Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

The Cubans were Pioneers

Although baseball is accredited
to have been invented by an
American, the one country that followed the United States in baseball and spread the game to the rest of Latin America
was Cuba.

Here is a brief history of Cuba, the largest
island of the Caribbean and the heritage
of baseball in that country.

By Amaury Pi-GonzálezChristopher Columbus landed on the

north coast of Cuba in 1492 and claimed

the island for Spain. Cuba became Spain’s

richest colony in the West Indies,and was

often raided by Dutch, British and French


The British captured Havana in 1762,

during the “Seven Years War”,but

returned it to Spain in 1763 under

terms of a treaty.

The Spanish became notorious for

poor treatment of their colonies.

The slaves began revolts, until finally

Spain promised reform. Slavery was

abolished in Cuba in 1886.

Just a few years before, in 1871

when baseball was not much known

outside the United States, Cuba

already had the first Latino players

in professional baseball playing in

the United States.

Cuban Esteban Bellán was the first

Latino player in history to play in the

United States in 1871. Bellán played

with the National Association, which

was the first professional baseball

league in the United States. Bellán

played with the Troy Haymakers and

New York Mutuals from 1871 to 1873.

As we all know the National League

(senior cicuit)was founded in 1876.

In what is today referred as Major

League Baseball, the first ever Latino

player was Colombian Luis Castro

who played for Philadelphia in 1902.

However, between the years of 1871

and 1947 Cubans comprised the great

majority of Latino players in the Major


In 1895 José Martí(The Abraham Lincoln

of Cuba) along with others led a

revolution against Spain. United States

sympathy was with the Cuban

revolutionaries. The United States

Battleship “Maine” was sent to Havana

to protect American citizens in the

island and mysteriously exploted

on February 15, 1898. As a result,

the United States declared war

against Spain. The naval battle of

“Santiago de Cuba”and land battles

of “El Caney”and “San Juan Hill”all

fought in July, were the chief events

of the war.

Spain finally gave up all claims to Cuba

in “Treaty of Paris”signed December

10, 1898.

In 1882 Sandy Nava arrived from Cuba

and played baseball in the United

States followed in 1911 by other

pioneers from Cuba like Rafael Almeida

and Armando Marsans and in

1912 Miguel Angel González arrived

in the United States. González would

become the first ever Latino manager

in the Major Leagues with the

St Louis Cardinals from 1938 to 1941.

It was that same Cuban catcher

Miguel(Mike)González, who played

with the Braves,Reds,Cardinals,

Giants and Cubs who coined the

standard phrase of “Good field no hit”

when he scouted the abilities of a

young amateur prospect.

After the Americans helped Cubans

to liberated themselves from Spanish

rule, the United States then

established a military government

in the island which made much

progress in education,public works,

and health in 1901. The Cubans

adopted a constitution. Tomás Estrada

Palma was the first Democratic

President elected in 1902 and the

United States forces left.

In 1935 Roberto (Tarzan)Estalella

played with the Washington Senators.

Estalella is the grandfather of

Roberto Estalella a catcher in today’s

Major League Baseball.

From 1906 to 1948 Cuba had various

Presidents, some elected via democratic

elections others taking power on

political maneuvers. In 1948 Carlos Prio

Socarrás was elected president. One

year later(1949) Orestes (Minnie)Miñoso

born in Cuba, became the first ever

Latino black player to play in the Major

Leagues as a rookie with the Cleveland


In 1952 Fulgencio Batista overthrew Prio’s

government by a military revolt. Already

Cuba had these players active in

the Major Leagues: Napoleon Reyes,

Adrian Zabala,Regino Otero,Preston Gómez

(who I recently spoke with in Anaheim,

he is advisor to the owners of the

World Champion Anaheim Angels),

Roberto Ortiz,Conrado Marrero,

Carlos Pascual,Willy Miranda,

Cisco Campos,Rafael Noble, Mike

Fornieles,Sandy Amorós and

Hector Rodríguez.

In 1956 Ozzie Virgil became the first

Dominican ever to play in the Major

Leagues. Before Ozzie, dozens of

Cubans paraded with Major League

teams. The Washignton Senators

because of super-scout Joe Cambria

had the “pipeline”to a lot of Cuban

talent during the 1950s.

Starting in 1956 a band of rebels, led

by a lawyer by the name of Fidel

Castro Ruz, waged guerrilla

warfare against Batista’s army.

In 1958 these rebels succeeded in

paralyzing Cuba’s vital sugar industry

and on New Year’s Day, 1959, they

overthrew the Batista government.

I witnessed these events as a young

kid in 1958-59. I remember how

almost the 6 million Cubans then

rejoiced in Castro’s triumph, who

promised Cubans free elections, but

has been in power since as a Communist

dictator for over 40 years and has

outlived 9 US Presidents.

Since 1961 when Cuba and the United

States broke diplomatic relations many

Cuban players arrived and played in

the Major Leagues. Cuba has two

players in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown,

Martin Dihigo(elected in 1977)by a

special election, he was a Negro League

superstar. He played all nine positions,

including pitcher. Cool Papa Bell said

of Dihigo: “The greatest player I’ve

ever saw in the Negro Leagues” And

most recently Tony Pérez, from Camaguey

Cuba, one of the great players of the

Cincinnati Big Red Machine during the

1970s. Tony Pérez son, Ed is with

the St Louis Cardinals.

