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March 19, 2006

Baseball Is Cuba's Pastime

World Baseball Classic at

Cuba's field manager, Higinio Velez told reporters, "hosting games in the next [World Baseball Classic] is the maximum ambition that any country that loves baseball could have." Velez thinks that based on the success of this year's inaugural edition the World Baseball Classic, it should be every two years. (The next WBC is scheduled for 2009). Gene Orza, executive vice-president of the land called Major League Players Association (the MLPA is a major sponsor of the event) provides qualified support. "I think Cuba could host games in the next edition, although not the games in the last rounds; but I don't see why it [Cuba] couldn't host the first round games." Orza disagrees that the WBC should be a biennial event stating that the cost to the event's organizers is US$50 million.

Higinio Velez
The Cuban team beat the virtual all-star Dominican Republic baseball team in a Spring Classic (WBC) semi-final game Saturday afternoon in San Diego, California. Cuba advances to the Finals. Does this mean that Cuba's political ideology is superior to the United States' ideology?

The U.S. baseball team was eliminated before the semi-final round. Commentators have commented frequently how this is about baseball, not about politics, as if that bifurcation was hygienic. "Nationalism" has been aroused at the World Baseball Classic and "nationalism" is a political entity.

Under socialism, it was believed that talented athletes (as well as scientists, teachers, and janitors) would be motivated by patriotic duty to perform for their country, Rather than by money. A new socialist basis for the relationships among players, fans, and the sport would result in a higher caliber play, greater fan appreciation, and a stronger public identity with sports—in short, a superior system. ["CUBAN BASEBALL Ideology, Politics, and Market Forces" by Katherine E. Baird, 2003]

Gene Orza
Most baseball purists believe that at least a seven-game head-to-head series between Cuba and the United States is the only way to decide which ideology is more potent and right directed.

The history of baseball in Cuba begins in the 1860s. The exact direction of fertilization has been debated. Either well-to-do Cuban students studying in the United States came home from school with bats or baseballs or American sailors introduced the game while docked in Cuba's ports. Or both.

Writing in the September [1996] issue of the Journal of American History; [Lou] Perez, [history professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill] says that baseball was introduced to Cuba in the 1860s by returning students. The sport was fully embraced by all Cubans, particularly because it became associated with modernity, progress and independence. In the struggle for independence, many Cuban baseball players "put their baseball bats down and picked up the machete," says Perez. By the time the United States arrived in Cuba in 1898 (during the Spanish-American War), Cubans were already playing baseball. Such was their zeal that, according to Perez, professional Cuban teams regularly beat visiting U.S. teams [Black Issues in Higher Education, April 18, 1996]

As can be expected, there is some conflicting thought about the first game and how the sport arrived in Cuba, but what seems most likely is that at some point in the 1860s, elite Cubans who had attended college in the U.S. began to bring back, along with their university degrees, a new game called baseball. Although in fewer than 15 years the game's popularity grew enough to form a viable (then, shortly thereafter, thriving) professional league ["Studying Baseball -- Havana Style" by Eric Henager, Fall 2002]

Baseball came to Cuba in the 1860's. Brought by Cubans who studied in the United States and American sailors in Cuban ports. It quickly spread through the island and took heart with the Cuban people who were fighting for their independence from Spain. [History of Baseball in Cuba website]
By the time Cuba achieved independence from Spain in 1898, baseball had been popular on the island nation for nearly 40 years. In 1946, the Havana Cubans joined the Florida International League as an affiliate of MLB's Washington Senators, and thus, Cuba then became a direct participant in U.S. professional baseball. In 1954, the Cubans' owner moved the Havana team to the Triple-A International League, renaming the team the Cuban Sugar Kings. The team was affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds and was so successful that in 1959, it won the minor league World Series. Many Cubans hoped that there would one day be a Cuban MLB franchise. Those hopes ended with the success of the Cuban revolution in 1959.

And that brings us to the present, as the Cuban national team seems poised to win the first edition of the World Baseball Classic. What remains to be seen is who are the Cubans destined to beat: Team Japan or Team Korea? The answer will be known sometime on March 20.


