Tuesday, November 8, 2011
#272 - Paul Casanova
Paulino Casanova was born in Cuba and was apparently discovered while playing for the University of Havana in '59. Signed by the Indians, he was brought to the States in '60 and released twice before he got any real action. He then signed with the Indianapolis Clowns, the former Negro League team that moved to the independent leagues for whom he played a little over a year (he would be the second-to-last Negro Leaguer to make the majors). He was then signed and released by the Cubs, again after almost zero playing time, and he basically quit baseball to work construction for most of the '62 season. Late that year the Nats tracked him down and signed him as a free agent. He finally got things started in A ball in '63 and tore up the league in '64 with 19 homers, 99 RBIs and a .325 average. He switched leagues at that level in '65 where he continued putting up pretty good numbers - .287 with eight homers and 76 RBIs - before going all the way to DC for a few games. After a '66 kickoff in Double A he moved right into the starting spot for Washington that year and got good reviews for his defense. In '67 he was an All-Star and at the end of the year he garnered all-AL selections and even some MVP votes. Ken Harrelson that year said that he was very bipolar about rundowns and pick-offs since every throw from Paul nearly took off his hand. But '68 hit Casanova hard, pushing his average below .200 and even getting him some time in the minors. Unfortunately, though he was able to retain his spot as the team's starting catcher, his average remained in the low .200's the rest of his stay in DC. In late '71 he was sent to the Braves even up for catcher Hal King.
In Atlanta Casanova moved to a support role, first for Earl Williams in '72 and then Johnny Oates the next two seasons. '73 would be his most active year and after a '74 in which he was more pressed for playing time due to the arrival of Vic Correll, he was released during spring training of '75. He finished with an average of .225 with 50 homers and 252 RBIs. After he played he spent a bunch of time in PR where his son Raul was born (he played for various teams from '96 to 2008) and he did some coaching. For a while now he has been running a baseball school outside Miami with Jackie Hernandez, the former Pirates shortstop. There is a video of them (linked to here) in which they both look amazingly good even though they're both smoking butts. I have also linked to another good background site here that focuses a bit on his Negro League days.
This will be another quick hook-up:
1. Casanova and Dick Nen '65 to '67 Senators;
2. Nen and Bill Hands '68 Cubs.
Dick Nen was a back-up first baseman whose career in the majors is pretty much encapsulated above.