Fidel Castro and Baseball

There is a wonderful baseball story that goes like this. A left-handed pitcher from Cuba got a try-out with the Washington Senators. He was OK, but nothing special, so he wasn’t offered a contract. His name was Fidel Castro and he departed the diamond for a life in politics, eventually becoming ruler of Cuba. Great story, right? The problem is, that it just ain’t so.

In doing my annual Black History Month posts I centered many of them on Cubans. The research led to this story (which I’d heard before). It also led to the kinds of info that make it almost certain the story isn’t true. Here are some reasons to doubt the tale:

1. The story sometimes has Castro get a try-out with the Yankees. Let’s be honest, if they can’t even get it straight which team is involved, what makes you think the tale is true?

2. There is no evidence in the files of the Minnesota Twins (who were the Senators in 1950) that anyone ever suggested that Castro get a try-out or that such a try-out actually occurred.

3. There is never a date given.

4. There is no evidence that Castro ever played in any of the Cuban leagues. There is one box score showing an F. Castro pitching for his law school team, but nothing beyond that. You’d think there’d be a box score somewhere, or a score book with the info on at least one game, wouldn’t you? And wouldn’t you think that the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame would have copies?

5. After becoming ruler of Cuba, Castro, who really does like baseball, set up a barnstorming team that played around in various Cuban towns. The idea was to familiarize the fans with Castro, to show him as just one of the guys, and to give him a chance to relax. There are pictures of this. Here’s one:

Castro pitching

Castro pitching

And another:

Castro following through

Castro following through

Nice shots, right? Notice something? Castro is right-handed, not a lefty. This adds strength to the contention that he never had a try-out with the Senators.

Now I’ll admit that I’m as guilty of spreading Urban Legends as the next guy. Some of them sound plausible. I’ve also been gullible enough to accept some of them. This happens to be one. One of the good things about doing this blog is that the research sheds light on all sorts of things, including Urban Legends. Apparently Castro never got a tryout with Washington. OK, too bad, but it does make a heck of a story doesn’t it?


3 Responses to “Fidel Castro and Baseball”

  1. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    Yes, it does make one heck of a story!

    So it wasn’t true AFTER all!

    Sort of like the teacher told us about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree.

    But at LEAST the teacher didn’t tell us that George Washington tried out for the Washington Senators! (“First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League!”) No. The teacher taught us that (George) Washington was, and properly so, “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

    Washington. A great man. Which is more than can be said for Castro.

    Nice piece, V!


  2. William Miller Says:

    You know, the Mets are always looking for a few good men (or at least breathing humans) to play the outfield. Castro’s not dead yet, is he?

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