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Baseball Diplomacy

Do Two Historic Matchups of Cuban and American Teams Signal a Softening of International Tensions?
Jim Daniels
From the Print Edition:
Ernest Hemingway, Jul/Aug 99

(continued from page 2)

At the end of the last century, when Cuba was still under the iron grip of Spain, Cubans were forced to accept a number of Spanish cultural traditions, such as soccer. It was against the backdrop of the 1898 revolution that baseball was introduced to the island.

Following the first game, Castro, who did not attend the second game, in Baltimore, held a private reception for the players and dignitaries involved with the series. That function had all the trappings of a political affair. Inside an ornate room in the government palace, Castro, dressed in a stylish blue suit and red tie, was flanked by his interpreter and Ray Miller, manager of the Orioles.

The economic difference between the two classes of players was underscored as they met Fidel, the Orioles players dressed in designer clothes and the Cubans wearing warm-ups. After the formal reception, everyone sat down to an elegant dinner where the Cuban president worked the room like any politician, walking from table to table and addressing dozens of American guests by name.

At an ice cream parlor in Havana, a discussion about Cuba's future among common folk observed no such politesse and included views that would probably not please the Cuban government. One woman was asked about what the Cuban people think about the future. "They don't form a thought about the future," she said. "They are busy surviving in the present." Pressed about what would happen to Cuba when Fidel dies, she said she feared the worst since no one is in place to take over for Castro. An American visitor added that Fidel is the oil that keeps the machine of government going. "No," she said, "he is the machine."

Jim Daniels is a freelance writer based in Maine.

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