SABR

Bobby Maduro

This article was written by Rory Costello.

Cuban entrepreneur Roberto “Bobby” Maduro was a singular baseball man. When he passed away in 1986, the news made the front page of El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish newspaper of Miami, where he and so many of his countrymen made their home after Fidel Castro took power. In that story, Fausto Miranda (the dean of the island’s sportswriters), composed an elegant eulogy.

“To remember the personality of Bobby Maduro as a distinguished Cuban sportsman does not do him justice. The death of Maduro is a loss for Latin America. The dreamer and enthusiast dedicated more than half a century of his 70 years to the enlargement of baseball ‘without borders and without prejudices,’ as he said himself. Maduro traveled all the paths of the great national sport.”[1] These roles included amateur ballplayer, owner of several clubs (most notably, the Havana Sugar Kings), stadium builder, general manager, agent, scout, youth baseball organizer, and diplomat. He even founded the short-lived Inter-American League of 1979.

Roberto Maduro de Lima was born on June 27, 1916, in Havana. Author Roberto González Echevarría described Bobby and his colleague Miguel Suárez as “scions of new Cuban millionaire families whose wealth was in insurance, with strong ties to American interests.”[2]

The Maduro family was of Sephardic Jewish origin. It is fascinating to follow this branch of the Jewish Diaspora. Among many sources, particular insight comes from the works of Margalit Bejarano (the leading scholar of Cuba’s interwar Jewish community) and the late Latin American historian Robert M. Levine. Maduros around the world have also gathered the history of their lineage online.

Along with many other Sephardim, the Maduros went first from Portugal to France and then, starting in the 1600s, the Netherlands. In Amsterdam they joined the Levy family by marriage and the surname became Levy Maduro. In 1672 descendants went to the Dutch Antilles (the synagogue there is the oldest still in use in the Western Hemisphere) and from there to various other spots in Central America and the Caribbean.

Bobby’s father, Salomón Mozes Levy Maduro, was a grandson of S.E.L. Maduro, who founded Curaçao’s oldest company in 1837. Bobby’s paternal grandmother also came from a prominent Sephardic family in Curaçao, the Naars. So did his mother, Abigail Abinun de Lima.

After Cuba gained independence in 1902 and the nation’s sugar industry expanded, there was a small but noticeable wave of Sephardic immigrants. By 1918, two years after Bobby’s birth, there were an estimated 1,000 Jews in Cuba -- 90% from the Ottoman Empire, along with some from Morocco. There were a number of businessmen from the United States, too.[3] Curaçao, where the economy had been stagnating, also saw Sephardim leaving to join the Cuban sugar boom.[4]

Bobby’s father, “Momón” Maduro, was born in Curaçao in 1890. He was educated both there and in the United States. The Mediterranean Sephardim spoke Ladino, the Hebrew-influenced tongue that is to Spanish what Yiddish is to German. It helped them adjust to life in Cuba more easily. The Jews that came to Cuba from Curaçao did not speak Ladino, but Papiamentu, the Creole lingua franca of the Dutch Antilles. Ladino had been one of the many influences that filtered into Papiamentu. The Jewish community was the first group to actually speak this language on a daily basis. However, both Spanish and English were (and are) widely spoken in Curaçao, along with Dutch, the official language of the island.

Boosted by refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe, the multifaceted Cuban Jewish community would reach 12,000 strong at its peak in 1959.[5] The Sephardim from Curaçao had nothing in common with this latest group or other Sephardim coming from the Mediterranean region. The Maduro family was not observant, and neither was Bobby. In Cuba, they did not belong to any specific synagogue. Bobby and his sister converted to Catholicism early in their lives. Besides Spanish, the family spoke English and French, Abigail’s first language. She had lived in France in her early years.

Salomón Levy Maduro (it is not certain when the family dropped the Levy) arrived in Havana in 1914 with Abigail. He was a sugarcane planter (or colono). In 1920, the in-house magazine of the American Sugar Refining Company (ASR) -- known for the Domino brand -- mentioned the family: Momón, Abigail, little Robert (Bobby), and their other child, daughter Adrienne (known as Adriana). ASR had operations in Cunagua, in the province of Camagüey. The Maduros spent time there and in Havana, and were sufficiently well off to spend summers in France.[6] This was nothing new to the family, which was well traveled and cosmopolitan even before they arrived in Cuba.

American Sugar Family also offered accounts of baseball games at Central Cunagua; the mill had its own ballpark. This was probably Bobby’s first exposure to the sport; one can imagine him reminiscing as the Sugar Kings held spring training there in the 1950s.

