Joe Cambria

From BR Bullpen

Joseph Carl Cambria
born Giuseppe Carlo Cambria

  • Bats unknown, Throws Right

BR Minors page

Biographical Information[edit]

Papa Joe Cambria was an Italian-born laundromat owner in Baltimore, MD who was hired by Clark Griffith as the Washington Senators' Latin American scout. Many of Cambria's signees became stars for the Minnesota Twins, having developed after the Senators moved to Minnesota.

Born in Italy, he emigrated to the United States with his widowed father when he was just three years old. He grew up around Boston, MA and Lowell, MA, playing semi-pro baseball and a couple of seasons as a centerfielder for the Berlin Green Sox of the Canadian League. he served in the military during World War I, then relocated to Baltimore. His business was successful and soon sponsored a local semi-pro team from 1928 to 1932, with Joe playing occasionally. The team included a couple of former major leaguers in Allan Russell and Walter Beall and would sometimes play the Baltimore Black Sox, which included the city's best black players. He also purchased and refurbished a local ballpark for his squad, called "Bugle Field" after his company.

Late in 1929, Cambria moved to the pro ownership ranks by buying the Hagerstown Hubs of the Blue Ridge League, only having to pay up the team's debts to take it over. His business model was to find promising young talent and sell it to higher classification teams for a profit. He even managed the team himself for part of the 1930 season and in 1931. With minor leagues becoming more and more tied to major league ones, he developed a partnership with Griffith's Senators, and thus developed a friendship that would last a lifetime. In June of 1931, he moved his team to Parkersburg, WV, because the State of Maryland's blue laws prevented him from playing Sunday baseball, eating deeply into his profits. The Parkersburg Parkers only were in town for a few weeks though, as in mid-July, he moved the team again, to Youngstown, OH, where they were the Youngstown Tubers. The team moved up to the Central League in 1932, where they were known as the Youngstown Buckeyes, after which he sold the franchise. He then purchased the Baltimore Black Sox and moved them to his own Bugle Field. The venture was not very profitable and Cambria disbanded the team late in 1933. By that time, he had purchased another minor league team, the Albany Senators of the International League. He quickly established a working relationship with the Washington Senators again, and would become their main source of talent over the next two decades. The Senators were his prime clients, but since he made his money by buying young players for next to nothing and then selling them to other teams as soon as they showed promise, he would sometimes deal with other clubs if the Senators declined his offer. He also bought and sold minor league clubs, always with the aim of making money on the transaction. In 1940, Cambria owned the Springfield Nationals, Greenville Spinners, and Salisbury Cardinals. All were naturally farm clubs of the Senators.

It was through his Negro leagues connections that Cambria first heard about the wealth of cheap baseball talent available on the island of Cuba, and he soon went out to check it out himself. His first signing was Ysmael Morales in 1932, followed by Bobby Estalella in 1934, who was the first of his Cuban signees to reach the majors. That trickle soon became a flood, as by 1936, he had 8 Cubans under contract. he sold the Albany team to the New York Giants after the season (they moved the team to Jersey City). He then bought various other clubs on the east coast, something which continued until in 1940 Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ruled that a scout could not own a minor league team. He divested himself of his assets (but his brother, John Cambria, became his front), and continued his operations, albeit in a slightly less open manner. By then Cambria was working more or less full time for the Senators, and had become the only conduit between Cuban ballplayers and big league clubs. He was spending much of the year on the island by the late 1940s. He eventually extended his network to other parts of Latin America, including Venezuela and Nicaragua. After World War II, he also owned the Havana Cubans of the Florida International League.

Among the notable signings by Cambria were Camilo Pascual, three-time batting champion Tony Oliva, 1965 AL MVP Zoilo Versalles, and Luis Tiant. He also signed Early Wynn as a stateside scout. It is a popular myth that Cambria nearly signed Fidel Castro for the Senators.

He also discovered and/or signed Luis Aloma, Ossie Alvarez, Vicente Amor, Allen Benson, Frank Campos, Alex Carrasquel, George Case, Webbo Clarke, Joe Cleary, Gil Coan, Jorge Comellas, Sandy Consuegra, Yo-Yo Davalillo, Juan Delis, Reese Diggs, Cal Ermer, Bobby Estalella, Angel Fleitas, Mike Fornieles, Ramon Garcia, Preston Gomez, Vince Gonzales, Julio Gonzalez, Lou Grasmick, Mike Guerra, Evelio Hernandez, Joe Krakauskas, Mickey Livingston, Ed Lyons, Connie Marrero, Rogelio Martinez, Paul Masterson, Walt Masterson, Willie Miranda, Rene Monteagudo, Julio Moreno, George Myatt, Cholly Naranjo, Baby Ortiz, Roberto Ortiz, Reggie Otero, Carlos Pascual, Carlos Paula, Babe Phelps, Jake Powell, Ray Prim, Freddy Rodriguez, Pete Runnels, Raul Sánchez, Luis Suarez, Gil Torres, Sandy Ullrich, Roy Valdes, Jose Valdivielso, Adrian Zabala, Jose Zardon and Hugh Mulcahy.

Year-by-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Playoffs Notes
1930 Hagerstown Hubs Blue Ridge League 3rd replaced Jake Miller
1931 Hagerstown / Parkersburg / Youngstown Middle Atlantic League 56-65 9th Hagerstown moved to Parkersburg June 29, then to Youngstown July 12

Further Reading[edit]

  • Paul Scimonelli: Joe Cambria: International Super Scout of the Washington Senators, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2023. ISBN 978-1476681474

Related Sites[edit]