SABR

Frank Arellanes

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

The first Latin player for the Boston Red Sox was Frank Arellanes. His family was said to have come to California in the late 1700s from Puebla, Mexico. Frank was born on January 28, 1882, in Santa Cruz. He and two older brothers, Abel and Edward, played for the Santa Cruz Beachcombers, but only Frank made it to the majors. Abel did play in organized ball; he was eight years older and broke in with the Pacific Coast League in 1898, appearing for Santa Cruz and for Fresno/Watsonville that year. There is no record of his playing ball in 1899, but in 1900 he played for the Oakland Oaks in the California League. No statistics are available for his play until 1901, when he played second base in the Southern California League in the wintertime (hitting .267) and for Oakland, now named the Oakland Commuters or Dudes (sources differ). He hit .210 in 447 at-bats.

Edward was two years older than Frank and is listed in the 1910 Census as “catcher Base Ball team,” but no records under that name have been located. There was, however, a Jose Arellanes who played for San Jose in 1903-05 and who worked as a catcher. It’s possible that this is Edward. Frank’s parents, Jesse and Frances Arellanes, had five sons and one daughter, Jennie. Jesse worked as a hide trimmer in a tannery. Frances was kept busy raising six children. The eldest, Louis, was born in 1871 and both he and Abel worked in a meat market. After his baseball days, Edward had become a reporter by the time of the 1920 Census. The youngest, Henry, was born in 1893. He’s listed as working in a tea store in 1910 and as a laborer in 1920. By 1920, as we shall see, Frank was deceased.

Frank attended Santa Clara University and posted a 13-2 record. He first played in organized baseball for San Jose in the California State League and for the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League jn 1903,  He was a right-handed pitcher, 2-2 that year for the Seals and hitting .231 in the 19 games he appeared in. He was with San Jose in 1904 and 1905, and for part of 1906. There are no statistics available, until he joined Fresno in 1906. There he primarily played third base, getting into 53 games and hitting .164. He pitched all of seven innings, giving up just one earned run. One might reasonably wonder how a guy hitting .164 with little pitching experience found himself in the major leagues two years later. In 1907, Arellanes pitched again for the San Jose Prune Pickers and, in a series of games in March, he helped out St. Mary’s College by switching over to play for them, both on the mound and in left field (alongside center fielder and later Red Sox player Harry Hooper). On July 25, a news report said that Frank (“the crack pitcher”) had been signed to pitch for Los Angeles. And that he had reportedly signed a contract to play for the New York Highlanders in 1908. [Los Angeles Times, July 25, 1907] Two days later, the Times reported that Arellanes had balked and was refusing to report. The story suggested that it was just a matter of money. In any event, Arellanes finished out the season – on November 17 - with San Jose.

Come 1908, an early report in the Chicago Tribune repeated the account that Arellanes had signed with the New York team, recommended to them by Hal Chase. [Chicago Tribune, February 25, 1908] The case was presented to the National Commission, which determined that he had previously signed with San Francisco. [Washington Post, February 27, 1908]

Arellanes began the year under contract to San Francisco but pitching in the California State League again, for the Santa Cruz Sand Crabs and for the San Jose Prune Pickers. He won 10 games and lost only three in 14 games as a pitcher, but got into another 14 games. His batting average was .232.  Red Sox president John I. Taylor’s representatives worked out satisfactory arrangements to bring Arellanes to Boston. [Boston Globe, July 4, 1908] A large photograph in the July 7 Globe ran under a headline declaring that he was said to be a “great box artist.”

Frank burst on the major-league scene with Boston about three weeks later. He arrived on July 12, a right-handed pitcher who stood an even 6 feet tall and weighed 180 pounds, who debuted as the starting pitcher in the July 18, 1908, game against the Chicago White Sox. He was not in his best form, the Globe averred: “The San Jose wonder had curves and speed, but wasn’t quite enough master of them to balance the touch of stage fright attendant on his breaking into the big leagues.” [Boston Globe, July 19, 1908] After just a couple of innings of work, with three White Sox runs across the plate. manager Deacon McGuire pinch-hit for him. The Red Sox did win the game in the end, 4-3, but Frank was long gone.

The Sox catchers agreed it was worth giving him another shot, and he next appeared in a relief role against the Cleveland Indians on July 28. The starting pitcher on that day was Fred Burchell. Cleveland had reportedly been hitting lefties well that season and southpaw Burchell surrendered three runs in the bottom of the first inning. The Cleveland Press noted, “Burchell lasted an inning and was relieved by Frank Arellanes, the only Mexican in the big leagues. Arellanes did well until the eighth, when he fell before the Bradley, Turner, Lajoie, Stovall assault.”