Momón entered the insurance business in 1926. He served as general agent in Cuba for London Guarantee and Accident Co. until 1930. From 1928, he became general manager of Compañía Cubana de Fianzas (Cuban Fidelity Company). He rose to become the company’s president from 1942 to 1958.

Like his father, and many young men of Cuba’s upper business class, Bobby received higher education in the United States. He went to the Asheville School in North Carolina and then entered Cornell University in September 1934. Thanks to his schooling, Maduro spoke faultless English without trace of an accent.[7]

University records list distinguished people as Maduro’s friends, including ASR Chairman Earl Babst and General Mario García Menocal, a former president of Cuba. They also show, however, that Bobby left Cornell in 1936 without receiving his degree (he studied engineering). This tallies with a 1962 story in The Sporting News, which noted that he left early after the death of his uncle, Elias Levy Maduro, to help his father in the family business.[8] (Besides the sugar plantation, other Maduro holdings included cattle and a bus line.)

In his leisure time, Bobby was a first baseman with the Vedado Tennis Club amateur baseball team. This club, known as Los Marqueses del Vedado, wore blue and white like the Brooklyn Dodgers. Bobby probably played in his late teens and later when he got back from Cornell. It is not known, however, when he stopped.

On January 28, 1940, Maduro married Isolina Olmo Fernandez Garrido, better known as “Fufila.” One of the island’s most beautiful women at that time, she was always supportive of her husband and of all of his endeavors.  Bobby and Fufila were married for 34 years, and together they raised eight children, providing them all with a faith-based Catholic education and a happy, secure family life. Seven of their eight children lived to adulthood: Roberto Jr., Adela, Jorge, Beatriz, Rosario, Alberto, and Isabel. Their second son, Felipe, died of leukemia in 1954 at age twelve.

In 1946, a new minor-league franchise called the Havana Cubans was born. Maduro has often received credit as one of the founders, but he did not appear in news coverage at the time. It is possible -- but doubtful -- that he was a minority member of the investor group, which featured former Washington Senator Merito Acosta and Joe Cambria. Cambria had owned and operated a string of ballclubs in the U.S., but as Brian McKenna wrote in his SABR biography, the Sicilian’s “lasting fame in baseball circles stems from his mining of Cuban talent.” The Cubans, who played in the Florida International League, became both a showcase and proving ground for the prospects that “Papa Joe” found for his longtime employer, the Senators.

Various accounts say that Maduro bought out Cambria’s interest in the Cubans after the 1946 season.[9] Looking back, events unfolded differently. Senators owner Clark Griffith bought a stake of 20,000 shares in July 1946. Club official George Foster sold his holding to Griffith after a dispute with team president Acosta, who held 10,000 shares, as did Cambria. The trio owned a controlling interest in the franchise and would hold it for some years to come.[10] “The Old Fox” and Cambria were still wrangling with Acosta and his minority associates over internal issues in the summer of 1950.[11]

For the 1947 season, the Cubans moved from Stadium Cerveza Tropical in suburban Marianao to a brand-new facility that opened in October 1946: Gran Stadium de la Habana in El Cerro. Bobby and his friend Miguelito Suárez, “aided by wizard promoter Emilio de Armas, formed a corporation and built the new Stadium in a year.”[12] J.G. Taylor Spink in The Sporting News wrote, “Gran Stadium represents a great bit of dreaming. Suárez and Maduro. . .pushed the project through to completion in the face of all sorts of hazards. Construction difficulties, labor troubles and mounting costs hiked their expenditure to $1,800,000, when they figured to spend one million.”[13]

El Cerro (which hosted the Baltimore Orioles in 1999 and still stands today) originally seated 30,000, double La Tropical’s capacity. It continued to draw much admiring press coverage, and attendance was excellent too.[14]

During the 1947 season, a rumor circulated that another team in the Florida International League, the Lakeland Pilots, might move to Matanzas, Cuba. Miami Herald sports editor Jimmy Burns reported that Maduro was behind the plan. The point of interest is that Bobby was described only as co-owner of Gran Stadium -- there was no mention that he held any stake in the Cubans franchise.[15] It seems more likely that a stadium owner would encourage a nearby rival than a club owner.

