Happy # 74 to Tony Perez, the pride of Ciego de Avila

tony_perez_1970_06_01

 

We remember today Atanasio (Rigal) Perez, the pride of Ciego de Avila and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Tony broke with the Cincinnati Reds in the summer of 1964.   He went on to have a wonderful major league career:  2,777 games, 2,732 hits, 379 HR, 1,659 RBI and a very good .279 career batting average.

Tony’s career was more than numbers. He was the steady bat in a Reds’ team that won 4 NL titles and the World Series in 1975 and 1976.

Willie Stargell spoke for many of his fellow players:  ““With men in scoring position and the game on the line…Tony’s the last guy an opponent wanted to see.””

Tony had many big hits for the Reds Machine in the 1970s.   He is best remembered for a big homer in game 7 of the 1975 World Series:

 

We remember Mike Cuellar (1937-2010)

 

mike_cuellar_1968

 

Question: Who was the first Latino to win the Cy Young Award? The answer is Mike Cuellar, who shared the award with Denny McLain in 1969.

We remember Miguel Angel Santana Cuellar today.

Mike was born May 8, 1937 in Las Villas.  He started in the Reds’ organization and played with The Sugar Kings, Havana’s AAA franchise. He spent the next few years between Cincinnati and Houston, where he won 16 games in 1967.

Cuellar was traded to the Orioles and won 139 games over the next 7 seasons. He was one of the most effective pitchers in the American League and won 20-games in 4 different seasons. He pitched a complete game to win the 1970 World Series for Baltimore.

During his brilliant career, he won 185 games to go with a 3.14 ERA. He also completed 172 starts!

Without question, one of the best Latino pitchers ever. Mike died in 2010.    He was voted # 27 in the Top 40 Orioles of all time.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

The great Cuban baseball “9”

baseball2

oliva

 

The baseball season starts today and tomorrow……..so we would like to share a show that we did years ago……..it is long so please be patient……..in the first segment, Enrique Hubbard from Mexico tells us about the great black Cubans who played in the Mexican league before Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947………in the second segment, the Reyes brothers from New York joined me and we put together the Cuban baseball 9………by the way, our friend Ziva can be heard on this show…….you will learn a lot about Cuban baseball…….enjoy it!

 

Remembering some of the great Cuban players of major league history………https://t.co/WpZclsq4jj

Happy # 82 to Camilo Pascual

pascual

 

As a young kid, my favorite Cuban baseball player was Camilo Pascual.  He pitched most his career for the original Washington Senators who became the Minnesota Twins in 1961.

As a Senator, Pascual pitched for very bad teams.   It got better when the team moved to Minnesota and the Twins became a perennial contender with a young Harmon Killebrew, power hitter Bob Allison,  the very good lefty Jim Kaat and fellow Cubans Tony Oliva & Zoilo Versalles.

His numbers were great with the Twins:   20-11 in 1962 and 20-9 in 1963.     He led the league in strikeouts 3 years in a row.  In other words, he was one of the best right handed pitchers in baseball.

Overall, he won 176 games with a very good 3.63 career ERA.    He would have easily won 230 games with a better team!

We say happy birthday to one of my heroes.    I don’t know what Camilo is doing these days.   I read a few years ago that he was scouting for the Twins in Latin America.

Happy birthday to the great Camilo.

The all-Cuban triple play in baseball

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becquer

valdivielso

A little baseball history to distract us from the horrific stories coming out of Cuba.

On July 23, 1960, 3 Cubans playing for the Washington Senators made baseball history.   They were involved in the only Cuban to Cuban to Cuban triple play.   I’m sure that it is the only “all latino” triple play too.   I couldn’t find any other example of 3 latinos turning a triple play.

The 3 players were pitcher Pedro Ramos, shortstop Jose Valdivielso and first baseman Julio Becquer.   Whitey Herzog, future manager with the Kansas City Royals and St Louis Cardinals, hit the ball back to Ramos, who went to first and then second.

A little more about the game.   The Senators became the Minnesota Twins in 1961.  The Kansas City A’s moved to Oakland in 1968.

Ramos won 117 games but pitched for very bad teams.   I wrote a post about him earlier when he turned 80.   Becquer had a fine glove but hit only .244 with the Senators and later the Twins.     Valdivielso hit .219 and was primarily a part-time player.

