Esteban Bellán at St. John's College
October 1, 1849|
|Died: August 8, 1932
|May 9, 1871, for the Haymaker of Troy|
|Last MLB appearance|
|June 9, 1873, for the New York Mutuals|
|Career highlights and awards|
Estevan Enrique "Steve" Bellán (Spanish pronunciation: [beˈʎan]; October 1, 1849 – August 8, 1932), also known as Esteban, was a Cuban-American professional baseball player who played as a third baseman for six seasons in the United States, three in the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) from 1868 to 1870, and three in the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NAPBBP) from 1871 to 1873. He is credited as the first Latin American born individual to play professional baseball in the USA.
The Havana-born Bellán studied at St. John's College in New York City from 1866 to 1868, now known as Fordham University. He joined the school's baseball team, already having learned the game before coming to New York, when American sailors brought the game to Cuba. After graduating in 1868, at age 18, Bellán played one season for the Union of Morrisania, a member of the NABBP, and was part of their national championship team in 1868. He joined the Troy Haymakers in 1869, and continued playing for the team when they joined the NAPBBP when it was formed in 1871 to replace the NABBP ceased operations.
After leaving the Mutuals in 1873, he moved back to Cuba to play in their newly formed baseball leagues. His team, Club Habana, defeated Club Matanzas, 51 to 9 on December 27, 1874, in the first organized baseball game ever played in Cuba. He later became the club's player-manager, from 1878 to 1886, and led them to three Cuban League championships. He has been called the true "father" of Cuban baseball, for his role organizing the first Cuban baseball game, his success as a player and manager, as well as his continued influence on the game after his career had ended.
Born as Estevan Enrique "Steve" Bellán on October 1, 1849 in Havana, Cuba, he was sent, along with his brother, to New York City in 1866 to study at St. John's College, known today as Fordham University, which was common among Cuba's wealthy Catholic families. Having learned the game in Cuba when American sailors brought the game to island, he soon joined the school's team, the Fordham Rose Hill Baseball Club.
After graduating in 1868, at the age of 18, he joined the Union of Morrisania, a member of the NABBP that was based in New York City, in the area now known as The Bronx. He played in one season for the Unions, and helped them claim the national championship for the 1868 season.
Nicknamed "The Cuban Sylph" for his elegant and stylistic play as a third baseman, Bellán joined the Troy Haymakers in 1869, while the team was member of the NABBP and still an amateur team. to 1872 for the Troy Haymakers. He played with the Haymakers through the 1869 and 1870 seasons when professionalism was officially permitted. The Haymakers then became a charter member of the NAPBBP in 1871, and Bellán played in all 29 of their games, 28 of them at third base, and one at shortstop. In 128 at bats, he collected 32 hits, hit three doubles, three triples, scored 26 runs, and had a .250 batting average. His nine bases on balls that season placed him eighth among the league leaders.
In 1872, Bellán played in 23 of the 25 games that the Haymakers games, while appearing at third base, shortstop, and in center field. He collected 30 hits, with four doubles, and had a .261 batting average. After the 1872 season, the Haymakers folded, and Bellán signed with the New York Mutuals for the 1873 season. He played eight games for the Mutuals, splitting his time at third and second base. His career statistics for his NAPBBP career include: a batting average of .252, 69 hits, 52 runs scored, 42 RBIs, nine doubles, three triples, and five stolen bases in 60 games.
From 1878 to 1886 Bellán served as both player and manager for the recently founded Havana baseball team. His is recognized by many to be the true "father" of Cuban baseball for his role in organizing the first baseball game in Cuba on December 27, 1874. In that game, Club Habana defeated Club Matanzas, 51 to 9, in nine innings, with Bellán hitting three home runs. Bellán piloted Habana to three Cuban League baseball championships (1878–79, 1879–80, and 1882–83).
- Bjarkman, Peter C. (1994). illustrated, ed. Baseball with a Latin beat: a history of the Latin American game. McFarland. p. 460. ISBN 0-89950-973-8.
- Regalado, Samuel Octavio (1998). Viva baseball!: Latin major leaguers and their special hunger (2, illustrated ed.). University of Illinois Press. p. 224. ISBN 0-252-06712-6.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference