Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

The Best that ever came from Cuba

The Best that ever came from Cuba

By Amaury Pi-Gonzalez

I am old enough to remember, and have seen these very good Cuban-born pitchers who made it to the major leagues, and some I had the good fortune of seen them pitch in the Cuban league (prior to the Major Leagues) and then here in Major League Baseball: Luis Tiant, Camilo Pascual, Mike Cuellar, Mike Fornieles,Pedro Ramos,Diego Segui,Orlando (El Duque)Hernandez and his half brother Livan Hernandez, and many others. I have met and interviewed many of the ones I mentioned here. Yes, Tiant had that deception and wind-up where he spinned like a top on the mound. Camilo Pascual has one of the best curveballs I have seen. Cuellar had a great screwball, Ramos out run the great Mickey Mantle, Segui had a great forkball, but nobody that I can remember from Cuba had the electric stuff of Jose Fernandez, which included a great slider with movement at the very end which makes hitters shake their heads in disbelief.

Jose Fernandez tried to escape Cuba on three occasions, but that is nothing new, other players from Cuba (not necessarily pitches) like Kendrys Morales (Kansas City) tried seven times until he finally succeeded. Many, like Fernandez when he was much younger was arrested and put in prison. This has been the story for many of today’s Cuban players in the major leagues. The very dangerous journey of leaving an island with a government that doesn’t grant freedom and opportunity to its people, and baseball players also are people trapped in that country. The dream of every baseball player in the world is to play in the Major Leagues, and that is no exception to Cuban players. After all Cubans have been playing baseball since Esteban Bellan became the first from Latin-American to play in organized baseball in the US with the Troy Haymakers of the old American Association in the 1870’s.Which by-the-way became the National League, as we know it today, in 1876.

Jose Fernandez was somebody very special, who went to the US as a teenager played ball in Miami in High School, learned English, became a Naturalized US Citizen, and was signed to a major league contract by the Miami Marlins. He died Sunday September 25, 2016, in an unfortunate boat accident in South Florida, shocking the Marlins franchise, the baseball world, Cubans and all Latinos alike in Southern Florida and all over the country. Fernandez had an incredible career record of 29 victories and 2 losses at the home of his team, the Miami Marlins.

This morning I received calls from Miami, one from and old very good friend, a longtime Athletics fan that lived in the East Bay until last year and now retired in Miami, as well as others who told me it was the kind of news that shooked up the whole community, even people that did not followed baseball, knew who he was from many local appearances in Dade County (Miami) in person, and his total involvement with the community as well as on television and even in national television commercials.

Jose Fernandez lived for 24 years a dignified live, with passion for the game he loved; baseball. Because of the circumstances, his lost was like that of Puertorican great Roberto Clemente in 1972 when his plane disappeared north of San Juan Puerto Rico, as he was taking a DC-3 plane, he chartered filled with help to the victims of a very strong earthquake in Managua, Nicaragua.

And just like Roberto Clemente, the young Jose Fernandez helped those less fortunate, and was involved with his community in many ways, not only as a baseball player with the Marlins, but as a regular citizen of Miami.

We will never know what kind of career the 24 year old Fernandez would have accomplished, but it is fair for those of all that follow baseball professionally, that Jose Fernandez was one of the best five pitchers in all of Major League baseball at the time of his death.

May he rest in Peace. Que descanse en Paz.




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