Another Cuban, Camilo Pascual, watched the proceedings from the dugout.

My thanks to Fernando Hernandez, author of “The Cubans” for bringing this to my attention.  By the way, his book is full of stories of Cubans in the US, from Celia Cruz to Desi Arnaz to lots of other less known Cubans who left their footprints.

TWO BROTHERS! ONE DREAM! LIBERTAD!

Livan El Duque

For those of you who have wondered why most Cuban-Americans take such a hardline posture when it comes to Cuba, I encourage you to watch the ESPN video “30 for 30: “Brothers in Exile.” The video recounts the story of brothers Livan and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez – two Cubans who defected to the United States and gained fame by playing for the Miami Marlins and the New York Yankees. After seeing what they went through to leave the Island in search of freedom — a saga that is mirrored with those of most Cuban-Americans — you’ll understand why this is such a personal issue for us. Restoring democracy to a people who have lived in fear and repression for 55 years of totalitarian, communist rule is a commitment that we have with our dignity and values.

The video is available via Netflix. To view the trailer, click on http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11514741

Habana vs Almendares: A little “beisbol” in Cuba

We remember an important anniversary in Cuban baseball:

“On December 29, 1878, the first game is played between two teams of the first professional baseball league in Cuba, later known as the Cuban League.

Representing the city of Havana, the Habana club faced off against their greatest rivals, a club from the neighboring suburb of Almendares. Habana, coached by Esteban Bellán, the first Cuban to play professional baseball in the United States, won that inaugural game 21-20.”

The first game eventually turned into the very successful Almendares-Habana rivalry, the Cuban version of the Yankees-Red Sox story.   Eventually, there was a winter league with teams like Marianao and Cienfuegos.

It all started today in 1878!

 

 

Pay Castro Inc “un honorario de 20%” and you can play overseas!

According to Maria C. Werlau, “Fidel Castro Inc” is one big conglomerate for a guy who is made a career pretending to be a socialist.   The family business is big enough for Fidel and Raul to make the list of some of the richest people in the planet.

Again, not bad for a couple of brothers who are cheered around the world as “revolutionaries”!

The latest money making scheme for Castro Inc is to send Cuban athletes overseas.   Castro Inc never passes up the opportunity to make a “peso”!

As you may remember, professional sports were outlawed in Cuba in 1961.   That was then, or the days of the Soviet subsidy and when the regime spent all of the stolen property from Cubans and foreign interests.

This is now, or the reality that Cuba desperately needs hard currency and no one is lining up to lend the regime any money.  Why would you lend money to an enterprise that defaults often?

To say the least, Cubans in the major leagues are doing quite well, from Puig in LA, to Cespedes in Oakland to Fernandez in Miami.    The latest name is Jose Abreu, a first baseman with power who is shopping for a major league contract.

However, these four men do not “share” their income with Castro Inc.  They are professional athletes who had the freedom to negotiate contracts.

They are “defectors” or players who established residency in another country and became free agents.  They are eligible to sign with any organization, as the aforementioned Abreu who will be playing somewhere next year.

That’s the way it should be until there is regime change in Cuba!

A few weeks ago, Castro Inc made a change and announced that Cuban athletes could play overseas.

Alfredo Despaigne is the first “test case” for Castro Inc.  The arrangement is that the regime keeps 20% of the salary.  He played in Mexico this year and hit well.  At the same time, let’s remember that the Mexican summer league is a low version of AAA baseball.  It’s not unusual for a good Cuban player to hit .338 against the quality of pitching in that league.

Let’s not forget also that Cuban players know that the best baseball is played in the majors.  This is where they want to play and that is why they defect!

Major League baseball, and the US government, should take a tough position against Castro Inc. when it comes to these ballplayers.

Castro Inc wants to “rent” the players and create another source of income for the family business.

I believe that Commissioner Selig should make it clear that MLB is not going to play this game.

The players should be free to sign their own deals and negotiate directly with a team.  They should not be forced to share their income with Castro Inc.

The players’ union should oppose that arrangement too.

Last, but not least, there is also the issue of “the embargo” and money flow between the island and the US.

Let’s fill the majors with Cuban players.   However, let them be “FREE” Cuban players not “servants” of Castro Inc.

