Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today - Luis Marquez

So hot a prospect was Negro League player Luis Angel Marquez, born on October 25, 1925 in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, he was under contract with two Major League teams at the same time.   Marquez started in 1946 with the Baltimore Elite Giants, but by the end of the year had become a second baseman for the Homestead Grays.  At that time, the Grays were going through a transition.  Owner Cum Posey died before the 1946 season began, star Josh Gibson would die the following January of 1947, and Buck Leonard was the only main player from the team’s nucleus that won Negro National League (NNL) pennants from 1937 – 1945.  The 5’10”, 174 pound Marquez shifted to the outfield in 1947 and led the team in hitting.  The Grays won the last NNL pennant and the final Negro League World Series in 1948.  
After the Series, the NNL went out of business and Marquez was back under contract with the Baltimore Elite Giants who had gone to the Negro American League (NAL).  Major League teams saw Marquez’s potential. The Cleveland Indians paid the Grays for his contract before 1948 ended while the New York Yankees paid Baltimore for it the beginning of 1949.  The conflict would not be resolved until in the spring of 1949 when the Indians were awarded Marquez’s contract.
Although Marquez hit over .300 in 1949 while playing with the Indians’ Portland minor league team, the Indians left him unprotected in that year’s Rule 5 draft and he was claimed by the Boston Braves.  After Marquez again hit over .300 in the Braves minor league system the next season, the team invited him to spring training in 1951.  With his speed in the outfield, they envisioned him playing beside former Negro Leaguer Sam Jethroe who was the 1950 National League Rookie of the Year. 
But Marquez could not hit Major League pitching.  The right handed batter hit only .197 in 68 games.  During the early years of integration in the Major Leagues, teams showed little patience with black prospects not mega talents like a Willie Mays or Henry Aaron.  If most black players were not immediately productive, they were sent back to the minor leagues.  That is what happened to Marquez in 1952.  In 1954, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs and then to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He batted a combined .195 with those two teams in what would be his last year in the Major Leagues.

Which of Marquez's 1948 Homestead Grays teammates was also signed by the New York Yankees?