“Frank Robinson’s resume in our game is without parallel, a trailblazer in every sense, whose impact spanned generations,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “He was one of the greatest players in the history of our game, but that was just the beginning of a multifaceted baseball career.” Rob Manfred, Commissioner – Major League Baseball
Baseball legend Frank Robinson passed today at 83. The announcement was made today by Major League Baseball. For the past several weeks he was in hospice and while his passing does not come as a surprise, it rekindles the greatness he displayed as a player and all-around talent in major league baseball.
Following in the footsteps of Jackie Robinson, in 1956 Frank broke in with the Cincinnati Reds. The rest is history. He was known for his fierce competitive spirit; as a player, a manager and executive within the league. Robinson shunned fraternization which is prevalent in today’s game. Perhaps, because players lack the same team loyalty that once was common-place among teams during Robinson’ era. They move around within the thirty teams at a more frequent pace as putting in more than five years with a team might be considered rare.
During Robinson’s era once the players hit the dugout to prepare for the game, it was unheard of for players to greet those from the opposition or even share a positive nod, let alone embrace them…..even though they may have been lifelong friends.
While Jackie is known for the player to break the color-barrier in MLB, Frank goes down as the manager who did the same.
“Frank use to tell us, we don’t talk to the other team…..we just beat them!! Former Oriole teammate and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer
Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was born January 31, 1919. Today Major League Baseball (MLB) took the unprecedented step of declaring a full year celebration of his birth. Throughout the year activities are planned to honor him.
While it is noted, Robinson’s fame was created as the first African-American player to break to color-barrier in MLB, his life spanned a career as a great humanitarian.
In 1947 history marked Robinson’s entry in joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branch Rickey is noted as a trailblazer who bucked the racial codes of the time while shepherding Robinson through the rigors needed to perform at a top level. Rickey and the Dodgers earned their platitudes in history by having the courage to deal with Jim Crow. Many who understand the game and who have an appreciation of history understand the move had more to do with the economic uplift of MLB versus the benevolence of integrating the game.
Like most African-American baseball players of the time they were part of the Negro League organization. The league was extremely popular among the African-American population who showed their appreciation with solid attendance. The style of play was more entertaining than MLB. Players did all types of antics that not only entertained the fans but showcased their athletic prowess. Things like bunting, stealing a base, doing a double-windup, using the hit-and-run technique were revolutionary at the time. Thus, the games became a major attraction from the cities they operated. The parallel is while MLB featured great players showcasing great skills, it lacked to core entertainment value found in Negro League. Thus, caused a stall in MLB as attendance became stagnant.
Rickey and others were known for their marketing acumen realized integrating the league with the “right players” could boast their economic dilemma. So, while it is true Rickey gave Robinson the shot, the move created consternation with other Negro League players who were thirsty to showcase their talents on a larger state. The move was not about who was the best player in the league but who could make the successful transition to MLB and endure all of the hostility and vitriol needed to help defeat segregation and open the door for other players to follow.
At 52, Jackie Robinson died a relatively young man but his beautiful wife, Rachel has helped to keep his legacy alive and the year long celebration is just one example of how sports transcends society.
For baseball geeks the Negro Leagues offer an interesting study. Their cultural significance to American history is well documented, while becoming an institution within the Negro community. It is interesting to note that in 1885 the first Negro League team was named the Cuban Giants. They were made up of three amateur teams from Philadelphia and the District of Columbia. As more teams were organized it was the Jim Crow conditions in the United States that led teams to seek out favorable environments such as Cuba, Mexico and other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America.
During my presentations on baseball I often emphasize the game is much more than nine players on each team recording twenty-seven outs or until a victor is declared. Since the game was created it has morphed into a social phenomenon that unfortunately many misdiagnose as being boring, too difficult to understand or simply too long to record a complete game. Some of those attributes may be true but there is something to be said as more countries have embraced its international popularity. No doubt, in the United States Major League Baseball (MLB) is dealing with a correction or a decline in game-day attendance. Even though critics shun the game or offer reasons for unpopularity, it should not be mistaken to infer the end is near!
The Negro Leagues were tremendously successful. Major League Baseball was also successful but realized following World War II their future was in jeopardy. The greatness of Jackie Robinson is well documented as the first Negro League player to cross over to Major League Baseball. What gets lost in this historic moment is Robinson’s transition to MLB was indeed a gamble. But, MLB realized the gamble was more of an opportunity to energize the game that some thought was not exciting enough to draw the type of attendance needed for success. They pointed to record crowds at Negro League games as well as a more exciting style of play, versus the benevolent tone of Branch Rickey and the desire to integrate the sport as a primary motivation.
