Rare Color Line Crossings: MLB First THEN The Negro Leagues

When we think about ballplayers who competed in both the Negro Leagues and MLB, most people envision (and logically, so) that the sequence of events involves a player who FIRST competed in the all-Black leagues and then joined an MLB team after Jackie Robinson crossed the color line in 1947.

In most cases, this is true, but there are a few ballplayers who FIRST played in MLB and then later joined a Negro Leagues team. How was this possible? 

It involved either a Native American or light-skinned Cuban ballplayer who, because of the pigment of their skin, could navigate between the segregated worlds of white and black baseball. The list includes:

Confirmed Players


First MLB Team & Year (notable teammate)

Negro Leagues Team & Year

(notable teammate)


William Cadreau


1910 Chicago White Sox

Ed Walsh (HOF)

1911 & 1917 Chicago Union Giants

Andrew Payne

Both teams confirmed in the links.

WWI Vet.

Member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa tribal community.

Grandson of Chief Naganab of Fond du Lac, who signed the Treaty of 1854 in Washington, D.C.

Eusebio Miguel "Papa" Gonzales


1918 Boston Red Sox 

Babe Ruth (HOF)

1931 Philadephia Royal Giants

Andy Cooper (HOF)

Both teams confirmed in the links.

Batted .400 with the Red Sox while appearing in four games in 1918.

Gonzales' time with the 1931 Royal Giants not reflected on Seamheads (as of the date of this article).

Ramón "Paíto" "Mike" Herrera


1925 Boston Red Sox

Red Ruffing (HOF)

1928 Cuban Stars East

Alejandro Oms (Cuban HOF)

Both teams confirmed in the links.

Herrera began his Negro League career with the 1920 Cuban Stars, left the Negro Leagues, then returned after his MLB career.

Reported But Not Confirmed


First MLB Team & Year

Negro Leagues Team & Year


Salvador "Chico" Hernandez 

1942 Chicago Cubs

1945 Indianapolis Clowns*

Per Seamheads, no Hernandez is listed with the 1945 Clowns.

Isidoro "Izzy" Leon 

1945 Philadephia Phillies

1948 NY Cubans*

Per Seamheads, the player surname Leon with 1938 Cubans is Juan Leon, not Izzy. 

Armando Marsans 

1911 Cincinnati Reds

1923 Cuban Stars East**

Per Seamheads, Marsans is not listed as a member of the 1923 Cuban Stars.

*Negro League team reported in "Playing America's Game"

**Negro League team reported in "Only the Ball was White"



As mentioned above, neither Seamheads.com nor the SABR Bio includes a reference to Gonzales with the 1931 Royal Giants, but you can see below that he (with his signature ears) is standing next to Hall of Fame pitcher Andy Cooper in the team photo taken upon their arrival in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

And on May 30, 1931, Gonzalez is in the Giants' lineup playing second base and batting second. 

Source: Negro Giants Troupe Ekes Out Close 5 to 4 Verdict from Braves in Keen Fray, Nippu Jiji / 日布時事, (Honolulu, HI), May 31, 1931, 12. https://hojishinbun.hoover.org/en/newspapers/tnj19310531-01.1.12 


There might be others who played in MLB first before competing with a Negro Leagues team. If and when they are identified, this page will be updated accordingly. 


William Cadreau, 1913 S.F. Seals