First Puerto Rican To Play In The Negro Leagues: Emilio “Millito” Navarro

By Efrain Nieves

In the early 1900s Blacks were not allowed to play baseball with Whites due to Jim Crow laws.  Hence, Blacks formed there  own groups of teams and played across the country. In 1920 Andrew “Rube” Foster,  then a former player, helped organize the Negro league with White and Black business owners. 

Emilio “Millito Navarro was born on September 26, 1905 in Patillas, Puerto Rico. Emilio was 6 when his father passed away and soon after he and his mother moved to Ponce. At a very young age Emilio worked selling peanuts, ice, newspapers, shining shoes and delivering prepared foods to help his family financially. He attended Castillo Public School where he first caught glimpse of baseball and developed a love for the game ever since. On one occasion, Emilio didn’t have money  to buy a ticket so he jumped the fence to watch the game. Coincidentally one of the Castillo team players became sick and Emilio was asked to take his position by the coach, Emilio agreed.

After graduating high school Emilio turned down  a scholarship by the  University of Puerto Rico. He  entered the Negro Leagues from 1928-1929 with the Cuban Stars where he played shortstop, 2nd and 3rd base and batted  a .337 average.  Emilio also played in the Dominican Republic with the Escogido Lions in the late 1920s, Magallanes in Venezuela in the 30s and with the Leones de Ponce in Puerto Rico for 20 years.

Emilio “Millito” Navarro was elected into the Puerto Rico Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Puerto Rican Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. He died on April 30, 2011 at 105 years old.

ESPN

Negro League Baseball Museum 

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