 

El Rookie

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A great piece on Marlins All Star pitcher Jose Fernandez at Grantland:

He first saw it about five years ago, while he was floating on a boat about 10 miles from shore — lights stacked on top of lights, all spread upward and outward, wrapping around a piece of land that stretched north and west for several thousand miles more. He knew little about the city. He knew it had Cubans — the lucky few who had succeeded in making the trip he was now attempting. He knew it had baseball. He had heard from some that life there was easy, from others that life there was hard. Either way, he knew he wanted to go. And he knew that, on this night at least, he would never make it to shore.

Because as close as those lights were, Fernandez saw another pair of lights that were much closer — lights from a boat belonging to the United States Coast Guard, just a few hundred yards away. “When you see those lights,” Fernandez says, “you know it’s over. You hear the stories about those people. They’re incredible at their job.”

Their job in these waters, at least since the United States changed its policy in 1995, is to send Cubans back to where they came from. The law is odd, but simple. If you’re a Cuban defector who makes it to U.S. soil, you can stay. If you’re caught in the water, you go home.

Fernandez was caught in the water. The Coast Guard would send him to Cuba. The Cuban government would send him to prison. That would be fine, Fernandez thought. He just needed to survive. As long as he did that, someday, he could leave again.

Read the whole fantastic thing, right here.

Notes From Left Field

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Well, beat the drum and hold the phone – the sun came out today! We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field. It’s the first day of spring-when a young man’s fancy turns to…beisbol.

I’m no young man, but my thoughts did turn to beisbol and Cuba today. Yes, beisbol; Cuba’s passion and yes, the beisbol that was invented by the Taino Indians  Native Americans in Cuba. Don’t believe me? Too bad, prove me wrong. It can’t be proven that some American named Doubleday invented it or that some other Yanqui named Cartwright did either. So i’m giving the original inhabitants of Cuba credit.  This is the internet where anybody can say whatever they like without any proof whatsoever. So there.

And, if you don’t believe that you can claim anything as fact on the internet and at reputable media sites for that matter, head on over to the Huffington Post and read this little gem of willful fabrications on the recent trip that Rey Ordóñez, former Mets Shortstop,  took to his homeland, Cuba, the first since his “defection” in 1993.

The point of the fact-challenged post is that the six pictures of Ordóñez in Cuba totally rebut the pro emabargo position “that it helps prop up a communist dictator.”

The Beisbol tall tale begins with the title: Cuba Travel: Baseball Star Rey Ordonez Allowed To Return Home Thanks To Obama Travel Policies. Really? It continues:

 Throughout the following decades, Ordóñez traveled across America playing for the New York Mets, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Chicago Cubs, but never made it back to Cuba because U.S. laws banned his return. This week, Ordóñez took advantage of the Cuba travel policy enacted in January and finally returned to Havana, where he was given a hero’s welcome.

That statement is as absurd as it is wrong. Cuban- Americans have been allowed to visit their relatives in Cuba under Clinton, Bush and Obama. If Ordóñez, pictured above becoming a US Citizen, hadn’t returned to Cuba until now, it’s because either he didn’t want to or because his former owners would not let the slave return to his former plantation.

And yes, Ordóñez like all Cubans was a slave, he had to “defect,” scape his masters by jumping over a fence in Buffalo. He was not free to come play Beisbol in the States, like Beckham was when he came over to play Soccer in LA or when Denis Rodman came to Earth to play basketball from whatever planet he’s from. But the HP doesn’t concern itself with this gross violation of his human rights. They, of course, act as if an athlete having to “defect” to get as much as he can for his God-given talents is totally normal. You see Ordóñez homesickness was caused by hardline evil hearted conservative exiles like Marco Rubio and had to be remedied by Obama’s  all knowing and emcopassing compassion:

Ordóñez owes his trip to an Obama Administration policy, much criticized by Marco Rubio, allowing so-called people-to-people trips to Cuba. Though the process of going to Cuba is still extremely complicated, it is now possible for savvy travelers and homesick ballplayers.

What a crock of crap!

As a matter of fact, it was the [c]astro regime that decided in all its magnanimity to allow the former defectors who were once branded traitors and “vende patrias” (country sellers) to return. And return they did, back to the plantation, jumping through all the hoops their former masters laid out, smiling, taking pictures, giving interviews and paying through the nose. That’s their business. But it wasn’t Obama’s doing.

