Breaks the Color Barrier With the Washington Senators (September 6, 1954)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS AND AWARDS:
Named to the “All-Rookie” team (1955)
When Carlos Francisco Paula, a native of Havana, Cuba, walked on the field as the Washington Senators’ first Black player, he encountered racism within the team and from the press. Some reporters mocked Paula’s accent and questioned his intelligence and baseball acumen. The team’s stance against players of color was “If he’s white all go and well, if not, he stays home.” That was the sentiment that the Senators’ farm director Oswald “Ossie” Bluege expressed to team scout Joe Cambria regarding the team’s recruitment strategy.
In 1955, Paula recorded a .299 average in 115 games and earned a position on the America League’s All-Rookie Team. Despite his strong record, he was criticized for personal reasons such as leaving spring training in 1956 to visit his mother who had suffered a heart attack in Cuba.
When Paula returned, the team manager Chuck Dressen optioned him to the Denver Bears. Although he excelled in that position, his game suffered when he returned to the regular lineup.
Throughout his career, he was optioned and traded to various minor-league teams including the Pacific Coast League’s Sacramento Solons in 1958 but never returned to the majors. Black sportswriters believed that Paula’s treatment was racially motivated.
Paula continued playing Latin American baseball with the International League’s Havana Sun Kings in 1959, where he led his team in batting (.312). In 1960, he played his last season in the Mexican League and hit .339 for the first-place Mexico City Tigres. He returned to Cuba and played for the Almendares Alacranes (Scorpions) during the Cuban Winter League’s final season (1960-1961). Even after Paula’s MLB career ended in the U.S., the taunts and racist critiques against him by the press continued. He died in Miami on April 25, 1983. He was 55 years old.