Branding = Success
Interesting through the years baseball came to be known as the national sport of Cuba. Their teams were fearless as they built a reputation as powerful competitors. Politics aside, their success helped create mystique about the country they represented.
Fulfilling a bucket list goal from several years ago I established an action-plan for a more robust evaluation of the Negro Leagues:Cuban baseball, and the impact. Thus, this series was born with the mandate to provide better documentation on the topic and to offer a perspective of the Intersectionality.
In the game of baseball 1947 was a critical year. Jackie Robinson made history as being the first “Negro” (African-American) to play in Major League Baseball. Interestingly, it also marked the year that Cuba and Major League Baseball reached an agreement for African-Americans and other players to train in their country.
Baseball in Cuba today
Cuba still holds swag when discussing top teams in the game. Currently they are ranked number five in the World Baseball Federation. Japan is number one and the United States is number two. However, even though the rankings are fair, what gets lost in the equation is even though Cuba is the Caribbean’s largest populated country at 11 million, except Taipei, the top three countries have populations of 127 million, 325 million and 510 million respectively. So, from my perspective Cuba does an exceptional job in claiming the number five spot based on population size. Thus, it is no secret the higher your population the larger your pool of potential talent and from a quick analysis one can conclude Cuba gets a lot of “bang for its buck” regarding leveraging its population.
No doubt players from Cuba are defecting so the agreement is great news. I mean for that kind of money – EXPLOIT ME!!! I would be willing to take a chance for that kind of opportunity because playing for the national team does not even compare!! YR
The game is the game! The goal for most amateur players is to earn their way to MLB. However, style of play of the Negro Leagues and Cuban team have similar attributes. The same is true with respect to fan behavior. There is much more visible passion and fan interaction during the game
While I am proud to be a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan, I also take pride as a student of the game and its social dynamic. Baseball is a great game; as long as you understand it. As mentioned earlier, it can be an excruciating experience for those who lack some of the basic knowledge. The game has many rules, most noteworthy of “how the game is to be played.”
The notion of “how the game is to be played” is a conflict for many players who have finally ascended to MLB status. In time, most overcome the conflict but for some it’s like trying to walk a tightrope with no pole to hold onto. The Latin game, the Mexican game and especially the Cuban game is full of non-stop action. That is especially true for fans. Player oftentimes stretch their limitations and whether in success or failure, they showcase visible jubilation or frustration. The MLB game is more tempered and their mantra is players must “respect the game at all times and visible emotions are frowned upon.” I mean, thank God Yasiel Puig has found a new home with the Cincinnati Reds but during his seven-year stint with the Dodgers he was criticized by more than those who you might think should know better, that he was disrespecting the game with his “antics!!” In my opinion they are so wrong to marginalize him and other Latin/Caribbean players. As much as players make efforts to successfully transition, the facts are simple the game is played differently which results in more vested passion from the fans. I am reminded of how Major League baseball would have reacted when the great Satchel Paige during a Negro League game ordered the seven defenders behind him and the catcher to take a knee leaving what many figured was a team without a defense. Satchel known for his antics promptly struck out the side of the opposing team, as the defense was not needed.
Three games in 2018
Part of my trek to Cuba in December 2018 was to meet with baseball officials and ordinary fans of the game. Luckily my visit coincided with the 58 Cuban National Series, where six teams were set to battle for the ultimate prize. After some juggling of my itinerary I penciled in two tournament games and one amateur softball game that I would be able to attend.
What a blunder!
I thought I did my homework so I felt I was well prepared to attend the game at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana featuring Sancti Spiritus versus Industriales. I knew ticket prices had gone up from three CUCS to five CUCS. The famed stadium holds about the same as Chavez Ravine home of the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, unlike Chavez Ravine which holds tens of thousands of cars in its parking lot, Latinoamericano is much different as there are more spaces for motorcycles than cars. Duh!!! What do you expect when less than 1% of Cubans own cars. Thus, the mode of transportation for the majority who attend games is by walking, hitching a ride, the bus, bicycle or for those with resources; a motor bike including a few who actually drove to the game. What was quite a site being what might be considered a “parking lot” had been transformed to an internet hot spot. The stadium has the feel of any stadium in the U.S. that is tucked into a community. It is located in the Cerro community of Havana and the pride and joy of the home team.
