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2/1/12

How the integration barrier broke for the Twins' franchise

February is African American/Black History Month so I wanted to contribute by looking at the integration of the Twins franchise. And it did happen at the Senators' years. The Washington Senators, even though they 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 (and the team had a long pipeline of Cuban talent, pre-Castro), was one of the last 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.

The first black player made his appearance on the Senators on September 6, 1954 at Griffith Stadium and 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 also in Decatur, hitting .265 and slugging .490 in the first 26 games. He was then 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 bigs in September.

His first appearance in the majors was at Griffith Stadium on 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 on the game was when he led the bottom of the second of a 0-0 game against Arnie Portocarrero. He struck out swinging. His first action on the field was on the top of the 3rd inning when he caught a fly ball at LF hit by Spook Jacobs (The Senators' starter in that game was Johnny Schmitz.) His second plate appearance came at the bottom of that inning with Mickey Vernon on second, Paul Runnels at first and one out with the Senators leading 1-0. He hit a long out at Right Fielder Joe Taylor. His next plate appearance came in the bottom of the 4th with the Senators really making Arnie Portocarrero work, the score up 4-0, two outs and runners on the corners. Mickey Vernon on third and Peter Runnels (who was walked to face the rookie) on first. Paula pulled a balled to the Center Field gap for a double that ended Portocarerro's day and got the Senators up 6-0. Paula singled in his next plate appearance (to the Center) against Marion Fricano on the bottom of the 6th with two outs. His final at bat was at the bottom of the 9th with Roy Dietzel on first and one out. He flew out at Center. All in all 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 on 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.

At the nightcap the same day, Paula also started at Left Field and batted 5th between Runnels and Lemon. Paula went hit-less in that game in 4 plate appearances and the Senators lost 2-3. He played in 7 more games that season (started 3 more at LF, played in an other there and pinch hit in the rest) and in those total nine games, he hit .167/.231/.208. His double and the 2 RBIs on his debut were his only ones of the season. He just managed 2 more singles and a couple of BBs 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 BB (3 intentional) and 47 strike outs; he stole 2 bases and was cause stealing three times, grounded into 9 double plays and was hit by a pitch 2 times. He also had 4 sacrifice flies. His 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. His total line at the American Association in 1956 was .319/.385/.549 with 16 HRs and 58 RBI. 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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