That quote is reportedly from Tom Callahan’s major league scouting report on Fidel Castro. In his early rabble-rousing days, Castro fancied himself quite a pitcher. This isn’t too much of a surprise, as baseball in the nineteen forties and fifties, as it is today, was hugely popular in Cuba. Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans are recognized as the first Cuban born players to appear in a major league game, and that was for the Cincinnati Reds all the way back in 1911. And in 1923, Dolfe Luque won 27 games for the Reds, while former Cincy slugger Tony Perez is in the Hall of Fame.
|The Cuban Fireballer on the mound in 1959*.|
Callahan’s quote can’t be entirely discounted, but it certainly seems like a fabricated story. However, back in 1950, future major league infielder Don Hoak had an on the field encounter with Castro that is probably true.
|Hoak (#43) was at third for an|
injured Jackie Robinson when
Johnny Podres clinched the
only World Series title in Brooklyn
Dodgers history in 1955.
During a winter league game in 1950 or 1951, Hoak was playing for the Cienfuegos club when a group of law students took over the field and Fidel Castro took to the mound. Hoak recounts the experience that he wrote with legendary Pittsburgh Steelers announcer Myron Cope in The Day I Batted Against Castro.
*Shortly after assuming the Presidency, Castro founded a barnstorming baseball team, 'Los Barbudos' (The Bearded Ones), consisting mostly of rebels who had fought with him. They played games to raise money for the Havana Sugar Kings**, who played in the AAA International League from 1954 to 1960 as an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. On July 24th, 1959, Los Barbudos played an exhibition against the Cuban National Police prior to a Sugar Kings – Rochester Red Wings game. 26,532 fans saw Castro pitch one scoreless inning, striking out two (no doubt with a generous strike zone from the umpire).
**In 1960, after Castro had nationalized all US owned enterprises in Cuba, baseball Commissioner Ford Frick moved the Sugar Kings to New Jersey, where they became the Jersey City Jerseys. That team eventually moved to Norfolk, VA and became the Tidewater (now Norfolk) Tides.