What might be a “parking lot” has better use as an internet hotspot
More motocycles than cars
So back to getting my ticket. Unlike many stadiums where there are ticket booths with turnstiles and other entry points, Latinoamericano is a bit different. Adjacent the exterior of the pavilion section you notice a line that has formed. There is a large see-through fence as there is a lady (staff) and another person who is behind the fence operating from a table and cash box. Tickets are assembled in packs and as soon as one is sold it is ripped from the paper using a ruler and presto, that is your ticket for entry.
Luckily my embarrassment was short-lived. All I was focused on was paying my five CUCs ($5). It never dawned on me the majority of fans would be locals, thus using local currency (pesos or a value of 24:1 in dollars or CUCs). As the line moved forward it was finally my turn to purchase my ticket. I spoke in my gringo Spanish that I would like one ticket and was handing the clerk a $20 CUC. She looked at me in bewilderment as her eyes suggested WTF!!!!! What am I supposed to do with that!!!! At first, I thought she simply didn’t have change but then I quickly realized I had given her 2400 pesos when all she needed was one! I could feel the noise from those behind me trying to figure out why in the heck was it taking me so long just to get one ticket? Luckily a quick-thinking fan realized my dilemma and abruptly jumped in and told the clerk he would buy my ticket. She ripped the tickets from the paper and he give me mine and sheepishly I gathered myself and headed to the ticket taker at the gate. A lesson learned.
Once inside I finally found the person I was meeting. Anyway, I am so glad I brought bags of double-bubble chewing gun and sunflower seeds. I tossed them around to fans like I was riding a float during Mardi-Gras.
A huge difference
As mentioned earlier, MLB is suffering a decline in attendance. Even though the Dodgers consistently fill up their stadium that is not the case for the majority of the thirty-teams. As a matter of fact, the Miami Marlins which is in Little Havana of Miami is grateful to get 20-25k fans per game, and their stadium is relatively new!
As I scoured the crowd at Latinoamericano I was pleasantly surprised to witness what looked like about 30k fans in attendance. What was more impressive was the demographics. Incredibly the majority appeared in the 20-40 age range but there were also, many youth and a nice cross-section of fans who came to root for their respective team and grab some entertainment. I thought to myself MLB would pay a fortune to get such a mixture?
Attending a game in Havana is much different from Dodger stadium or other MLB venues. First, while the stadium designs are similar, the majority of what you sit on are concrete slabs. Near the field of play and tucked in between dugouts are the more traditional seats. As a matter of fact, the higher you go up in the stadium concrete slabs are replaced with metal slats or something you can sit on.
Vendors are a plenty as they roam the aisles selling all types of Cuban snacks. But, perhaps what was a big seller was the colorful vuvuzelas, which the fans demanded so they could join in the chorus of noise that was nonstop from inning to inning. The vuvuzelas were merely a complement because tucked near the home team dugout was the twelve-piece plus band blaring drums, horns and other musical instruments. Along with what the fans had, the “rhythm section” provided the juice so the cheerleader and mascot could provide an evening of entertainment while watching a good baseball game.
I think I arrived around the 3rd inning. Either way, the visiting team; Sancti Spiritus had jumped to a six nothing lead. Perhaps from the motivation of the cheering section, the Industriales woke up and inning by inning fought their way back to tie the game and eventually take a 7-6 lead.
I found out about the conclusion of the game the next day as I was on the Viazul bus traveling from Havana to my next city, Cienfuegos. Luckily the young lady sitting next to me also attended the game with her twin sister and boyfriend. They stayed until the end of the game and told me of the exciting come from behind victory. She also mentioned they were on their way to Cienfuegos to spend time with their father during the holidays. More interesting was she mentioned her love for the game was instilled by her dad so she couldn’t wait to see him, as like me that was her first game in person while being in Cuba and she couldn’t wait to share her experience.
The visit to Cienfuegos was important as in addition to visiting the stadium where Yasiel Puig played before defecting to Mexico, I had arranged to meet with a person who claimed to know the family very well. I was surprised to find a cadeca in what appeared to be in a residential area of Cienfuegos. Lo and behold my contact was there waiting for me and we chatted for nearly an hour. He was very happy of the success Puig has generated since being a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After spending the night in Cienfuegos I was set to travel to Trinidad. Things got a little nervous as the Viazul officer came to the lobby area to announce the bus was running two hours late. Whoa, this presented a slight wrinkle as my plan of getting into Trinidad before sundown appeared to be in jeopardy.
Who said modified fastpitch softball is dead?
