Dakota Datebook

Cuban Pitcher Jose Mendez

Thursday, June 21, 2012

 

Today’s DATEBOOK examines the story of a baseball game on this date in 1913, when Jose Mendez, a Hall of Fame Cuban pitcher, played in the small town of Havana, North Dakota. “All-Nations Defeated Havana,” the Fargo Forum noted, “5 to 4 in a fast ten-inning game.” The All Nations ball club was a barnstorming team comprised of men from many nations, including Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Hawaiians, and Americans.

Jose Mendez, born in Cuba in 1887, became an international star in 1910 when he beat the touring Philadelphia Athletics in Cuba. Mendez also won a pitching duel against Christy Mathewson’s New York Giants in 1911 and gained renown as the “Black Diamond.”

Mendez was not very big, just 5’ 10” and weighing 152 pounds, but he had an arm like a cannon. In the summers of 1913, 1914 and 1916, Mendez toured with the All Nations team, traveling by private railway car, and spending about four weeks in North Dakota. Town teams were eager to play the All Nations team because fans loved to see the international group of pros in action.

The owner of the All Nations team, J.L. Wilkinson, arranged for a June 18th game in Havana, located in Sargent County, near the South Dakota border. Jose Mendez started the game and pitched eight innings, allowing four runs. The game went to extra innings, but the All Nations team scored in the top of the 10th to secure the win.

The All Nations team played other games in North Dakota that summer against the likes of Jamestown, Devils Lake, and Cooperstown – on their way to a record of 124 wins and only 21 losses.

Mendez later starred for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League in the 1920s. In 2006, he was posthumously admitted to Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

How odd it was that in 1913 a Cuban Hall of Fame pitcher would play in Havana – not Havana, Cuba, but Havana, North Dakota! But the story gets even more intriguing, because the All Nations team played a double-header in Cooperstown on August 1st, 1913. Who could ever have imagined that a black pitcher from Cuba would play in Cooperstown, North Dakota, and later gain entrance to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York?

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead.

SOURCES: “All-Nations Defeated Havana,” Fargo Forum, June 21, 1913, p. 3.

“Cooperstown Beat All-Nations Twice,” Fargo Daily Courier News, August 4, 1913, p. 6 (neither Mendez or Donaldson pitched in this double-header).

“All Nations Club Has Star Twirlers,” Des Moines Register and Leader, May 11, 1913.

“The “All Nation” Team,” Pipestone [MN] County Star, August 12, 1913, p. 1.

“Calendars, John Donaldson and All Nations,” JohnDonaldson@BraveHost.com, online, accessed on May 21, 2012.

Jose Mendez, Baseball Hall of Fame, http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers/detail.jsp?playerId=506634, accessed on September 4, 2007; “Jose Mendez,” typed document, photocopy in “Jose Mendez file,” Baseball Hall of Fame Library, n.p.; photocopied newspaper clipping, unidentified but 1920s, in “Jose Mendez file,” Baseball Hall of Fame Library, n.p.

“Mendez Wonderful Pitcher,” Washington Post, December 27, 1908, p. 3, Sports Section.

“Cuban Nine Defeats Athletics,” New York Times, December 14, 1910, p. 14; “Joy In Cuba When Cobb Strikes Out,” New York Times, December 18, 1910, p. C6; “Bliss in Cuba,” Washington Post, December 23, 1910, p. 11; “American Ball Players Claim Jose Mendez, Cuba’s “Black Mathewson,” Is Pitching Marvel,” Washington Post, January 21, 1912, p. S4.

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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