March 18, 2006

Delta Dragons Beat Washington Presidents

Link to Game Report
The second 10-inning game in a row. CBA's team of musicians, the visiting Delta Dragons needed ten innings to beat the Washington Presidents, 12-7. These two teams, historically, have not met on the regular season playing fields too often since the Presidents used to compete in the now defunct Over and Upper Leagues and the Dragons competed in the Under and Middle Leagues.


March 15, 2006

2006 Cosmic Season Opens

Season 2006 Main Plate
The Cosmic Baseball Association commenced its 25th cosmic playing season today when the Paradise Pisces played the Dharma Beats in the 2006 season opener inside the DharmaDome.

For the 2006 season there are 101 cosmic baseball players; 14 of them are women. There are four teams organized into one Cosmic Baseball League. (See the field table at left). Because of the recent contraction there are no non-humanoid cosmic baseball teams playing this season. That fact is likely to be controversial.

The league has four rookies, two are playing for the Pisces (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Pat Nixon); and two rookies have joined the Delta Dragons (Stuart Price, Albert Ayler). There are two notable changes in the management/coaching ranks: Andrew Card replaces Karl Rove as the field manager of the Washington Presidents and Tess Rose Lampert joins the Dragons' coaching staff.

Pisces Beat Beats in Opener, 6-5

It took ten innings but the Paradise Pisces defeated the Dharma Beats in the Season 2006 opener . At the end of nine innings, the game was locked in a 5-5 tie. In the top of the tenth, the Beats sent poet Amiri Baraka to the mound in relief of poet Lew Welch. Racecar driver and Pisces shortstop Lance Reventlow flied out to right field. Then, filmmaker Spike Lee, a Pisces pinch-hitter, singled up the middle. Guitarist George Harrison advanced Lee to second base when Harrison grounded out to the shortstop. With two outs, Pisces catcher and software support specialist Felicia Gleaton came up to bat. Gleaton battled Baraka to a 3-2 count. Then Gleaton got hold of a Baraka fastball and singled into right centerfield. Lee came across the plate with the go-ahead run. In the bottom of the tenth Pisces poet Elizabeth Browning went to the mound in relief of Oliver W. Holmes. (Holmes would be credited with the win; parenthetically, Oliver is no relation to Beat reserve outfielder John Clellon Holmes). Browning got writer Jack Kerouac to fly out to the first baseman. Poet Gregory Corso got a bloop single, and represented the tying run. Poet Philip Whalen struck out on three pitches, all of them Browning curveballs. The game ended when Beat associate and third basewoman Natalie Jackson hit the ball on the ground and into the glove of the Pisces shortstop Reventlow who recorded the final out by throwing the ball into the glove of Pisces first baseman Fats Domino. Let the games continue...


March 13, 2006

CBA Contracts Again

2006 Cosmic Team Rosters
In a bold swipe of the scalpel, eight cosmic baseball teams have been deactivated as the 2006 Cosmic baseball season stands inches away. In a remarkable moment of surgery, the Cosmic Baseball Association has dramatically reduced the number of active cosmic teams.

The following teams were deactivated on March 11 [team activation dates in brackets]:

Alphatown Ionians [12/31/1981]
Vestal Virgins [7/15/1982]
Wonderland Warriors [8/31/1983]
Heartland Capitalists [11/30/1983]
Bolex Poetics [3/4/1996]
Motherland Mothers [1/18/1999]
New Ceutical City Pharmers [2/22/2004]
Omegatropolis Procoders [1/23/2005].

The followinng four teams will compete during the 2006 Cosmic Baseball Season.

The first whispers of "contraction" began in 2001 when there were 24 teams in three leagues. On December, 2001 this news item appeared: [S]ome within the association have advocated that cosmic baseball like Major League Baseball should consider an overall reduction in the number of teams..[However] no plans have been made to reduce the number of active teams...