There was a change in the in travel policy in January of this year as the HP post claims, but it was made by [r]aúl [c]astro, not Obama. Maybe HP got [c]astro and Obama confused. I guess that’s ok since I do the same thing sometimes.

No Hall of Fame for the dopers

When I was a kid and into my teenage years I was a huge baseball fan. Thanks in large part because of my beloved abuelo, I loved the game.The male members of our readership will probably recall their baseball card collections — I had the complete 1966 Chicago Cubs — and I have very fond memories of the Saturdays I sat with abuelo watching baseball on TV with the color commentary by Dizzy Dean and Peewee Reese. Before his death in 1977 one of his is two favorite teams, the Cincinnati Reds — the Big Red Machine — won back-to-back World Series titles. The first against the Red Sox (boo! hiss!) in 1975; the second against my grandfather’s second favorite team, the New York Yankees, in 1976. That was a tough series for him but abuelo always rooted for the Reds and their complement of great Cuban players. Baseball was an American sport, and a Cuban sport. The love of the game was one of the very few things shared by the two countries between the Florida Straits.

All of this is prelude to the story linked here. It speaks to how low we have come in our culture and society, that a game as pure and as beautiful as baseball — the only sport with no time limit, a game that, at its best, unfolds itself like a Bruckner symphony, a game that has inspired some of the greatest sports writers and filmmakers — has deteriorated to the point that we cannot even trust the accomplishments of the players because of artificially induced talent.

Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and especially Mark McGwire, should NEVER be inducted into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. If they are, then let a real baseball player like Pete Rose get in. At least Charlie Hustle was banned for gambling, not injecting performance-enhancing drugs. If you ask me, all four of these players should have huge asterisks next to their fake and tainted records. If they did it to Roger Maris, then it should be good enough for them too.

Today in Cuba News: Boxing, Jubans and radio censorship

Britain’s Stalker, Cuba’s La Cruz suffer shock defeats in Olympic boxing quarterfinals
Yamaguchi Falcao of Brazil also upset top-seeded Cuban light heavyweight Julio La Cruz 18-15 in an eventful final day of quarterfinal bouts.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/upset-central-britains-stalker-cubas-la-cruz-stunned-in-last-olympic-boxing-quarterfinals/2012/08/08/b3f527f8-e1ad-11e1-89f7-76e23a982d06_story.html
Cuba says tourism income up 12.8 percent in 2011
In an undated report posted recently on its website, the National Office of Statistics said tourism income was $2.5 billion in 2011, compared with $2.2 billion the previous year.
In all, the island hosted 2.7 million visitors, up 7 percent from 2.5 million in 2010.
http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-08-09/cuba-says-tourism-income-up-12-dot-8-percent-in-2011
Cuban pole vaulter snaps pole at Olympics
Borges had his pole break in half while he was beginning his ascent into the air in the Olympic pole vault final, sending fiberglass flying in different directions. Luckily, he was OK and not injured.
http://www.freep.com/usatoday/article/56910532?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7COlympic%20Sports%7Cs
Injury forces Cuba’s Robles out of 110m hurdles final
Robles, the defender of the title obtained in Beijing four years ago and the fastest in the world for the event with a time of 12.87 seconds, could not retain the crown due to an injury in his right thigh that forced him to stop after the fifth hurdle.
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/sports/2012/08/08/injury-forces-cuba-robles-out-110m-hurdles-final/
Cuba lifts radio ban on Anti-Castro artists
Though the Communist authorities do not acknowledge it, for five decades state radio stations have blacklisted musicians who abandoned Fidel Castro’s 1959 Revolution and/or spoke out against it, the BBC reports. Now, that may be changing.
http://rbr.com/cuba-lifts-radio-ban-on-anti-castro-artists/
Foreign business in Cuba: Beware the dangerous embrace
So a strange incongruity exists in Cuba today: Havana is bending over backwards to attract foreign currency at the same time it is imprisoning some of its biggest Western investors. For all Cuba’s reforms, this Castro appears to be as intent on maintaining an iron grip on the country as the last one.
http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/08/08/cuba-risky-business/
Navigating humanitarian deliveries to Cuba is tricky for Miami terminal operator
International Port Corp., which offers maritime service from the Miami River to Cuba, is finding the Cuban government is picky about which items it will accept in humanitarian shipments. New Cuban Customs fees could also complicate the business.
http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/08/07/2940671/navigating-humanitarian-deliveries.html
Summer Nights: Cuban ‘Jubans’ In South Sudan
In Juba, the capital city of South Sudan, there’s a small corner of Havana. A number of Jubans who studied in Cuba have tried to recreate some of the atmosphere of the Caribbean island in their southern Sudanese homeland.
http://www.npr.org/2012/08/08/158448841/summer-nights-cuban-jubans-in-south-sudan

