Manuel Villa (Negro Leagues)

From BR Bullpen

Manuel Villa Campos (Manolo)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 7"

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Biographical Information[edit]

Manuel Villa played in Cuba and in the Negro Leagues. He won two batting titles in Cuba.

Villa debuted in the short-lived Cuban Summer League in 1907, going 1 for 5 with a walk for the Colombia team. In the Cuban Winter League in 1907-1908, he was 2 for 7 with a double, backing up at second base for Club Fé. For Carmelita in the Summer League in '08, he hit .308/.372/.385; in the Deadball Era, that was good for a 188 OPS+. He was 3rd in OBP (behind Carlos Morán and Francisco Morán), tied Regino García for the batting title, led in slugging, led in OPS (15 ahead of Francisco Morán) and led in OPS+.

He had a 127 OPS+ (.222/.276/.333) for Matanzas in the winter league, starting in left field. In 1909, the 20-year-old made his US debut, hitting .309/.377/.382 for a 135 OPS+ for the Cuban Stars; the team spent part of the year in the short-lived International League of Colored Baseball Clubs of America and Cuba. Among top eastern black teams, he would have been in the top 10 in average or OPS+ had he qualified.

Villa was 0 for 11 for Fé in 1909-1910. In 1910, he eked out a .217/.261/.308 line for the Stars of Cuba, still good for a 90 OPS+ in that pitcher's era. He split 1911 between the Stars of Cuba and the rival All-Cubans, hitting only .185/.235/.228 (42 OPS+). He split second base in 1911-1912 with American Edward Havel, batting .246/.244/.311 (67 OPS+) for Almendares. He also was 5 for 37 with a triple against visiting Americans.

He struggled at .190/.238/.241 (41 OPS+) for the Cuban Stars in 1912, fielding .926 at second base. He hit .240/.310/.280 against the New York Lincoln Giants when they visited Cuba that winter. He produced at a .187/.254/.220 clip for Habana in the CWL; his 13 steals (in 31 games) were 8th in the league. He did very well for the Cuban Stars in 1913, hitting .363/.396/.407 (124 OPS+) and fielding .945 at 2B. Among players with 20+ games among top midwestern black teams, he was 5th in OPS+, between Ben Taylor and Jesse Barber. He was 4th in OBP, between Pelayo Chacón and Taylor, and 2nd in average, .017 behind legendary countrymate Cristóbal Torriente.

Manolo kept it up that winter for Fé at .354/.413/.446 (172 OPS+). He led in RBI (22, one ahead of Torriente), was 4th in OBP (between Gervasio González and Merito Acosta), won the batting title (.011 ahead of Torriente), tied Acosta for 5th in runs (17), led in hits (46, 9 ahead of major leaguer Armando Marsans), led in doubles (8, 3 ahead of Acosta), tied for 2nd with 2 triples, was 2nd in slugging (.030 behind Torriente), was second in OPS (70 behind Torriente) and was 2nd to Torriente in OPS+. Those are pretty impressive numbers, let alone for a middle infielder.

His pace fell off a bit but he was still productive in the US in 1914 as he hit .291/.371/.362 (108 OPS+). He batted .278/.347/.367 for a 124 OPS+ in the winter. He led the CWL with six doubles. An earlier source (The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway) had listed him at .422 in 1915, leading the midwestern black leagues, but the more recent Seamheads data have him at .312/.356/.356 (129 OPS+). Among players with 50+ games, he was 2nd in average (.035 behind Torriente), 7th in OPS+ (between Agustín Parpetti and George Shively) and 6th in OBP (between Bingo DeMoss and Russell Powell). He tied Taylor for 3rd with 63 hits.

When the Indianapolis ABCs visited Cuba that winter, he hit .200/.242/.200 but scored 8 runs in 8 games. He had seemingly an off-season for Almendares in the CWL at .237/.341/.263. It was really the sign of decline; he was only at .201/.274/.256 for the Cuban Stars in 1916. When no US teams visited Cuba that winter, he was part of a Cuban contingent that went to play in Puerto Rico.

He hit .234/.308/.277 for Cuba's White Sox team in the 1916-1917 CWL. In 1918, he only batted .163/.241/.173 for the Cuban Stars. 1918-1919 was his final CWL campaign and he hit .225/.302/.278. He hit .222/.274/.310 for the 1919 Cuban Stars, .320/.358/.400 for the 1921 All-Cubans and .259/.320/.299 for the Cuban Stars in the 1922 Negro National League.

Villa had hit .250/.320/.306 for a 99 OPS+ in Cuba and .251/.311/.303 for a 86 OPS+ in the Negro Leagues or their forerunners. In 1949, he was inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame.

Primary Sources: Seamheads.com, Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History by Jorge Figueredo