On this day in 1954 the Washington Senators played a black ballplayer for the first time. His name was Carlos Paula and he was not African American, he was from La Habana, Cuba. The 26 year-old Paula started in left field for the Senators seven years after Jackie Robinson made his major league debut. Paula went 2 for 5 with a double and knocked in 2 runs in a 8-1 win in game one of a DH against the Philadelphia A’s. The Senators lost game two by a 3-2 score at Griffith Stadium. Only 4,865 fans were on hand to witness this historic occasion.
Paula was acquired by the Washington Senators from the Paris Indians of the Big State League in an unknown transaction after the 1953 season. Paula’s major league career lasted just three seasons and 157 games, all with the Senators from 1954-1956. Paula played in the minors after that from 1957-1959 for the Philadelphia A’s, New York Yankees, New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Braves organizations but never again had a chance to play in the majors. Paula played his final season (1960) in Mexico City. Carlos Paula had a career batting average of .271 in 457 at-bats with 9 home runs and 60 RBI.
According to the SABR bio on Zoilo Versalles the Twins shortstop who was the 1965 AL MVP both he and Carlos Paula lived in the same neighborhood. As a youngster Versalles patterned his play after flashy Almendares star shortstop and active major leaguer Willy Miranda who many consider to have been the slickest fielding shortstop ever born in Cuba. Versalles also received encouragement and inspiration from another neighborhood big-leaguer, Carlos Paula, who once gave the young hopeful one of his tattered and discarded fielder’s mitts.
Only the Yankees in 1955, the Phillies in 1957, the Tigers in 1958 and the Red Sox in 1959 broke the color-line later than did the Senators/Twins franchise.