Other famous Cuban players in recent

history: Camilo Pascual,José Valdivielso,

Carlos Paula,Tony Taylor, Octavio(Cookie)

Rojas,Zoilo Versalles,Leo Cárdenas, Leo

Posada, uncle of Jorge Posada, catcher

of today’s New York Yankees.

José Tartabull and his son

Danny Tartabull, Diego Seguí,

Ed Bauta,Luis Tiant,Mike de la Hoz, Tony

González, Campy Campaneris,Tony Oliva,

Jose Cardenal,Tito Fuentes,Pedro Ramos,

Barbaro Garvey,José Canseco,Orlando and

LiváHernández, Rey Ordoñez and many


Baseball has always been the National

Passtime in Cuba. Even before Castro

was born or his father or his

grandfather. Cuba’s government takes

a lot of credit for developing great

baseball talent.

It is also a fact that Cubans taught

the game of baseball to other countries

in Latinamerica like,Mexico,Dominican

Republic and Puerto Rico.

Other interesting notes about Cuba:

-When Columbus discovered Cuba in 1492,

he thought he had found a western route

to India.

-Cuba grows more sugar cane than any

other country in the world.

-For over 100 years Cuban cigars have

been considered the best in the world.

-Coffee is #3 in Cuba after Sugar cane

and Cigars as the biggest export.

-The name of Cuba comes from the Indian

word of Cubanacan which means center


-Cuba is slightly smaller than Pennsylvania.

-Cuba’s greatest lenght is 759 miles and

it greatest widht is 135 miles.

-Cuba is often known as the “Pearl of

the Antilles”because of its beauty and

natural wealth.

-Spanish is the official language of


-Spain ruled Cuba for 400 years.

-Three-fourths of all Cubans are

white, of Spanish descent.

-Of the three largest islands in the

Caribbean, Cuba,Dominican Republic

and Puerto Rico, Cuba has the largest

white population.

-A 24-carat diamond is set in the floor

of the Capitol building in Havana, and

is the starting point for measuring

all distances in Cuba.

-Cuba’s Capitol building in Havana is

a replica of the United States

Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

-It is presently prohibited for American

citizens to travel to Cuba. American

citizens need a special permission

by the US State Department in

order to travel legally to Cuba.

-The Castro government doesn’t

permit Cuba’s citizens to travel

freely outside the island.

-Cuba’s government is centralized

with only one party, the Communist

Party of Cuba. There is no free

enterprise in Cuba. The government

owns all the land.

-There still one military base inside

Cuban territory. It is Guantanamo

Base in Guantanamo Bay Cuba in the

Province of Oriente in the east coast

of Cuba.

-Media in Cuba: It is all controlled

by the Cuban government, print

or electronic.

-Since Fidel Castro took over power

in Cuba almost 2 million Cubans have

left the island. If Cuba wasn’t an

island that amount could have easily


-Everyday Cubans risks their lives

and their families escaping Cuba

heading north via the shark infested

waters of the Florida straights.

-Because Cuba is a communist country,

Cubans that set foot in USA territory

cannot be sent back to Cuba. However,

accordintg the present United States

INS law, Cubans fleeing the island can

be returned to Cuba (and are by US Coast

Guards)if they are intercepted at sea.

-If I would have written this article

in Cuba I would have been arrested

and clasified as an “anti-revolutionary”

element, taken to an undisclosed

location. My family would have

been notified after I was interrogated

and many times tortured by the Cuban

government officials.There is NO right

of free-expression in Cuba at all, verbal

or written.

-For people that left Cuba’s system

God Bless America is a real welcome



Amaury Pi-González was born in

Havana, Cuba in 1944. For the

last eight seasons he has been

the Spanish Play by Play announcer

for the National League Champion

San Francisco Giants. Previously for

17 seasons play by play for the

Oakland Athletics.

Amaury’s biography was recently

selected to be in 2003 Marquis

Who’s Who in America book.

More articles from Mr.Pi-González

in English or Spanish are available

on various publications around the

country and on:



1 marty { 11.08.02 at 7:01 pm }

Amaury your contribution to this web site is greatly appreciated. I learned much from this article and feel it is important to always remind the readers of baseball’s roots in Cuba. I was in Miami Beach living and going to school and will never forget the New Year’s Day when Castro took over the island, hearing the news that morning while riding my bike to my sister’s house on Normandy Isle. One of my favorite moments as a baseball historian was interviewing Minnie Minoso on two separate occasions and learning firsthand his passion for the game. When I watch Livan Hernandez play baseball I am reminded of the great Cuban players of the past. Livan can bunt, hit, run, and pitch (a complete player), he is well schooled in baseball. Thanks for the article.

Marty Lurie

2 Anonymous { 11.09.02 at 4:36 pm }

I appreciate it Marty.

I hope this article is to the enjoyment

of people visiting the site. A little

history of Cuba. My birth-land.



3 Anonymous { 11.09.02 at 4:36 pm }

I appreciate it Marty.

I hope this article is to the enjoyment

of people visiting the site. A little

history of Cuba. My birth-land.



4 Anonymous { 11.09.02 at 4:36 pm }

I appreciate it Marty.

I hope this article is to the enjoyment

of people visiting the site. A little

history of Cuba. My birth-land.



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