Luis Castro

By Michael LeCompte

This is part of an ongoing series in honor of Hispanic Heritage month (September 15-October 15) celebrating some of the Hispanic and Hispanic-American athletes and coaches who have contributed to the games we love.

On opening day of the 2015 Major League Baseball season 29.3% of all players were Latino and baseball’s Hispanic heritage now stretches back generations.

In the late nineteenth century semi-professional and barnstorming teams often brought international talent to America, usually from Mexico or Cuba, for summer tours. Luis Castro, the first Latin-American born player to play Major League Baseball, though, has unfortunately been all but forgotten as his life has become shrouded in controversy.

Born in Medellin Colombia in 1876 Castro attended Manhattan College in New York and played second base on the baseball team. In his first and only big-league season he appeared in 42 games for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902. He hit a modest .245 with 1 home run and 15 RBI’s before disappearing into history.
Theories concerning Castro’s background have swirled over the years, including speculation that he was an anonymous Latin-American dictator’s son granted asylum in the United States because of his baseball prowess. For a time it was also thought that he was actually the son of an American diplomat stationed in Colombia, thus making him an American, rather than a Latin-American.

Recent research by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and supported by passenger logs and census records shows that Castro was indeed born in Colombia and came to New York with his father at the age of 8 in 1885.

Not much is known about Castro’s post-baseball life. His name frequently appears on New York City welfare records until his death in 1941 at the age of 64. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Queens.

Luis Castro, the first Latin-American born player in Major League Baseball. A man whose 42 game stint in the bigs ultimately helped turn America’s pastime into the global game that it is today by opening the door for the thousands of Latin-Americans who have made it onto baseball diamonds across the United States.

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