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!



Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso: “El pelotero que le abrio la puerta a muchos cubanos”

We say Happy Birthday to Minnie Miñoso. He is either 88 or 90 depending on what story you read.

He was a lot more than a baseball player to those of us who love Latin American baseball and the very special contribution of “latinos” in the majors.

Like Jackie Robinson, Miñoso opened the door for all of the great Latin players who win MVP’s and other awards these days.

He had a huge impact on Cuban and other Caribbean players who wanted to play in the majors

It was Miñoso who opened the door for Orlando Cepeda, the Alou brothers, Tony Oliva, Juan Marichal, Mike Cuellar, Luis Tiant, Roberto Clemente and so many others who came after.

As a boy growing up in Cuba, it was Miñoso drew the large crowds and the #1 topic baseball topic.  He played for Marianao and the top player in the Cuban winter leagues.

Beyond his numbers, a .304 hitter during a 12-year career with the White Sox, his biggest contribution is that he was the Jackie Robinson of black Latin players:

“Jackie Robinson carried the weight of America’s racial animus and of its contradictions on his shoulders as he undertook the task of dismantling organized baseball’s institutionalized culture of racial discrimination. He also bore the hopes of African-Americans in realizing their civil rights aspirations.

Since he was not African-American, Minoso did not fully enjoy the unflagging enthusiasm and wholehearted support that sustained Robinson through the transformative years of integration. This made the trail blazed by the “Cuban Comet” as the Major Leagues first black Latino and as the barrier breaker in Chicago all the more difficult.

Before Roberto Clemente came Minoso. The significance of the Cuban’s entry and success in the Majors was not lost on Hall of Fame outfielder Orlando Cepeda, a native Puerto Rican:

“Believe me when I say that Minnie Minoso is to Latin ballplayers what Jackie Robinson is to black [American] players. … As much as I loved Roberto Clemente and cherish his memory, Minnie is the one who made it possible for all of us Latins.”

Indeed, Minoso truly opened the door of opportunity for all Latinos into the Majors. Other Latin Americans came before him, but they were lighter-skinned Latinos who passed organized baseball’s racial litmus test to maintain its color line. A comparison of the Latinos who performed in the Negro Leagues and those allowed into the Majors reveals that the overwhelming majority of the era’s most talented Latinos toiled in the Negro Leagues.

Minoso’s diamond exploits meant that others like him could follow; it was a critically important step in what ultimately developed into the Latinization of baseball from the 1960s until today.”

We say “thumbs up” to Minnie Miñoso  and wish him a lot more birthdays. He was a lot more than a baseball player. He was a civil rights leader who set the table for so many stars today.


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.