Goldman: The twice-missing Cubans, barred more than once from MLB

From SABR member Steven Goldman at The National Pastime Museum on August 4, 2016:

It is to be hoped that eventually even the most reactionary opponents of integration came to see, as African-American players entered the Majors in increasing numbers after 1947, that baseball that was open to the best talent, as opposed to the best white talent, was better baseball. This is as distinct from issues of fairness and morality. In their conformity to postbellum prejudices, the owners called into question for posterity all preintegration accomplishments. Babe Ruth’s home runs were hit against an intentionally castrated opposition. Meanwhile, African-American athletes were likewise demeaned by being prevented from playing against the best competition. Then there’s a third group, Cuban ballplayers, who were at least partially barred not once, but twice. The cause the first time was the color line, the second—international politics.

A great deal of tragic history might have been averted if Americans of the nineteenth century could have gotten their heads out of their posteriors when it came to Cuba. From virtually the moment the United States came into being, leaders included Spanish possession Cuba in the collection of territories that should be part of what came to be known as Manifest Destiny. Thomas Jefferson openly coveted it. John Quincy Adams in 1823 wrote that “Cuba . . . incapable of self-support, can only gravitate towards the North American Union.” President Polk wanted to buy the island. Various freelancers, such as Mississippi’s James Quitman, attempted to accomplish the annexation themselves. (The mid-1800s was a strange time when some private citizens just went off and conducted their own foreign policy.) Franklin Pierce privately schemed to buy Cuba or take it by force, but had to back off when the plan was leaked to the public.

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Originally published: August 8, 2016. Last Updated: August 8, 2016.