Squire and Agapito
by Will Albrecht
In the first decades of the Twentieth Century two Cuban baseball players broke ground as the first from their nation to play in the National Baseball League. In 1907 Squire Samuel signed a minor league deal with the New York Knickerbockers. Squire debuted in 1909 as a left fielder for the Knicks. By all accounts it was a successful first year, slashing .279/.339/.726 good for a 133 OPS+. He also demonstrated his versatility by playing four innings at catcher.
The Boston Terriers signed Agapito Bacigamupo the following year. Agapito was a more promising prospect than Squire. He peaked at no.3 on BNN’s top prospect list in 1912 before making his debut in 1913. Agapito was an immediate success for the Terriers. He went on a twenty-one game hit streak in June to earn Batter of the Month and Rookie of the Month. Before the season was over Agapito had won Rookie of the Month three times on his way to a World Series win. When the season was over Bacigamupo had a slash line of .351/.418/.552, he lead the league in slugging and OPS.
Squire Samuel meanwhile was continuing to do well at the plate but struggled in the field. He was a consistently above average hitter with a -36 zone rating in five years at left field. Squire was released by the Knicks in 1911 and traded from Buffalo to Chicago by the time Agapito won his World Series. In 1914 Squire was traded to St. Louis for Wesly “Bad Company” Raab, an aging pitcher with a wicked nickname. By 1915 Squire was no longer an every day player. He only made six starts that year but made appearances in 51 other games as a pinch hitter on his way to a World Series win with St. Louis. Samuel made eleven more starts in 1916 but was clearly not the same batter. He struggled at the plate and retired at the end of the year.
Agapito would never again reach the heights of success from his rookie season, but he became a Terriers regular. In 1918 he led the league with 57 stolen bases. In fact he was a capable base runner and stole 572 bases over the course of his career, including 75 in 1916. Time and injuries would inevitably catch up with Bacigamupo. After years of declining playing time and quality Agapito hung up his cleats for good in 1926. For his career Bacigamupo had a 139 OPS+, good for 51.9 WAR.
It would be another twenty-one years before another Cuban player would enter the major leagues.