Hispanic Heritage Month: Lou Castro

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

Lou Castro, born 1876, in Melellin, Colombia, is considered the first Hispanic baseball player in what would go on to become Major League Baseball.

Lou Castro, circa 1902, with the Philadelphia Athletics. Castro played only one season of Major League Baseball.

Castro was a second baseman and right-handed hitter. He attend Manhattan College in the Bronx, where he played baseball for the Jaspers. According to the MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia, "the first Latin American to enter the big leagues was Luis Castro, an infielder who played 42 games with the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1902 season." – 100 Years & Counting: The Latino Baseball Legacy, played only one season, 1902. During that season, Castro played fro the Philadelphia Athletics. He only played 42 games, in which he posted a .245 batting average, with one home run and 15 runs batting in. Castro also had 35 hits, 18 runs scored, 8 doubles, 1 trip and 2 stolen bases in 43 at bats.

According to information compiled on Wikipedia:

"For many years publications were not consistent about the birthplace of Luis Castro. It was commonly believed he was Venezuelan, but no official records supported the theory.

The most common version of the story tells that Castro was a student at Manhattan College in New York and was signed to play at the major league level with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American League. He played just 42 games and after that he was released. There are records of his playing days in Minor League Baseball after 1902.

It was also believed that he could have been the son of General Cipriano Castro, president of Venezuela, who sent his son to attend college in New York, and became a baseball player. In order to hide his activities from his father, the son changed his nationality on the school records.

The most recent version came after the United States government made public the original records of the 1930 census, and researchers found that a Louis Castro, with profession "baseball player", was a resident of Flushing, New York, and as his birthplace he stated: New York City, putting aside the fact that he was the first Latin American born to ever play baseball at the Major League level.

Leonte Landino a baseball journalist and researcher for the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) followed the path of longtime baseball writer Juan Vene and led the investigation along with Nick Martinez, a baseball researcher in Nevada about Castro's life and proof of birth outside the United States.

Martinez found an original list of passengers from the S.S. Colon, which arrived in New York City on October 16, 1885. The ship sailed from the port of Aspinwall, United States of Colombia. In this list, passenger number 18 is N. Castro, 50 years old, born in the United States of Colombia, listing banker as occupation, coming to America as a visitor. Passenger number 19 is Master Luis Castro, age 8, born in the United States of Colombia.

The most consistent data about Castro's life is that his father was Nestor Castro. It is stated in his school records and his census card; therefore, this list proves that Castro came at 8 years old, with his father to New York and both entered the United States as visitors, and stayed in the country. His birth date of November 25, 1876 matches his reported age on the ship.

Colombia and Panama formed the United States of Colombia, as a country, until 1886 when the country changed the name to Republic of Colombia. Panama became an independent republic on November 3, 1903. The city of Aspinwall was a center of dispute, since it was an important port of call and trade center for American companies who ended up calling the city "Aspinwall". However the locals refused this name and claimed that the city's name should be Colón. In 1890 the Colombian government decided to return every mail piece addressed to Aspinwall, changing the official name of the city to Colón, which still remains.

Even though he was not the first player who was brought by a team to play in the Major Leagues, Castro has to be recognized and credited as the first Major League Baseball player ever born in a Latin American country.

Castro died in New York City at the age of 64. Leonte Landino and Juan Vene confirmed that Castro is buried with no tombstone on an unidentified space at St. Mary's cemetery in Queens, New York, as reflected on Vene's book 'Las mejores anécdotas del béisbol'"