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Commie Ball
November 8, 2009 9:08 PM   Subscribe

Cuban players have long been a mainstay in baseball. After Fidel Castro made it impossible for people to leave the island, the flow of players stopped to a drip. That changed with the defection of Rene Arocha in 1991.

The potential to make big money has led to more defections. Joe Cubas is the most prominent agent working with these players.

Michael Lewis recently wrote a great article in Vanity Fair about the lives of baseball players in Cuba and looks at the saga of defector Yuniesky Betancourt and his agent, Gus Dominguez.

Players are still defecting.
posted by reenum (4 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Every time I mentioned that I was writing a book about Cuban baseball, the first thing Americans said had to do with Fidel's (which is how we Cubans call him, never "Castro") alleged prowess in the sport, and the irony that, had he been signed by the Senators or the Giants, there would have been no Cuban Revolution. The whole thing is a fabrication by an American journalist whose name is now lost, and it is never told in Cuba because everyone would know it to be false. Let it be known here that Fidel Castro was never scouted by any major-league team, and is not known to have enjoyed the kind of success in baseball that could have brought a scout's attention to him."
posted by iviken at 12:11 AM on November 9, 2009


I'm curious as to how baseball became so popular in Latin America. Did anyone else notice the advertisement with the prominent Spanish-language URL the Yankees has behind home plate in the World Series?

Incidentally (in that the protagonist is Dominican, not Cuban), I just saw the movie Sugar and enjoyed it thoroughly.
posted by exogenous at 7:48 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm curious as to how baseball became so popular in Latin America.

According to possibly apocryphal lore, American sailors docked in Matanzas in 1866 showed sugar plantation workers how to play. So it all began in Cuba. Cubans brought it to the Dominican Republic. Venezuelan students studying in hte US brought the game home with them. The Nicaraguan game got a strong start from the US Consul a century ago.

It isn't all of Latin America -- it's primarily the Caribbean basin countries, including Venezuela, and the US influence is clear in the region.
posted by dhartung at 10:49 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm curious as to how baseball became so popular in Latin America.

There's a timeline on that Frontline page (the first link) that mentions that the Cuban league was up and running by 1878, which sort of blew my mind. It also has Cubans introducing the sport to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in the 1890s, which again surprised me. That's got to be the germ of it, though.

I remember reading months ago about baseball camps being set up by major league teams in Brazil. I figured that Brazilians who played baseball were spilling over the border from Venezuela, but, in fact, the camps are all in southern Brazil, because the sport was actually introduced there by Japanese migrants, all of which goes to show that . . . culture travels in unpredictable ways, I guess.
posted by Copronymus at 11:10 AM on November 9, 2009


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