THE PRIDE OF HAVANA by Roberto González Echevarría


A History of Cuban Baseball
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From the sugarmill leagues to the World Series impact of defectors like Livian Hernandez and “El Duque,” this is a catcher’s-mask view of Cuban culture and history. Gonz†lez Echevarr°a (Hispanic and Comparative Literature/Yale; editor, The Oxford Book of Latin American Short Stories,1997) is a former semi-pro catcher who grew up with amateur baseball in Cuba’s sugarmill country, where it is the local religion. Even Castro couldn—t dampen Cuba’s passion for baseball, which developed there into a patient, artistic game that disdained the American penchant for the beefy slugger and the specialist. Cultural ties with the US were tighter and international issues just as complex in pre-revolution days, when the nations were but a ferry ride apart. The name alone of a Negro League team, the New York Cubans, speaks volumes about the long influence of Cuban baseball, and the race issue, on America’s pastime. Cubans of African descent were often barred from the more professional Cuban leagues before the revolution. Gonz†lez Echevarr°a will surprise fans with the salaries and Hall of Fame names of American ballplayers who played in Cuba (especially as minor leaguers) as early as the 1950s. By the ’70s, the Cuban national team often dominated international competition. One solution by rivals was to deny them visas as Communists: “If you can—t beat them, don—t let them play.” Politics and baseball are stitched together here, and fans will find history and sports well served in a solid text covering most of this century, buttressed by research including interviews with sportscasters, managers, and players. Whether or not the author’s predicted “avalanche” of Cuban players follows any political thaw in US-Cuban relations, his point about Cuba’s impact on the game—and vice versa—is strongly made. (20 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-19-506991-9
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999


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