Notable Alumni: Luis Tiant Sr., Minnie Miñoso, Martín Dihigo, Silvio García and Dave Barnhill
A mainstay of the second Negro National League, the New York Cubans began exactly where their name would suggest, Cuba. Negro League teams had begun making trips down to Cuba shortly after the turn of the century, and would routinely match up against “Cuban All-Stars.” The practice of Negro League teams facing the very best Cuban players continued for a few decades until 1935, at which point the various Cuban All-Star teams came together and entered the Negro National League full time as a single entity, the New York Cubans.
A predominantly Latino team, the Cubans played at historic baseball institutions such as Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, N.J., and the Polo Grounds in New York City. For over 10 years, they fielded competitive teams, finishing as high as second, but were unable to capture a league title until 1947. Led by starting pitcher Luis Tiant Sr., who had a perfect 9-0 record that year, and future MLB All-Star Minnie Miñoso, the Cubans defeated the Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro World Series to claim their first and only league championship.
Apart from Tiant Sr. and Miñoso, arguably the most prominent player to suit up for the Cubans was Martín Dihigo. A Baseball Hall of Famer in America, Mexico, and Cuba, Dihigo was as good of an all-around ballplayer as you were likely to find. The definition of versatility, Dihigo could play all nine positions and would go on to register more than 260 victories as a pitcher, while finishing his Negro League career with a batting average that easily eclipsed .300. If that wasn’t enough, he was also a manager both during and after his playing days.
While 1947 was a high point for the Cubans, the years that followed were difficult. The Negro National League folded after the 1948 season, and the Cubans would go on to play only two more seasons in the Eastern Division of the Negro American League. Though the New York Cubans were not around for the second half of the century, their impact continued to be felt as Latino ballplayers became a prominent fixture of the sport.