Today we are joined by César Brioso
, author of the book Last Seasons in Havana: The Castro Revolution and the End of Professional Baseball In Cuba
(University of Nebraska Press, 2019). Blending the love for baseball fans in Cuba had during the 1950s with the political upheaval that led to Fidel Castro’s rise to power in 1959, Brioso weaves a fascinating tale. Brioso focuses on the last two seasons of the Havana Sugar Kings of the International League (1958-1959) and the last three seasons of the Cuban League (1958-1961). In the 1950s, Havana was a city teeming with rabid baseball fans, swanky hotels, luxurious casinos, and warm, tropical weather. Influential baseball men in Cuba like Bobby Maduro believed Havana was on the short list to earn a major league franchise when baseball expanded. But what happened politically signaled the death knell for those dreams. Castro may have been a big sports fan, but political events in Cuba would take “a sinister turn” as he and the Communists in his regime tightened their grip on the Caribbean island. Brioso’s extensive research, plus more than 20 interviews with former players, Maduro’s son, and even a man who spent a year as the batboy for the transplanted Sugar Kings in Jersey City, New Jersey, gives the reader a unique perspective about Cuba. Former major leaguers interviewed included Orlando Peña, Pedro Ramos, Cookie Rojas and Luis Tiant.
Bob D’Angelo was a sports journalist and sports copy editor for more than three decades and is currently a digital national content editor for Cox Media Group. He received his master’s degree in history from Southern New Hampshire University in May 2018. He is the author of Never Fear: The Life & Times of Forest K. Ferguson Jr. (2015), reviews books on his blog, Bob D’Angelo’s Books & Blogs, and has reviewed books for Sport In American History. Can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.