After arriving in Trinidad I realized my casa particulares was just a couple of blocks from Estadio Rolando Rodriguez. So, the next morning to my delight a men’s softball game was just starting. Softball is another dynamic of baseball. It may look easy, but at a competitive level skill is required to succeed. The game being played was actually modified fast pitch (the pitcher does not wind up) but offers the ball to the batter at a fast speed, and oftentimes at change of pace, as the batter’s challenge is to adjust the swing to squarely connect with the ball.
Santiago de Cuba
Along the way to Santiago de Cuba I was able to see estadio’s in Ciego de Avila, Las Tunas and Sancti Spiritus. As mentioned only six teams were competing in the playoffs. I had arranged to meet with two baseball locals at the old Bacardi Rum Factory. Like most Cubans I talk to about baseball, they too were knowledgeable and passionate. I also was able to make it over to Estadio Guillermon Mocada where the Santiago de Cuba team was practicing. The stadium was very impressive.
One other important interview in Santiago de Cuba included Jose Carmen. He and his son would be considered die-hard fans, so even though his team was not playing, he invited me to watch a couple of innings of games which were being televised. Again, very knowledgeable of the finer points of the game.
As I made it back to Havana, the third game slated was back at Estadio Latinoamericano. Holguin would be squaring off against the Industriales. After my first blunder of not understanding the cost of MY ticket, I came prepared so I purchased 4 tickets with my $10 pesos and gladly handed out the 3 extra tickets to delighted strangers who had been in line to grab their ticket.
The amazing thing about attending a game in Cuba or specifically at Estado Latinoamericano is the large crowds and the passion on display. Luckily, they won the game as from my conversation from the young lady I met on the bus ride to Cienfuegos, I would be treated to something I had never seen!!! As the game ended the players came out of the dugout to congratulate those on the field, it was cleared and the Lion mascot delighted those like me who stuck around. He pretended to swing at a pitch and circled the bases and ended in a head first victory slide finishing up near the visitors’ dugout.
On a sad note, before entering the stadium I grabbed some water at a store which was directly across the street. To my surprise, I ran into Sergio Luis Pulido Pozo who prides himself as a knowledgeable fan. He was drawn to chat as I was wearing my Los Angeles Dodgers cap, so he enthusiastically remarked how proud he was of Yasiel Puig and other Cuban players who were making a positive impact. He also mentioned his support of the agreement announced several days earlier between MLB and the Cuba Baseball Federation, where Cuban nationals would not have to forego their affiliation with their country.
As the game ended, I headed to a hotspot as I needed to update my wife of my schedule. It was then, she announced the Dodgers had traded Yasiel Puig and others to the Cincinnati Reds. She was devastated so I wrapped up and headed back to the store to get Sergio’s reaction. Unfortunately, it was near 11 o’clock and he had already wrapped up his shift.
Two fans from the Trinidad “esquina caliente”
A veteran of the game holding fort at Estadio Rolando Rodriguez
A very wise lad and baseball affecionado outside Estadio Guillermon Mocada in Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba baseball historian Yoandris Garzon Bondera took time to come to the old Bacardi Rum Factory to share his wisdom
Santiago de Cuba Nelson Ribiaux Romero shares his knowledge as he stopped by the old Bacardi Rum Factory to share his wisdom
Young Livan Lopez shares his passion for the game outside the stadium in Cienfuegos
Jose Carmen enthusiastically shared with me his passion for the game.
With the new MLB agreement with Cuba, will their organization go the same way as the Negro Leagues?
above caption: Roberts pulling Hill. Digital First Media.
[Chavez Ravine] Many die-hard Los Angeles Dodgers fans, like myself are finally awakening from the nightmare of losing games four and five of the 2018 World Series, resulting in the Boston Red Sox achieving the championship. As tough as it is, most will salute the Red Sox for executing when they had too. At the same time, they applaud the effort of the Dodgers for making the tough journey through the regular season and going through the gauntlet of the playoffs to be in a position to play in the coveted World Series. But the facts are the facts, even in Little League if you only get three hits, more than likely you will be on the losing end, as was the case in game five. Unfortunately that was the case in games two and five.
“Today is the first day I am able to talk about it. I have been upset since Sunday” A. Tillman, Dodger fan
It seems longer, but Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts just finished his third year. In all of those years his team has made the playoffs. Remarkable, the last two years he took his team to the World Series. As impressive of what he has achieved, including the admiration of most fans, many will still hold his decision in game four of pulling Rich Hill as the death knell of the series, thus ending our season.
Baseball – a game of failure!