No further rumours of contraction surfaced until early 2004. A January 26 news item that year carried the following ominous information: A secret report prepared by a group of individuals at the Cosmic Baseball Research Alliance recommends that the Cosmic Baseball Association reduce the overall number of active cosmic baseball playing teams by half...

On February 23, 2004 the CBA published "Special Directive No. 3" which reduced the size of the cosmic playing teams by half and reduced the number of playing leagues from three to two.

The actions of March 11, 2006 further reduce the number of cosmic teams. There are now just four (4) teams organized into one (1) playing league.

Is less more, more or less?


March 12, 2006

2006 Jack Kerouac Memorial Game

Link to Game Report
In life American writer Jack Kerouac never had any substantial money. When he died in 1969, his personal estate was not worth a lot of money. Years later, his posthumous value began to grow. Today, in 2006, a photograph that includes Kerouac with friends William Burroughs, Hal Chase, and Allen Ginsberg at Columbia University, recently sold for over US$7,500. (Rare Beat memorabilia auctioned for hurricane victims).

On February 18, 2006 a book entitled STASHOU and YASHOU was "officially released" by TheDeepArchives, Inc. The book is described as a "Special Limited Edition Portfolio", and as a "Photographic Art Portfolio paying special tribute to an unparalleled friendship between American Abstract Expressionist Painter and Photographer, STANLEY TWARDOWICZ, and the "King of the Beats," JACK KEROUAC.". The book was conceived and produced by Paul Kowalchuk, designed by Lillian Dodson, handcrafted by Amanda Thackray, and include portrait photographs taken by artist Stanley Twardowicz. The photographs were taken by Twardowicz when he visited Kerouac in Lowell in June, 1967. The book can be purchased for US$4,950.

Twardowicz and Kerouac became friends when Kerouac moved to Northport, New York in 1958. Kerouac lived there, off and on, until 1964. Among the people the "King of the Beats" knew and influenced are Carol Watson. She was fifteen in the late 1950s [and] she remembers Kerouac as an inspirational figure. "...He was probably the first philosophy teacher I had. Jack Kerouac made me a thinking person," declares Watson who became a teacher.

While living in Westport, on Long Island's north shore, Kerouac frequented Gunther's Tap Room, which today "remains the same bluecollar watering hole" that it was in the early 1960s. "Jack wasn't too good with money," [owner Peter] Gunther said, chuckling, adding that Kerouac would sneak a bottle of Canadian whisky into the bar and take swigs in the bathroom. Gunther's mother tended bar during the day then. "She used to tell me she had no idea how Jack was getting so drunk. But we figured it out...Gunther described Kerouac as a charming man who was as compatible with the gruff clam diggers as he was with the professionals and artists who came to the bar." Growing up as a teenager in Northport in the early 1960s, George Trent met and was befriended by Kerouac. Construction worker Charles Pellegrino, Northport High School football player Jimmy Farabaugh, architecht Larry Smith, and Bill Shotwell who played softball with Kerouac in Northport...All report having been influenced by their association with Kerouac.

Link to 2006 Jack Kerouac Memorial Game Report


March 6, 2006

China Strikes Out

Team China
Team China lost three straight games in the World Baseball Classic and they are the first team to depart the inaugural international baseball competition. Japan, Korea and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) scored a combined forty runs while the Chinese players tallied only six over the three games. In the game on Sunday against Taiwan China's first baseman Chen Zhe dropped a ball fouled by Taiwan's third baseman Yung-Chi Chen. Too bad because there were two outs, the bases were loaded, and on the next pitch, Chen hit the Spring Classic's first grand slam. It was only the fourth inning but Team China was finished.

The Chinese Baseball League was formed in 2002. For the foreign entrepreneurs who have put the fledgling league together, however, there is talk of history to be made, of glory to be won and, most of all, fortunes to be earned. [New York Times, 2004]. The baseball team from China is managed by Jim Lefebvre, a former Major League Baseball player (1965-1972, .251 career batting average; played all years with the Dodgers, wore uniform number 5). On January 7, 2006 Lefebvre said, "At the international level, baseball is still very young in China, but in time, I really think it could become the No. 1 team sport in the country. And someday, China will be a world power in baseball."

