Always when we are getting close to a day like Cuba’s Independence day (20th of May) think of the contribution made for the Cuban baseball in relation to the struggle for the freedom of Cuba. Because of the war for independence, many ball players didn’t participate in any championships and others changed the bat for the machete to help the armed struggle.
Former manager and player, died in exile in the Spanish missions of Ceuta, almost all Cuban children playing baseball in Key West, sailed to the island to fight as members of the expedition of General Nuñez, who landed in Palo Alto.
This occurred long before the freedom of Cuba and when no one knew of the existence of baseball, Esteban Bellan became in 1871 the first player abroad, Cuban and Latin American to play in the majors and since that time showed the world who were the pioneers, followed by Sandy Nava in 1882.
Although you are not interested world of sports you have to know that sportswriters, for ignorance or malicious intentions, keep saying that the Colombian Luis Castro (who by the way was from Venezuela) was the first Latin American player in large circuits, but in the modern era of baseball.
Between the late 19′s and early 20′s, the Cubans taught the sport of balls and strikes in Mexico and the Caribbean, including Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, with the exception of Panama. Now we are in the doldrums because of our political problem, but what nobody can take away is that we were the first in almost all lines of play.
Adolfo Luque was the first to participate and get a win in the Fall Classic and in the Amateur World Series and Caribbean Series, where we won the last five consecutively.
Only because the Cuban misgovern in our island, we would be for years in the major league of the US, because the Cuban Sugar Kings (Cubans Sugar Kings) of the International League in the Triple A, were appointed to integrate the major leagues before that Montreal and Toronto, under the slogan: “One more step and reach.” 50 years have passed and no other Latin American country has achieved a qualifying team Triple A.
Cubans ball players who has been in higher circuits through history never have been because the product of any political system, but the heritage of the players of yesteryear such as , who won 27 in 1923 season with the Reds Cincinnati, the most ever for a Latin American pitcher and Jose de la Caridad Mendez, who hung 25 zeros to the Cincinnati Reds, Eustaquio “Bowler” Pedroso, who pitched a no-hit innings against the Detroit Tigers in 1909 and John Eckelson Decall Juanito, who remain true amateurs beat the Boston Red Sox and New York Giants, respectively. Rodolfo Fernandez defeated three major league teams who are faced, as did the lefty Agapito Mayor twice, as did Ramon Bragana, Basil “El Brujo” Rosell, Julio “The Jiqui” Moreno, Conrado “The Premier” Marrero, Silvino Ruiz and others who played ninth largest circuit in Cuba.
Miguel Angel Gonzalez (tentatively) and Preston Gomez (official), were the first American to lead major league sets, Minnie Minoso and Marrero, first along the Venezuelan Alfonso “Chico” Carrasquel, to participate in an All-Star Game; Sandalio ” Potrerillo “Consuegra the first champion of American League pitchers, Camilo Pascual, the first striking out 15 batters in a challenge and win 20 in two consecutive years, Tony Oliva, the first to conquer the crown of the batsmen in their first two seasons, Bert Campaneris the first to play all nine positions in a game, Zoilo Versalles the first to be selected MVP of the AL and also integrate with Tony Oliva and three players from the Minnesota Twins, the first quintet scored five runs in one inning., Luis Tiant the first to strike out 19 batters, as well as recorded the first shutout in a Fall Classic to win by the southpaw Mike Cuellar, a whopping 20 four times different, Tony Perez, first to hit three homers in a World Series, Martin Dihigo, only to be elected to the Halls of Fame of four countries (Cuba, Mexico, USA and Venezuela), Jose Canseco, first to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases, in addition to being the first foreigner to reach the 400 films in four corners. All this for only mention a few achievements.
In 1950, when Witt Aloma, Sandalio Consuegra, , Limonar Martinez, Julio Pascual Moreno and Patato Pascual came to the Great Circus, the group of Cubans from 1871 to that date was 51, against only 10 players from other countries: a Colombian (Luis Castro), three Venezuelans (Alejandro “Paton” Carrasquel, Jesus “Chucho” Ramos and Alfonso “Chico” Carrasquel), four Mexicans (Melo Almada, José Luis “Chile” Gomez, Jesse “El Guero” Flowers and Beto Avila), two Puerto Rico (Hiram Bithorn and Luis Rodriguez Olmo). All this without counting the black Cuban stars who could not play for then descrimination as Jose Mendez, Alejandro Oms, Silvio Garcia, Garcia and dozens more that would have doubled or tripled the amount.
To give you an idea of domain of our natives, I would say that when the first Dominican, Ozzie Virgil in 1956 (almost a century after Bell) debuted in the Big Leagues, already had marched 71 Cuban baseball players by Major League, when it was difficult give him opportunities to foreign players, especially since there were only 16 teams and not 30 as now.
In 1967, the first major invasion of Latin American players in the majors, 37 in the NL and 36 in the AL, because they could not get players from Cuba. Despite eight years after the arrival to power of the Castros tyrany, Cubans still dominated the scene with 30, followed by Puerto Rico with 11, Dominican Republic and Venezuela (9), Panama (8) and Mexico 6.
Cubans dominate with four of the nine members of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown Baseball (Martin Dihigo, Tony Perez, Jose Mendez, Cristobal Torriente), despite the injustice that was committed with Luque, Oliva, Tiant, Minoso and Silvio Garcia, who was chosen before Jackie Robinson, breaking the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but was removed by his intolerant Latin temperament.
If not for the totalitarian system that has tyrannized Cuba for 50 years, the Cuban players would dominate, as they always have since 1871. In the irreparable damage that the island has suffered, we must add baseball.
Can you imagine the talent that would had developed Cuba since 1961, to have had baseball academies like the one created by the Cuban Rafael Avila in the Dominican Republic instead of his country.
Remember that we Cuban have baseball in our blood, something that atheistic communism couldn’t take from us, the old Cuba always played the best ball, as in Brazil with soccer, clarifying that the Sport is not an invention of the present. On the contrary, due to the lack of competition and teaching, the current players who escape the island, find it hard to get accustomed right away on the best baseball in the world, with honorable exceptions such as Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez for example.
When the Spaniards wanted to impose to us love for football, saying it was the “Sport of Kings”, Cubans responded by saying that “baseball was the king of sports”.
Baseball Fight Cuban Style