Baseball is an interesting game. Those who are not diehards define the game as boring, too long to complete a game, on and on. It’s a very technical game which is why some make comments, having very little understanding of the nuances. It is a game of failure! Most hitters hit between .250 – .300, which translates if you have ten at-bats, you can rest assured you will make an out in seven or even eight times! Unlike other sports such as basketball where you can score quite frequently, games are long due to commercial breaks versus length of actual play. The 18 inning game the other night will be noted in years to come. As was the case in that game, runs or a score can be tough to come by, and the only way a team can be victorious is to outscore the opponent, yet in many innings, like the 18th inning doozy, no runs might be scored at all!
The Wild Horse strikes again
The decision to pull Hill will go down in history as a key point in the 2018 World Series. Just minutes earlier, Yasiel Puig sent Dodger fans into a frenzy by blasting a three-run home run making the score 4 – 0. Surely the Dodgers could secure nine outs and snag a win? In doing so it was a sure bet they would even the series at 2 wins a piece, giving the team the much-needed momentum, they were seeking?
The baseball god’s thought otherwise. While Roberts decision has been the focal point and much consternation of the fans, those who truly understand the game know better. Baseball is a game of statistics and super-charged analysis. In 2018 in the games Rich Hill pitched he normally lasted 5.2 innings. No doubt, in game four he was exceptional and at times appeared ready to break Don Newcombe’s record of pitching complete games of a double-header, on the same day!! He breezed through the sixth inning BUT his pitch count was near a record high of 91. In the bottom of the sixth he told Roberts to “keep an eye on him.” Again, just nine outs to secure a win. He started the seventh inning and walked Aruban sensation Xander Boegerts. Roberts still did not pull the plug. The next batter was the pesky Eduardo Nunez. Hill blew him away with three pitches to strike him out. Apparently, it was at that point that Roberts felt Hill had given his all and wanted him to go out on a high note. In comes Scott Alexander and to the surprise of the nearly 55,000 who were packed in the Ravine, as well as the millions who were watching on television, he walked the next batter on four straight pitches!!! Ouch!
World Series 2018: Dave Roberts on the Dodgers losing Game 4
The rest is history as even though the Red Sox put up nine runs in three innings, there was still hope. Team leader Justin Turner led off the ninth with a hit. The next batter, Kiki Hernandez blasted one of Craig Kimbrell’s pitches into the left field pavilion for a home run, and there were no outs! The enthusiasm quickly dampened as Cody Bellinger meekly flied out to end the game.
Yes, in his usual professional and political demeanor Dave Roberts accepted the blame for the loss, even while trying to explain why he pulled Hill. As mentioned in a game of statistics he had no idea Alexander would walk Benintendi on four straight pitches. Surely, he may have thought about it but he figured the odds were long that recently acquired Ryan Madsen would offer up one of his coveted home run pitches. Worse, perhaps trying to assuage Kenley Jansen’s ego, Roberts called on him in the eighth. Clinging on to a one run lead, many felt it was a likely possibility but Roberts went with his gut which was torn apart as Jensen’s cutter didn’t cut and professional hitters like Steve Pearce earn their millions by being able to handle mistakes, or a pitch which doesn’t cut, instead transforming it to a basic fastball – waist high. Many could hear the great Jim McKay of Wide World of States belting out his famous quote, “the thrill of victory….the agony of defeat.”
“Jansen hasn’t been the same since his heart ailment. These games are too much pressure for him!” JLT, Dodger fan
“What was Robert’s thinking? He knew Jansen hasn’t been doing nothing but giving up homeruns!!! I’m done! A millennial
So, for Dodger fans 2018 is history. Most will recover from their wounds. While some still want Roberts head on a platter, they also realize like the players, managers are not robots and after a couple of months of rehab they, like the other 29 teams who didn’t win the championship will give it another shot in 2019. Go Dodgers!
Now that Major League Baseball (MLB) just completed its 89th All Star Game (#ASG) and players have a day or two off before the second half of the season resumes, we thought it would be a good opportunity to update those players who are from Cuba and play on one of the thirty MLB teams (active roster).
Why the interest?
Baseball is the national sport of CUBA. Their players have been known for their talent which is why it was remarkable to see defections. Now that MLB has solid policies and agreements are in place, teams have shown a healthy appetite in adding those players to their roster.
Currently there are 20 Cuban players on the MLB rosters. That number represents about three percent of the total 750 players as each active roster is comprised of twenty-five players. The number is down by one, as last year there were twenty-one. However, one must keep in mind there are many more Cuban players making their way through the rigorous process of making the active twenty-five player roster (there is single A, double A, triple A, etc.)