NEWS

Britain’s Stalker, Cuba’s La Cruz suffer shock defeats in Olympic boxing quarterfinals

Yamaguchi Falcao of Brazil also upset top-seeded Cuban light heavyweight Julio La Cruz 18-15 in an eventful final day of quarterfinal bouts.

Cuba says tourism income up 12.8 percent in 2011

In an undated report posted recently on its website, the National Office of Statistics said tourism income was $2.5 billion in 2011, compared with $2.2 billion the previous year.

In all, the island hosted 2.7 million visitors, up 7 percent from 2.5 million in 2010.

Cuban pole vaulter snaps pole at Olympics

Borges had his pole break in half while he was beginning his ascent into the air in the Olympic pole vault final, sending fiberglass flying in different directions. Luckily, he was OK and not injured.

Injury forces Cuba’s Robles out of 110m hurdles final

Robles, the defender of the title obtained in Beijing four years ago and the fastest in the world for the event with a time of 12.87 seconds, could not retain the crown due to an injury in his right thigh that forced him to stop after the fifth hurdle.

Cuba lifts radio ban on Anti-Castro artists

Though the Communist authorities do not acknowledge it, for five decades state radio stations have blacklisted musicians who abandoned Fidel Castro’s 1959 Revolution and/or spoke out against it, the BBC reports. Now, that may be changing.

Navigating humanitarian deliveries to Cuba is tricky for Miami terminal operator

International Port Corp., which offers maritime service from the Miami River to Cuba, is finding the Cuban government is picky about which items it will accept in humanitarian shipments. New Cuban Customs fees could also complicate the business.

Summer Nights: Cuban ‘Jubans’ In South Sudan

In Juba, the capital city of South Sudan, there’s a small corner of Havana. A number of Jubans who studied in Cuba have tried to recreate some of the atmosphere of the Caribbean island in their southern Sudanese homeland.

OPINION

Foreign business in Cuba: Beware the dangerous embrace

So a strange incongruity exists in Cuba today: Havana is bending over backwards to attract foreign currency at the same time it is imprisoning some of its biggest Western investors. For all Cuba’s reforms, this Castro appears to be as intent on maintaining an iron grip on the country as the last one.

Today in Cuba news: Alan Gross wants ribs, a Cuban wrestler becomes a legend, Yoani remembers el maleconazo

NEWS

Olympic triathlete Manny Huerta lives immigrant’s dream

He was born in Havana and speaks with a Cuban accent, but he is an American at heart and was proud to march with the U.S. team in in the opening ceremony.

American man in prison in Cuba dreams of freedom, going to Cuban baseball game, eating ribs

Bonnie Rubinstein, the sister of Cuban prisoner Alan Gross, was in Washington Monday for a weekly demonstration in front of Cuba’s equivalent of an embassy.

In an interview afterward, she said her 63-year-old brother is a Washington Redskins football fan who has grown interested in Cuban baseball because his jailors watch games.

Cuba’s Mijain Lopez repeats as Olympic champion

Lopez is the third wrestler to win multiple golds at 120 kilograms, joining Russian legend Alexandre Karelin and Alexander Koltschinkski of the former Soviet Union.

Opinion

Heartbreak in Havana

The Suspicious Death of Catholic Lay Leader Oswaldo Paya and a Vibrant Young Colleague

Cuba: 18 Years After a Short-Lived Uprising (by Yoani Sanchez)

But on the morning of August 5 of that year, the Malecón became a battlefield. Around the ferry dock to Regla people were gathering, encouraged by the hijackings of several boats throughout the summer. An extended sensation of the end, of chaos, of “zero hour” was palpable in the atmosphere.

RELEASES

From Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: As A Dozen Former U.S. Foreign Policy Makers Endorse Document Rejecting Commercial Ties With Cuba While Castros Remain In Power, Ros-Lehtinen Congratulates Them For Putting Freedom First

(see the release below the fold)

Read more