There are two key elements of today’s professional baseball that are informed by Lou Hernandez’s wonderful book Bobby Maduro and the Cuban Sugar Kings (McFarland, 2019): the increased presence of Latinos both on the field and off in MLB, and the interest of MLB to promote its game internationally, particularly in places such as Latin America. The life and career of Bobby Maduro sheds light on both of these topics.
First, Maduro was greatly responsible for the Cuban League’s recognition by professional baseball (in the US). Within this framework, many Americanos played baseball in Cuba, and were exposed to the level of talent not only from that nation, but from elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking baseball world. This helped open the door to even more Latinos to make it into the higher levels of the minors, as well as eventually into the Majors. Second, Maduro was responsible for bringing AAA-level competition to Cuba. With the positive response of the fans (even in the midst of revolutionary turmoil), it did seem that, someday, the Sugar Kings’ slogan would come to fruition: “Un paso mas, y llegamos” (“One more step/level, and we’ll arrive”) meaning that Havana would have had its own MLB franchise before cities such as Montreal and Toronto. Unfortunately, as with so many other tragic results of the Castro dictatorship, that dream is now not only on hold, but it is surely dead for at least one or two more lifetimes.
Bobby Maduro almost made that dream a reality. An examination of his career, and that of the Sugar Kings, provides great contextualization to the realities of MLB in the early 21st century. Hernandez’s book accomplishes this task very effectively.
Jorge Iber is a professor of history at Texas Tech University.