Estaban B. Bellan was born on October 1, 1849 in Cuba. Most encyclopedias cite his birth as “1850” but his passport application in January 1874 states the birth date above. The encyclopedias also note his middle name as “Enrique” but it is listed as “B.” in both his passport application and the St. John’s College registry.
At age 13, Estaban and his older brother Domingo, born in February 1845, came to the United States in 1863 to begin school in September at St. John’s College (later renamed Fordham University) in Bronx, New York. St. John’s, the first catholic institution of higher learning in the northeastern U.S, was a popular site for wealthy Cuban families to send their children during the turmoil of seeking independence from Spain. In 1863 twelve Cubans attended the school.
Domingo is not found in the school registry after the first year; however, Estaban continued through July 1868. In all likelihood Bellan learned to play baseball at St. John’s. The school began playing baseball in September 1859, naming their club the Rose Hills. Two months later, they participated in the first nine-man baseball contest between college clubs (November 3 versus St. Francis Xavier College).
A search of the newspaper archives suggests that the first baseball reference to Bellan may be a New York Times article on June 19, 1868. At age 18 he is a member of the Rose Hill team, catching and batting first. In all likelihood Bellan was playing with the club well before this as his college career was nearly over in June 1868. In the summer of 1868 Bellan joined the Unions of Morrisania, a top New York team. He played second base and outfield in twenty championship games, scoring 28 runs. In 1869 Bellan joined the Unions of Lansingburgh. Lansingburgh, also known as North Troy would be annexed by Troy in 1900.
In 1861 the Priams of Troy and the Nationals of Lansingburgh merged to form the Unions of Rensselaer County. The new club then joined the National Association of Base Ball Players, NABBP. The club fell by the wayside during the Civil War. It was reorganized in 1866 and renamed the Unions of Lansingburgh. The Unions became one of the strongest clubs in the area, winning 90% of their contests in their first five seasons. During this entire time they were officially called the “Unions.” However, after they defeated the powerful Mutuals of New York in 1867, the team became fondly known in New York papers as the “Haymakers.” (One of the Mutual players popped off after the loss about losing to a bunch of haymakers) Bellan continued with the Haymakers through 1872. The latter two years the club was a member of the professional National Association. http://www.baseball-reference.com/b/bellast01.shtml.
In the winter of 1868 Bellan returned to Cuba. There, he helped found the Havana Base Ball Club, the first documented baseball club in Latin America. Presumable, Bellan spent the upcoming winters there as well.
In Cincinnati the Haymakers took on the powerful Red Stockings during their undefeated streak in 1869. The teams were tied 17-17 entering the sixth inning on August 26. An argument sparking Haymakers’ president James McKeon pulled his club off the field, essentially forfeiting. It was the only non-win (on the field of play) that Cincinnati suffered in 1869. Bellan played third base.
The Haymakers went bankrupt and dissolved on July 23, 1872. Most of the ballplayers found slots on other teams but Bellan did not. He sat out the rest of the year. The following year he joined the Mutuals of New York, appearing in eight NA contests and ending his pro career in the United States.
In January 1874 Bellan became a naturalized citizen of the United States, living in Troy, and received a U.S. passport. On December 27, 1874 Bellan participated in the first formal baseball game in Cuba.
Bellan played with the Havana club trough the 1885-86 season (save the 1884-85 season in which he doesn’t appear in the logs. He became the team’s manager in 1878.
The Colynus club integrated Cuban baseball during the 1879-80 season with the signing of Syracuse (National League) players Jimmy Macullar and Hick Carpenter (their names were disguised as George McCullar and Urban Carpenter). On November 23, 1879 Macullar struck out 21 Havana batters, sparking a strong protest which ultimately ended with Columbus’ withdrawal from the league.
Bellan's trail goes cold after he fades from the baseball scene in 1886. He died on August 8, 1932 at age 83.