Steve Bellan was known for his play at Fordham University and during the days of amateur baseball. On this day in 1871, he became the first Cuban, and the first Hispanic player, in MLB history.
Before the days when MLB ruled the baseball universe, college games and amateur contests were the main way to see a game. Several players would become stars during that time, their services desired on those ‘semi-pro’ teams in the late 1850’s and into the 1860’s.
One of those players was Steve Bellan. He spent six years as a third baseman, first plying his trade with the Union of Morrisania, and then playing for the Troy Haymakers. He remained a part of the team when they joined the National Association, the first professional baseball league. As such, it was on this day in 1871 that Bellan got into a game, becoming the first Hispanic player to appear in a Major League game.
During his three years in the NA, Bellan was a serviceable player. He had a lifetime .251/.280/.305 batting line, with nine doubles and three triples. Overall, he played just 60 games, likely hampered by his porous defense, even for that time.
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However, Bellan was not done with baseball. He returned to Cuba, and helped usher in the beginning of the Cuban Leagues. He became a player/manager for the Havana team, and was instrumental in organizing the first professional game. In that contest, Bellan’s team defeated Club Matanzas by a 51-9 score. Bellan himself clubbed three home runs in that game.
He continued his success with Club Havana, leading the team to the first two titles in league history, and added a third championship in the 1882-83 campaign. He was considered the true father of Cuban baseball, and remained influential in the game after his retirement in 1886.
To this day, baseball remains hugely popular in Cuba. This is due, in large part, to Steve Bellan, who helped popularize the game in the island nation when he returned home. His influence can be felt today, both in Cuba, and in the Majors today, as, on this day in 1871, he became the first Hispanic player in the MLB.