Louis Castro, a utility infielder, joined the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902, the year they won the American League pennant. The following essay documents the mysterious baseball career of a forgotten Latino Major Leaguer and places his story as an important beginning chapter in the contribution of Latin American ballplayers.
Connie Mack, the Philadelphia A's manager, invited Castro, a former Manhattan collegian and rookie player from the Minor Leagues, to 1902 spring training. Typical for Castro in his professional baseball career, he found himself in the Majors but in the middle of a controversy. In a legal battle over competing contracts, Philadelphia lost the services of second baseman Larry Lajoie. On opening day, Mack received a telegram just prior to the end of the game "informing him that the court in Philadelphia had issued a temporary injunction banning Lajoie from performing with the Athletics".1 Without an experienced infielder on the team, Louis Castro came into the game in the ninth inning, making his Major League debut. Castro's debut was uneventful; playing only one inning, he never got an opportunity to bat. Early in the season, sportswriters were critical of Castro at second: "The trouble with the Athletics is that Castro can't fill the bill and that the short handed pitching corps is not equal to the emergency."2 Playing most of his games in May and June, Castro performed well for a rookie. Sportswriters expected a rookie player to replace a popular Major Leaguer overnight. A month later, the reports became more positive: "Castro has a great deal to learn about playing second base, but his hitting is keeping him in the game. The sun gods have taken to calling the ex-Connecticut leaguer 'Larry.' He has hit safely in ten straight games."3 A closer look into the 1902 season uncovered the following facts. In the month of May, Castro had 14 hits in 12 games, while in June, he had 9 hits in 11 games. In his limited role as a utility player, Castro performed much better than the sport critics' reports told, getting 23 hits in 23 games in May and June. The problem [End Page 35] with the rookie infielder was in the wild throws that produced unforgivable errors. In May, Castro committed 3 errors, and in June he committed 3 errors in 1 game.4 In the following months, Castro continued in his role as a utility player, appearing in July, August, and September of 1902. In the season, Castro committed a total of 17 errors, most of them at second base. The records show that he played in only 42 games, with 143 at bats, and concluded the season with a .245 batting average. At the end of September, the Philadelphia A's captured the championship of the American League; Castro appeared in the last two games against Washington.5
Fans in the city went wild and organized a parade to welcome the champions. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the parade; "Champions Warmly Greeted" read the subheading. Castro and the other American League champions headed the parade in special carriages. About eleven thousand fans witnessed a benefit game against a local athletic club, the Wilmington A.A., at which the players were once again praised for their championship season. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported: "Judge Castro was not forgotten. He received two bunches of flowers. One was a bunch of vegetables and flags. The other was the real thing, a very pretty bouquet."6 Major League historians often cite Castro's nickname "Jud," but the records fail to explain that the nickname "Jud" appears to be short for "Judge," as corroborated in several stories cited in national newspapers.7
The 1902 championship celebrations revealed aspects of Castro's personality, which over the years became a characteristic of his behavior in baseball. On September...