Baseball and Cuba: The Fordham ConnectionContact: Thompson, Ryan
NEW YORK— It's quite possible that the New York Yankees’ dominance in the late 1990’s may not have happened if it wasn't for Fordham University. Kind of a stretch? Then think about this. Esteban Bellan, one of Cuba's first great baseball figures , learned the game of baseball while he was a student at Fordham University from 1863 to 1868.
Four years before Bellan’s arrival, Fordham had the distinction of playing the first college game in the United States involving a nine-man team on Nov. 3 , 1859, against St. Francis Xavier College. After leaving Fordham, "Steve" Bellan played third base for an upstate New York team, the Troy Haymakers from 1869 to 1873 — becoming the first Latino major leaguer when Troy joined the newly formed National Association, baseball's first professional league in 1871.
Bellan returned to Cuba and helped organize the island's first baseball game, in December 1874, between Havana and the city of Matanzas. Bellan again played third base and his Havana team — perhaps because it had Bellan on its side — trounced Matanzas 51-9.
Since the 1870’s, baseball has arguably been Cuba's national pastime. And the country produced a tremendous pitcher who eventually ended up wearing Yankee pinstripes: Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. So, when the New York Yankees and "El Duque" celebrate their 1999 World Series victory, just be thankful to Esteban Bellan and Fordham University.
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Founded in 1841, Fordham is New York City's Jesuit university. It has residential campuses in the north Bronx and Manhattan, as well as academic centers in Tarrytown and Armonk, N.Y. 10/99