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Sandy Nava

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Vincent Irwin Nava
born Vincente Simental; also known as Irwin Sandy

  • Bats Unknown, Throws Unknown
  • Height 5' 6", Weight 155 lb.

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Sandy Nava has a share of fame for being an early Hispanic in professional baseball. Some people call him the first Mexican-American since his mother was apparently from Mexico, but he was apparently born in San Francisco, CA. The term "apparently" is used because some sources say he was born in Cuba (press references of the time often referred to him as Cuban). If born in San Francisco, then he is the first major leaguer born there. Then again, he was long listed with an 1850 birthdate while recent research make him out to have been ten years younger, as confirmed by census records. His younger siblings were born in Mexico as the family lived in Durango State between 1861 and 1865 before returning to San Francisco, where his mother re-married with an Englishman when he was about 7 years old.

Sandy was born as Vincente Simental, Simental being his mother's name, but he acquired the name Vincent Irwin, after his stepfather. He then played ball as Sandy Irwin and Sandy Nava, the identity which eventually stuck. Nava was apparently the last name of his birth father. He was a blacksmith by trade and played baseball on the side.

His photo appears in the book Baseball in Baltimore: The First Hundred Years, though, and he does seem to have some Hispanic features. He has a stocky build, suitable for a catcher. Yet another photo appears here (of the 1882 Grays): Sandy and others.

He caught 12 of Old Hoss Radbourn's starts.

Although Sandy hit only .095 in 1884, he had his most at-bats that year, and his team was the best in major league baseball.

Sporting Life of August 15, 1903 referred to him as Vincent Nava, and said he had been pardoned from jail after serving three months for larceny. He was said to have no home.

"Vincent Nava, once the rather noted catcher of the Providence club, after his release from that club, played with the St. Louis Maroons, Bostons and Baltimores, but his habits finally forced him out of the business, and he then started a saloon in Baltimore. That, too failed, probably because he was his own best customer, and lately he has been employed as a bouncer in a Harrison street dive. While acting in that capacity he was last week arrested and locked up for engaging in a brawl with a fellow-bouncer. Such is the result of rum . . ." - reporting and moralizing by Sporting Life, Jan. 22, 1890

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