Fidel Castro and Baseball: The Untold Story
In this thorough history, Bjarkman (Cuba’s Baseball Defectors
), examines Cuba’s baseball leagues after Fidel Castro’s rise to power in 1959, as well as several myths about Castro’s own baseball prowess and his impact on the country’s favorite sport. The future rebel leader, supposedly a pitcher gifted with a “wicked bleeping curveball,” was allegedly pursued by American big league scouts as a teen, but Bjarkman debunks that claim as merely hype created during photo ops. As for Castro’s actual involvement in the sport, Bjarkman notes Castro’s strong influence in creating a showcase of the minor league Havana Sugar Kings team and his expansion of the Cuban professional league from the original four clubs to a dozen by the first decade after the revolution. And though American sport pundits complained that Cuban teams used pros, not amateurs, to dominate in various international competitions, Bjarkman points out that American teams have long benefited from such Cuban-trained stars as Yoenis Cespedes (New York Mets), Aroldis Chapman (Yankees), and Yasiel Puig (2010s L.A. Dodgers). Bjartman’s insightful survey of Castro-era baseball deserves a broad audience. (Dec.)
Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated when Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman played professional baseball.