In the top of the eighth, Arellanes tripled for Boston. “When Arellanes made his three-base hit, Jim McGuire patted him on the back and told him how much he loved him.” The score was tied at 3-3 at the time, but Arellanes was thrown out at the plate when he tried to score on a grounder to Nap Lajoie at second. In the bottom of the inning, he was touched up for two runs and Cleveland won the game, 5-3. They had only six hits the entire game. Bob Rhoads won for Cleveland.

The next day’s Cleveland Press commented, “Senor Arellanes moocha caliente hombre, or in the language of the small boy, the Mexican is a ‘hot number.’” A subheadline referred to him as “swarthy” -- though his death certificate described his race as white. Arellanes might have been amused; all indications are that his family had resided in California since roughly the time of the American Revolution in the late 1700s. Chances are he had a longer American lineage than most of his teammates. (For reasons that are obscure today, the Boston Globe dubbed him “Pericles Arellanes” more than once.

Perhaps he was a great orator, perhaps sportwriters were intrigued with the translation of “pericles” as “surrounded by glory”; perhaps they were influenced by Boston styling itself as the Athens of America; or perhaps it was just because “es” is a common ending for Greek surnames and it captured their fancy.)

Two starts later, Burchell was again hammered for three runs in the first, this time in Chicago on August 7. Arellanes came on again and pitched the rest of the game. His two wild pitches in the second allowed another run to score, but the Red Sox never scored at all, and the White Sox won, 7-0. There was some good news, too, as the August 21 Globe subhead suggested: “Arellanes Pitches Well.” He’d beaten the Indians in a tough 5-4 game marked by some key Boston errors. On August 25, he threw a four-hitter, two of them scratch hits, as Boston beat Chicago 2-1. Newspaper coverage commented on how well Frank fielded his position.

September 4 was a red-letter day, a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics, with Cy Young and Frank Arellanes both pitching complete-game wins, 7-1 and 10-1. Neither walked a batter.  Arellanes’ game was a one-hitter, that one hit was a sixth-inning inside-the-park home run to the flagpole in the Huntington Avenue Grounds’ deep center field. Pat Donahue was Frank’s catcher in the game, and the Globe proclaimed, “Smoother battery work has never been seen at the American grounds.” Just three days later, the two teams played another twin bill, also in Boston. Again, the Red Sox swept, and Arellanes won the second game, 3-2.

On September 18, 1908, Rhoads and Arellanes matched up again, but this time Arellanes was a starter. Rhoads no-hit the Sox, beating Arellanes, 2-1. The Sox pitcher granted Cleveland only five hits, but Rhoads wouldn’t let Boston have any, and the Clevelanders prevailed. Cleveland did make three errors, Rhoads hit a batter (Speaker), threw a wild pitch, and walked two batters. Interestingly, Jim McGuire was now wearing a Cleveland uniform. He had been fired as manager in Boston and replaced by Fred Lake. McGuire coached for Cleveland during some of this game. Arellanes threw his first shutout, a 2-0 affair, against Rube Waddell and the St. Louis Browns on September 27.

At season’s end, Arellanes could look back with some satisfaction. The 4-3 won/loss record wasn’t spectacular, but his earned run average of 1.82 was excellent. Over the winter, he trained and trained hard – so hard, in fact, that when he went to visit President Taylor in San Francisco and told him how hard he’d been working at Santa Clara, Taylor discouraged him: “I told him to cut out the work until he reached Hot Springs, where he would have plenty of time to get into condition. … I told him it was a long season and that winter training would do him no good.” [Boston Globe, February 13, 1909] Taylor’s advice may have come back to haunt him – and Frank – within a year.

In 1909, Frank became in effect the replacement for Cy Young, who had been traded to Cleveland. A tall order, that. Arellanes was given the ball for the season opener in Philadelphia, but lost, 8-1, to Eddie Plank. “Arellanes worked well in spots, but was wild, and was hit hard when hits meant trouble,” summarized the April 13 Boston Globe.

He had a very busy season, appearing in 46 games, and pitching his way to a team-leading 16-win season, and saving eight games as well. His record was 16-12 with a 2.18 earned-run average, and his eight saves led the American League. He has been described as one of the first relief specialists in major-league ball, largely based on those eight saves. That year, though, was the only year in which Arellanes recorded any saves and it’s a year in which he started 28 games, pretty regularly into late August, when an abscess on his chin caused him to miss some time. There were some tough losses, like the May 23 game in St. Louis, which the Browns won, 1-0, on a ninth-inning sacrifice fly – a game in which three Red Sox runners were cut down at home plate. He shut out the Browns himself on August 21, a three-hitter.

The Red Sox had such a considerable turnover that there were very few people on the 1909 team who had been with Boston longer than a year. Frank’s addition to Boston’s pitching staff helped the newly-minted Red Sox climb to the first division, as they won 88 games and competed in the hotly-contested AL pennant race with the Athletics and Detroit Tigers. At the plate, he hit .167 – oddly enough, the precise average he had hit for in 1908.  

