Posted on / by avilramon / in Uncategorized


From The Press Box

By Amaury Pi-González

Cuba was at one time, the second place in the world where baseball was played at the highest level, only second to the US major leagues.

As a matter of fact until 1960 Cuba was the only Latin American country to be awarded a franchise in US territory. In 1946 they were the Havana Cubans.

then and until 1960 The Havana Sugar Kings, they belonged to the Class AAA International League. Their home park was El Gran Estadio del Cerro, which I used to frequent a lot as a kid when my father Joaquin used to take me to the games. Many great major league stars played there, from Octavio “Cookie”Rojas, who I consider a friend and who went to the same school in Havana as yours truly, Colegio La Luz, to such other stars as Tony González, Daniel Morejón, Preston Gómez, Leonardo Cárdenas and Miguel Cuellar among others. It was Joe Cambria who guided the Cuban team founded by the Washington Senators. In 1947 the Cubans were recognized as one of the 100 greatest minor league teams of all time.

Latin American history is not generally taught in American schools. Many  have asked me; how come professional baseball of that caliber disappeared from Cuba?  Simple; a dictator by the name of Fidel Castro Ruz, who announced himself to the world he was a Marxist-Leninist eradicated professional baseball from the island in 1961. But Castro did not stop there, he also eliminated all other pro-sports in the largest island in the Caribbean, like boxing, which Cuba used to excelled worldwide,with the likes of these champions:  Kid Gavilán, Kid Chocolate, Florentino Fernández, Luis Manuel Rodríguez, Benny “Kid”Paret, and Sugar Ramos, they also left Cuba.

Communism, is a centralized type of government, where everything most be controlled by the state, from education, to the economy.The  business of baseball would not be possible in Cuba,  because it most have owners, it is a business, players get paid good money and that is not allowed by the communist, because they do not believe in free-enterprise or free ownership. Unions are not allowed to organize in Cuba, there are no Labor Unions in Cuba. The Cuban government rules. The communist government of Cuba nationalized all industry, including baseball, like the popular Cuban Winter League considered the best winter league in the world, where many American major league players would go to play after the regular MLB season concluded, because it was the highest level of baseball, as well as the highest paid for players, after MLB. (Remember during those years there was no Marvin Miller, the US major league players had no representation, they did not have a union, and they needed to compliment their income after the MLB season ended.  Many major league players like pitcher Bill Werle told me personally years ago. Werle who pitched in the majors with Pittsburgh, St Louis and Boston and in 1956 pitched for the Marianao Tigers of the Cuban Winter League,who won the title that year. Other American players to play in Cuba also included, Brooks Robinson, Bob Allison, Jackie Brandt, Bob Shaw, Jim Running, Al Spangler, Hoyt Wilhem, Wilmer Mizell and many more.

Currently Cuba still produces great baseball  talent, the majority have made it to the major leagues, by defecting from the island or when traveling with Cuban teams in international play, on foreign countries as they left and ask for political exile. José Abreu first baseman of the Chicago White Sox, Rookie of the Year in 2005 said to me, that most Cuban players dream is to play here, in the major leagues, but Cuban players are frustrated because in Cuba there is only one employer, the government and there is no opportunity.  Some Cuban players have defected their country with family members in the dead of night. One of those Yoenis Céspedes, who shared his terrifying journey during his escape from Cuba. Céspedes first major league team the Oakland A’s, never kept him for more than his first three seasons (2012-2014) he was a very popular player, exciting and excellent baseball player, he was a fan favorite.

In 2005 as I spoke with Preston Gómez, he was an advisor to the Los Angeles Angels owner Arturo (Arte) Moreno. We spoke about when in 1999 the Baltimore Orioles played the Cuban National Team in Havana. Bud Selig, Commissioner of baseball asked Preston to travel to Cuba representing MLB and negotiate with Fidel Castro the proposed exhibition series between teams from the two countries. Preston Gómez, a very serious man,  told me – “nobody knows how to negotiate with Castro, because it is usually his way or the highway”.  Nonetheless, Preston Gómez  was crucial for these two countries to at least “make peace:” during this 1999 exhibition baseball series.

Between Cuba and the United States:  When it comes to baseball it doesn’t really matter what government is running the US, what President, what administration. The US is a Democracy and Cuba is a Communist government and no two systems of government in the world could be more different.Those that say, “well,we deal with China, they are communist”, true, but China is a powerful country and the US is now in competition head-to-head with China in the world stage and are the two largest economies in the world, while.

Cuba is a thing of the past, a small country that after 60 years of communism has little to offer the US, but baseball.

Leave a Reply

Previous Next
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this