46||130||115||11||22||5||0||2||4||1||14||26||.191||.285||.287||.572|
|TOR (1 yr)||156||670||583||92||169||33||3||26||108||2||82||89||.290||.377||.491||.867|