According to sports historian Joseph Reaves' timeline of baseball in China, the sport got its start in the middle of the 19th century when the Shanghai Baseball Club was created in 1863. In 1872, a group of Chinese students who had been sent to the United States to study formed the Oriental Baseball Club. (In 1879, future political leader, Sun Yat-sen lives in Hawaii and learns baseball there). In 1911, Sun Yat-sen forms a baseball club in the capital of Hunan province. Sun Yat-sen's Changsha baseball club teaches its students how to throw grenades like baseballs.

Reaves suggests a useful theory in trying to understand the history of baseball in China.

[B]aseball was played regularly in China as much as a decade before the game was introduced into Japan. The Shanghai Baseball Club was founded in 1863 and while it catered to expatriates, the sport of baseball developed a strong appeal in the 1870s among students of the Chinese Educational Mission. Students of the Mission were supposed to spend fifteen years in the United States and another two years traveling to gain practical experience before returning to China to devote the rest of their lives in public service. But long before all-but one or two students were graduated, the mission was abandoned, in large part because its members succumbed to the motive of imitation. They formed their own baseball team, called the Orientals, and were summoned home by the Imperial Court which was aghast that its best and brightest students had forsaken their heritage to embrace baseball. The student's motive of imitation was crushed by the impulse of rejection, imposed from afar by isolated ethnocentrics. The early foothold baseball had in China faded because-unlike Japan, Canada, and the Caribbean of the time-China's leaders never were impressed with the United States as a model of civilization. (Joseph A. Reaves, "A History of Baseball in China”, 1998 Proceedings of the North American Society for Sports History)
China (0-3) and Taiwan (1-2), both Pool A teams have been eliminated. The classic continues on Tuesday, March 7.


February 13, 2006

Where Have You Gone Hiram Gabriel Bithorn?

A columnist at The Nation magazine's online website writes about a "perceived anti-immigrant climate in baseball, where Latino players often feel mocked and marginalized?" (Zinn @ The Nation)

The columnist is writing in the context of the controversy that pits Roberto Clemente against Jackie Robinson. The controversy is a result of the suggestion that Roberto Clemente's baseball uniform number (21) should be retired from Major League baseball in the same manner that Jackie Robnison's No. 42 was retired.

Jackie Robinson's daughter does not think retiring Clemente's number, in the same manner as her father's, is the right thing to do. "When you start retiring numbers across the board, for all different groups, you're kind of diluting the original purpose," said Ms. Robinson.

The groups in question here are African-Americans and Latinos. Some commentators have identified an irony in Ms. Robinson's opinion. They point out that Jackie Robinson's legacy is about inclusion while his daughter's emphasis is on exclusion.

Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play Major League Baseball in 1947. Roberto Clemente was not the first Latino Major League player. Others point out that Clemente's social impact on the game is not comparable to Robinson's inluence. So this debate, with its potentially divisive elements, appears weeks before the inagural World Baseball Classic which we also refer to as the "Spring Classic" or the "Vernal Classic". It is Major League Baseball's attempt to market baseball as an international sport with global connections and economic opportunities.

It also appears after more than a week of racial unrest between African-American and Latino prison inmates in Los Angeles County's prison system. L.A. County sheriff's officials acknowledged that they have been overwhelmed by a week's worth of violence that has left at least 28 hospitalized and nearly 90 injured. The worst of the attacks occurred Saturday at Pitchess' North County Correctional Facility. Killed in that attack was a black inmate, Wayne Tiznor, 45, a convicted rapist in jail on a parole violation for failing to register as a sex offender. Investigators said they traced Saturday's riot to Mexican Mafia prison gang leaders, who they said "greenlighted" Latino jail inmates to attack blacks. Since then, violence has continued at Pitchess in Castaic as well as at the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. County Sheriff Lee Baca said black inmates are in the greatest danger because Hispanics outnumber them two-to-one in the County's 21,000-inmate system.

