Letter to the Editor:Would’ve a Sanctuary City Back Then have changed Fidel Castro’s Course in History If He started Piching in Foss Park?

From a recent Sports Illustrated article that tells the story of Fidel Castro. 

Before he decided to go into dictating, Fidel Castro was into pitching. Among the longballs he gave up was one to my baseball managerial idol, Dick Williams (which Williams writes about in ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’, his autobiography). One has to wonder what history would have looked like had the Giants picked up his option. Life is, indeed, a microcosm of baseball…
“Righthanded pitcher Fidel Castro once tried out for the Washington Senators and later turned down a $4,000 signing bonus from the New York Giants. Instead, he led the Cuban revolution and became that nation’s communist dictator. Still. Castro pitched in an occasional exhibition game for the Cuban army team. In 1959, while hurling for Los Barbudos (the Bearded Ones), he fanned two hatters in one inning. “When the arbiter called /one/ batter out on a high, inside pitch,” reported The Sporting News, “Castro dashed to the plate and shook hands with the ump.” Kind of makes you wonder: What might have been had Castro signed with the Giants?
“By the time he turned 22, in 1948, Castro had lost the curveball that had served him so well at his Jesuit prep school (where he was named outstanding athlete) and at the University of Havana (where he first attracted scouts). And as former Washington Senator owner Calvin Griffith has said, Castro “didn’t have a fastball.” So the New York Giants dealt him, even though they loved the fact that he regularly denounced “Yankee imperialism” in the New York papers.
“Castro was sent to Cincinnati, where he became the Reds’ ineffectual, left-leaning player representative. To distance themselves from their radical middle reliever, the Reds began calling themselves the Redlegs during these, the McCarthyite 1950s. Castro felt betrayed by the franchise.
“In flagrant violation of the Redlegs’ dress code, he began wearing olive-drab fatigues when traveling. Teammates mockingly called him El Jefe, or the Boss. Firing up one of the White Owl cigars that he favored, Castro set his beard ablaze while savoring a rare victory in the Crosley Field clubhouse in 1954. Four decades after his whiskers cooled, Castro still hasn’t extinguished the aftereffects of El Comandante’s Inferno, as the incident will forever be known in Cincinnati. The debacle led to the Reds’ policy of banning facial hair, a rule that remains in effect to this day.
“But it was Castro’s nonchalance after losses that most galled his teammates and led to his release in 1960. After each bad outing, Castro would coolly tell reporters assembled at his locker, “History will absolve me.” It did not.
“Meanwhile, Fulgencio Batista remained in power in the vacation paradise of Cuba until his death in 1973. Professional baseball, of course, flourishes on the island. Spring training’s Sugar League has attracted thousands of fans from the U.S. each season, and baseball fever in Cuba has reached epidemic proportions in this expansion season of ’93, as the National League’s new Havana Sugar Kings have drawn sellout crowds since Opening Day. (What’s more, under manager Mike Cuellar, the former Baltimore Oriole—who in fact pitched for Batista’s army team in 1955—the Sugar Kings have played well enough to outdistance the Mets and stand clear of the cellar at the All-Star break.)
“As for Castro, he has not attended a ball game anywhere since 1986. That summer, in yet another curious display of personal politics, he was arrested outside the ballpark in Houston for allegedly trying to paint a C in front of the word ASTRODOME.”

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