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  • How the integration barrier broke for the Twins' franchise


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    This was first published at The Tenth Inning Stretch earlier this month. I know it is kind of old, but I think that the topic might be interesting for the Twins Daily readers, so I am republishing it here...

    February is African American/Black History Month, so I wanted to contribute by looking at the integration of the Twins franchise. It happened in the Senators' years. The Washington Senators were one of the first Major League teams to break the ethnicity barrier in 1913, by featuring two 17 year old lefty outfielders, Merito Acosta and Jack Calvo, both born in Cuba. (The team had a long pipeline of Cuban talent, pre-Castro.) But they were one of the last organizations to break the color barrier and integrate. Only the New York Yankees (1955), the Philadelphia Phillies (1957), the Detroit Tigers (1958) and the Boston Red Sox (1959) integrated later than the Senators.

    [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]The first black player made his appearance on the Senators on September 6, 1954, at Griffith Stadium. He was Cuban-born Carlos Paula (Conill). Carlos Paula was born in Havana on Monday, November 28, 1927. He made his debut in the US in 1952, at age 24, playing for the Decatur Commodores of the integrated and unaffiliated, Class D, Mississippi-Ohio Valley League. He played as a right fielder in 119 of the 127 games, hit .334 and slugged .495 mainly because of 23 doubles and 16 triples. He also had 6 HRs.

    The next season, he started again in Decatur, hitting .265 and slugging .490 in the first 26 games. He was traded to the Paris Indians of the unaffiliated Class B Big State (mainly Texas) League. Even though the Indians were in the League basement with a 48-96 record, Paula played 97 games, hit .309, and slugged .462 with 20 doubles, 9 triples and 6 Home Runs.

    This caught the eye of the Senators who purchased him from the Paris Indians in the off-season. Paula started his Senators' career with their Charlotte Hornets A league (South Atlantic) affiliate. He hit .309 and slugged .495, with a league leading 13 triples (he also had 24 doubles and 14 home runs) in 153 games. This gained him a call up to the big leagues in September.

    His first appearance in the majors was at Griffith Stadium in both games of a double-header against the Philadelphia Athletics. He started the first game as the Left Fielder and batted 5th, between Peter Runnels and Jim Lemon. His first action of the game was when he led off the bottom of the second of a 0-0 game against Arnie Portocarrero. He struck out swinging. His first action in the field was in the top of the 3rd inning when he caught a fly ball hit by Spook Jacobs.

    He finished that game with 2 hits, a double and 2 runs batted in, in 5 plate appearances. He also led the team (other than 1st baseman Mickey Veron) with 4 put outs and was perfect in the field. The Senators won 8-1. At that point, a new leaf was turned in the Twins' Franchice history. The team was finally integrated.

    Paula played in 7 more games that season (including three more starts in left field. started 3 more at LF. In those nine total games, he hit .167/.231/.208. His double and the 2 RBIs in his debut were it for the season. He just managed 2 more singles and a couple of walks in the other 8 games.

    Paula played the whole 1955 season with the Senators. He appeared in 115 games, had 374 plate appearances, and hit a very respectable .299/.332./.449 (111 OPS+) He finished the season with 105 hits, 20 doubles, 7 triples, 6 HRs, 17 walks (3 intentional) and 47 strike outs.

    1956 season was his last in the majors. He played in 33 games with the Senators, hitting .183/.250/.341 and he was optioned to their AAA club, the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. After 53 games he was sold to the Yankees' affiliate Denver Bears, also of the American Association. After 25 games with the Bears, in order to make room in the club for future All-Star Norm Siebern, the Yankees sold him to the Philies who assigned him to their AAA club, the Miami Marlins of the International League. He played just 11 games with them before he was released.

    The next season he played with the AAA Minneapolis Millers of the American Association, then a New York Giants' affiliate. In 1958 he played with the AAA Sacramento Solons (unaffiliated) of the Pacific Coast League. In 1959, he started the season with the Solons who were now the AAA club of the Milwaukee Braves and mid-season 1959 he was traded to the International League (AAA) Cincinnati Reds affiliate, Havana Sugar Kings. We all know what happened in Cuba in 1959, but Carlo Paula's situation there is not clear. He played 31 games with the Sugar Kings and next season he surfaced in Mexico, playing 88 games with the Mexico City Tigres of the Mexican League who were the League Champions. That season, 1960, his age 32 season, was the last professional baseball season for Carlos Paula.

    Paula died at the age of 55 in Miami, FL on April 25, 1983.

    The Washington Senators did not sign a US-born African American player until they signed Joe Black (the first African American pitcher in the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952) as a free agent on August 7, 1957.


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