It is no secret that fewer African Americans are playing the game of baseball than ever before. On opening day [in 2005], nine percent of all Major Lague Baseball players were African American. In 1974, 27 percent of the league was black. In fact, in a recent interview with USA Today, Baltimore Oriole professional scout Deacon Jones admitted that if Jackie Robinson were around today that he would still feel unsatisfied with the progress made. (By Zachary Kenworthy: April 26, 2005)

Popular lore says that baseball came to Latin America during the many American occupations during the 19th century. But Lou Perez, history professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says that in many instances baseball actually came to Latin America via the "elite" upper-economic class families pursuing studies in the United States.("Before Canseco - Early History of Latinos in Baseball Full of Hits and Runs Around the Colorline" by Roberto Rodriguez. Black Issues in Higher Education, April 18, 1996 )

There are, however, many more complex and grass-roots reasons beyond how the major league game is packaged and sold. Many blacks are encountering economic and instructional gaps -- they don't have access to the groomed fields, expert instruction and the pay-for-play mentality associated with suburbia. The demise of the two-parent household and the passionate neighborhood volunteer coach have cut the connection between baseball and young blacks. And colleges, by maintaining a low ceiling on baseball scholarships, continue to make football and basketball more attractive options...More than half a century after Jackie Robinson courageously began the integration of major league baseball and a generation after blacks filled one of every four big league roster spots, the African-American ballplayer is becoming a rarity again. ("Blackout : The African-American baseball player is vanishing. Does he have a future?" by Tom Verducci. Sports Illustrated, Issue Date: July 7, 2003)

All this really just a pre-ramble to the dreams of Spring that wash out the painful legacies and realities of the game off the field.

Clemente and Robinson both deserve our attention but that's different than saying both should be honored by Major League Baseball in the same way. Someone
Hiram Birthorn
Hiram Gabriel Bithorn
suggested that an appropraite method of honor is to designate one player on each Major League team each year to wear the honorary No. 23. Clemente, born in Puerto Rico died in a plane crash en route to Nicaragua on a humanitarian mission. Clemente was the 87th Latino player in Major League Baseball. (Cuban-born Esteban Enrique "Steve" Bellan is considered the first "Hispanic" to play in professional baseball in the United States. He played thirdbase for the Troy Haymakers, 1871-1872. Colombian-born Louis Manuel Castro is sometimes offered as the first "Latino" player in the U.S. baseball system. Clemente was not the first Puerto Rican to play Major League Baseball. That honor belongs to Hiram Gabriel (Sosa) Birthorn, a righthanded pitcher who played in his first MLB game on April 15, 1942. Oddly, Bithorn died when he was shot by a policeman on December 30, 1951 in the north of Merxico. The circumstances of Birthorn's death have always been a mystery. Puerto Rico honored Bithorn in 1962 by naming a baseball park in his name. This year, first and second round games of the World Baseball Classic will be played in the Bithorn baseball park in Puerto Rico. Located in the heart of San Juan, Hiram Bithorn Stadium is the largest baseball stadium in Puerto Rico, seating 18,000. It features artificial turf, private air-conditioned boxes and fully equipped media booths. The stadium was part-time home to the Montreal Expos in 2003 and 2004.)

We support appropriately honoring Roberto Clemente, the first Latino elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame. And we believe Jackie robinson holds a unique place in the pantheon of professional baseball history. And we are prepared to support the Spring Classic.

Give globalized baseball a chance. A number of MLB players are eschewing the World Baseball Classic. Barry Bonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Randy Johnson, Hideki Matsui, Tadahito Iguchi...none of these players will play in the tournament. The threat of injury is one concern of the major leaguers. Major League Baseball team executives are not "ecstatic" about the Spring Classic either, says a Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist. We want to see if the sixteen invited teams generate an interesting series of baseball contests that can be transmuted into allegorical cultural polemics.

Where have you gone, Hiram Bithorn? Roberto Clemente turns his lonely eyes to you. What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?

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