Here is a peek of this years crop of Cuban born players in MLB.
[Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles] Opening day is always a special event in major league baseball. At Dodger stadium or “the ravine” it takes on significance due to the team and their tie to the city. The fact the Dodgers would be hosting their arch-rival Giants was enough for most fans. But the treat about opening day is you never know what presentations the host team will unveil.
George Lopez and Samuel Jackson stole the show
Kirk Gibson’s monumental home run in 1988 has its place high atop baseball lore as an unforgettable event. Comedian George Lopez and Actor Samuel Jackson are unabashedly die-hard Dodger fans. They recreated the special time in history when Gibson was blessed by the baseball gods. The seven minute clip was quite a production and done so to introduce Gibson as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The production was amazing!!
As for the game, Dodgers ace and one known as the “best pitcher on the planet,” Clayton Kershaw got snakebit as his two-strike slider to the Giants pesky Joe Panik slipped inside the right field foul pole for a home run, as well as the only run as the Giants handed the Dodgers an opening day loss. One game down, one hundred and sixty-one to go.
7 MINUTE HISTORIC CLIP, courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers
[Chavez Ravine] Unless you were in a coma, don’t read/view/listen to the news or just can’t stand the game of baseball or you are shaking your head in disbelief that people would waste valuable time to attend/view a game which took nearly 4 hours…………you missed the Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner hitting a walk-off (the home team’s last at-bat) hitting a historic home run off Chicago Cubs and well-traveled reliever John Lackey to win the game.
The game is still just a game but the surreal comparison when analyzing Turner’s home run is it just so happened to be 29 years to the date when Kirk Gibson marched into the annals of sports history with his monumental blast which led the Dodgers to their World Series Crown. Coincidently, that is why Dodger fans are thirsty and hopeful that Turner’s home run is a sign that they may finally claim another World Series trophy.
To keep Turner’s feat into perspective, yes it was a blast but this is just the second round of the playoffs or the NLCS (the National League Champion Series) and the win put the Dodgers up two games to none. However, they must win four games to claim the seven game series and the defending World Series champs, the Cubs could still rally and knock the Dodgers out?
Here is the extended clip of Justin Turner’s blast which starts with Chris Taylor’s at-bat
Ekersley, shocked to his toes!! Vin Scully
This is the comparison clip and features the full footage of Kirk Gibson’s home start. The footage starts with Mike Davis’ at-bat
It has been no secret that Major League Baseball may have finally found the combination to the vault! Inside the vault was the treasure trove of players who hail from the Caribbean’s largest country known as CUBA.
Contrary to some who are just discovering or re-discovering this “forbidden” country, baseball has long been a trademark of the island. Competition dates back to December 27, 1874. Even as the Negro Leagues were building legendary status; due to legalized segregation practiced in the United States players were forbidden to join Major League teams. It was during their heyday they found a welcomed ally and a fan base in Cuba who appreciated their style of play. Those who remember the movie 42 may recall the scene when the Los Angeles Dodgers were trying to transition Jackie Robinson to first base? It actually took place during a time when some of the Dodgers trained in Cuba.
“I have found memories of Cuba. While with the Dodgers I pitched down there about six years. I don’t like the government but I love the game of baseball.” Tommy Lasorda, Los Angeles Dodgers
Once the Cuban revolutionist took place, baseball was banned, although temporarily. The new regime understood the impact sport plays in our society, thus the Cuban national team took on a new dimension. They became a powerhouse and a powerful tool for the country. The fact players were paid a pittance (in capitalist terms) is important, but not as important as the pride players took in being a part of the team.
During the last 15 years or so there has been an escalation of baseball players from Cuba who had the aspiration to play in the Major Leagues. Those who arrived, although through very dangerous circumstances were welcomed. Some eventually achieved success, but many more did not.
Major League’s interest in Cuban players is somewhat of an unknown topic. However, those familiar with the sport simply know those players who are part of Cuba’s national baseball program are better trained and ready to transition at a quicker rate than other countries. Thus, the floodgates have been cracked open so expect this number to increase, especially with Major League Baseball’s strategy to internationalize the sport.
Currently, or as of this writing there are 21 players who are playing in Major League Baseball. While 25 players make up the official roster, teams are allowed to stretch that number to 40 representing its active roster, so for the sake of argument of the 1,200 players, 22 or less than two percent are from Cuba.
Major League Baseball returns to Cuba as part of Goodwill Tour