After losing the second game of the July 11 doubleheader to the Indians, 3-1, Arellanes was suspended indefinitely by Red Sox president Taylor. He was not in good playing condition, and not been throughout the season. “I don’t know what we may do with the player,” Taylor told newspapermen, “but he has failed to get in shape and we cannot afford to carry players along who will not give their best efforts.” [Boston Globe, July 12, 1910] Apparently, he made amends and indicated sufficient resolve; he was reinstated two days later and pitched a solid six-hit, 6-2 game against Chicago on July 14. He threw a good game against New York, too, but the Globe headline on August 9 was ominous: “Arellanes Easy for Cleveland.” He let in three runs before he tightened up on his pitching, and the Sox lost, 3-1. He’d given up 12 hits for 18 total bases; it could have been a lot worse.

Arellanes’ final major-league game was on August 14. He won the game, a close 5-4 victory in St. Louis. On August 16, he was placed on waivers. No one bit, and so he was traded to Sacramento for pitching prospect Benjamin Franklin “High Pockets” Hunt, who debuted a week later. Arellanes was officially released on the 18th, though it was expected he might turn up again for spring training with the Red Sox because of a working agreement they had with the Sacramento club. Taylor had lost patience with him, the Globe’s Tim Murnane (a former ballplayer himself) wrote. “He failed to take the hot baths at Hot Springs, and in other ways was negligent of his condition, so that when he failed, in game after game, even his greatest admirer, John I. Taylor, lost confidence in his California lad, and finally decided to send him to the farm at Sacramento, where Charley Graham [a former Red Sox catcher and a part-owner of the Sacramento club] could look him over.” [Boston Globe, January 5, 1911]

Within a week after arriving back on the West Coast, Arellanes pitched a 3-0 shutout against Vernon. Some jawing at the umpire saw him tossed from a game on September 21; the following day he threw a two-hit shutout against Los Angeles and on October 16 he threw a no-hitter against Vernon but lost it, 2-0, due to a number of walks and the three errors committed behind him on the field. His total with the Red Sox in 1910 was 4-7, with an ERA of 2.88. His major-league totals read 24-22, with 409 2/3 innings pitched, and a career 2.28 ERA. He was 8-6 with Sacramento (1.63 ERA).

It looked as though Arellanes would return to the Red Sox in 1911. Taylor had been impressed with his rededication to effort on the West Coast and planned to bring him back to Boston in 1911. So reported the Globe’s Tim Murnane, though there was controversy. Sacramento owner Graham said Arellanes had been given his outright release to Sacramento and was on his team’s reserve list. [Washington Post, January 7, 1911] Arellanes did show up for Red Sox spring training, held in Redondo Beach, California. He drank some of the sulphur water at Redondo and developed a boil and an abscess, but he toiled on with Boston, even playing in a game against Sacramento on March 21. He pitched in Denver on April 2 as the team was making its way back east, but was reported as unable even to put on his uniform due to more boils while at Lincoln, Nebraska. On April 9, Arellanes batted leadoff and played center field in Omaha, but went hitless. He traveled with the team for the first several games of the season, but saw no action and was sold back to Sacramento on April 24. By early May, he turns up in Sacramento box scores.

In 1911, Frank pitched somewhat indifferently in the Coast League. On June 3, the Los Angeles Times noted his strong game against Vernon and said he “looked as if he was pitching for a place on the Boston team.” As the season wore on, though, he seemed to get hit more often, winding up 7-8 with an ERA of 2.79.

Arellanes had a very good 1912 season with Sacramento, winning 22 and losing 16, but his ERA was the same 2.79.  After the season, he talked about giving it up, but by January he’d signed again with Sacramento. It was a difficult year. His ERA climbed to 3.84 and his record was 13-17.

Arellanes pitched well deep into the 1914 season, again for Sacramento, though by September he is found pitching for the San Francisco Missions. A bombshell broke on October 1 when he was arrested for statutory rape of a 14-year-old, one of several ballplayers and vaudeville actors from San Francisco, Oakland, and Portland being investigated. In the end, only Arellanes and Portland third baseman Elmer Davis had charges filed against them, along with a jewelry store proprietor. The disposition of the cases is unknown, but he was back playing baseball on schedule the next spring.

In early April 1915, Arellanes was pitching for Salt Lake and said to be in the best shape of the last couple of years. Simply being in shape wasn’t enough; he was notified in mid-April that he was going to be released. He signed on with Denver on May 3 and headed there to play in the Western League. He got into only 16 games, winning four and losing four. In December, he signed to pitch with Vernon in 1916. The refrain of being out of condition followed his moves, but he improved to 2.46 in ERA and an 8-4 mark. After just 31 innings of work in 1917, he was placed on waivers and cut loose. On December 13, 1918, he died of pneumonia following influenza at the age of 36.


Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the text, the author consulted the online SABR Encyclopedia, retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.

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