Esteban Bellán was the first Latin American to play major league baseball in the United States. Bellán became a pro player in 1868. He played for several teams, including the New York team the Unions of Morrisania, the Troy Haymakers, and the New York Mutuals.
Bellán was born in Havana, Cuba in 1849. His mother was Irish and his father was Cuban. With his mother, older brother Domingo, and older sister Rossa, Bellán left Cuba for the United States in 1863. Bellán and his brother studied at St. John’s College in the Bronx, New York City from 1863 to 1868. At the time, St. John’s was a Jesuit preparatory school that later became known as Fordham University. Bellán first learned how to play baseball at school, and he joined the Fordham Rose Hill Baseball Club. His teammates called him Steve.
After graduating from school in 1868, Bellán played for the Unions of Morrisania, a Bronx-based club that was part of the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP). A year later, he played for the Troy Haymakers, also part of the NAABP. Bellán then played for the New York Mutuals in the positions of second and third baseman until 1873. He was nicknamed “The Cuban Sylph” for his fast and graceful play infield and ability to stop hard-hitting balls on the bases.
In 1874, Bellán moved back to Havana to help establish baseball in Cuba. He played and managed one of the first baseball teams in the country, known as Habana Club. Bellán organized the first baseball game in Cuba on December 27, 1874, and he later led the team to national championships. Bellán was one of a select few of American-trained baseball players to pioneer the game in Cuba.
He was inducted into the Fordham University Hall of Fame in 1990. Bellán died at the age of 82 in 1932.