When he was not pursuing his business activities and family life, Bobby also enjoyed tennis and golf. In December 1948 -- described as a sugar mill manager -- he joined the great American golfer Sam Snead to win a pro-am “best ball” competition at the Havana Country Club.[16]

Before the 1949-50 winter season, Maduro became part-owner of the Cienfuegos team in the Cuban winter league, along with Luis Parga and Emilio de Armas. Parga owned the sporting goods store Casa Tarin that had the concession for the (Wilson) baseballs used by the league.[17] Dates have become fuzzy around this deal, too. Though some sources say the purchase took place in 1948, the news coverage shows it to be 1949.[18] So does the actual sale contract, which at one time was visible on the Leland’s auction website.

Maduro (often pictured wearing a bowtie in those years) was a benevolent owner. In January 1951, The Sporting News pictured the apartment building where he housed Cienfuegos players and their wives for free. Support for the winter leagues was a crucial topic to Bobby; he firmly believed that it was beneficial to the majors -- though he emphasized, “Co-operation is a two-way proposition.”[19]

It was not until May 4, 1953, that Maduro became majority owner of the Havana Cubans.[20] He bought out Clark Griffith for a reported $40,000; Merito Acosta retained a 20% stake. It was noteworthy that the Cubans had to open that season playing in Key West because Joe Cambria couldn’t come to terms with Bobby on a contract for the use of Gran Stadium.[21] This implies that Bobby didn’t have even a minority interest in the club.

Further support comes from the remarks of league president Phil O’Connell after the sale was unanimously approved. “We are glad to have Maduro in our league and I’m sure he will rebuild the Cuban team to its place of former prominence in the league.”[22] Havana had won five straight league titles from 1946 to 1950, but attendance had fallen off. Bobby thought that the fans might have become jaded and that they wanted to see some fresh talent. He also mentioned that the forced exit of Acosta as club president in 1950 did not sit well with the Cuban populace.[23]

When Maduro took over, he said, “I will take an active role.” He ousted Cambria as general manager (while retaining him as a scout). He talked with his friends Frank Lane of the Chicago White Sox and Buzzie Bavasi of the Brooklyn Dodgers about forming a working agreement, though that did not occur. [24]

There was also a troubling allegation at the time of the sale -- one that Bobby’s second wife, Marta Jackson-Maduro, simply rejected as she looked back in 2010. Both The Sporting News and the African-American magazine Jet alluded to a comment that Maduro supposedly made, “Frankly, there are too many Negroes [six] on the team.” [25] Such a statement would have been entirely out of character for the man, as Fausto Miranda’s salute indicated. It is also at odds with his record of helping Afro-Cuban players on their path to the majors and, as Marta pointed out, his desire to do good for all members of society.

The “quiet and unassuming” new owner made a positive impression on his peers in the Florida International League -- but after the 1953 season, Bobby set his sights higher. It started with thoughts of a rival club in Havana for the Cubans, but that idea soon subsided. Instead, he obtained the rights to the Springfield franchise in the Class AAA International League and won approval to move it. “Maduro wanted to tap not only the Cuban market but to make Havana the spearhead of a well-coordinated Latin invasion of organized baseball.”[26] He had nothing less than major-league status in mind for Havana; the team adopted the slogan “Un paso más y llegamos” -- “One more step and we arrive.” Had Castro’s revolution not taken place, it might have happened at some point. Bobby would admit in 1959 that Cuba had trouble “support[ing] Triple-A baseball decently.”[27] Nonetheless, he continued to harbor the dream.

Maduro was already seeking to promote baseball on a broader international scale, too. As part of this drive, he invited Japan’s biggest ballclub, the Yomiuri Giants, to Havana for a three-game exhibition series in spring training 1954.[28] Then in April, the Sugar Kings went to Mérida in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula to play a four-game set with the Rochester Red Wings.[29] Also, in part because Venezuelan players such as Emilio Cueche and Luis García were on the roster, “Havana’s entry had aroused widespread enthusiasm in Venezuela. . .all papers in Caracas were headlining Havana developments.”[30]

It was no surprise, though, that the Sugar Kings had a homegrown core. Many of their Cuban marquee names had seen better days, yet there was also new blood. Afro-Cubans such as Rafael “Ray” Noble and Ángel Scull were visible, too. Indeed, Havana obtained Scull from the Senators organization in part because Washington’s top farm team, Chattanooga, had still not integrated.[31] (Nat Peeples broke the Southern Association’s color line only that spring.) Havana would continue to add players of African descent from various other Latin American nations, such as Pat Scantlebury from Panama.

Bobby was also engaged in a side activity during camp that year -- he was Frank Lane’s representative as the White Sox negotiated with two of their stars, Minnie Miñoso from Cuba and Chico Carrasquel from Venezuela. Lane described him as a “personal friend and agent.”[32]

Around this time, it appears that Maduro ended his involvement with the Cienfuegos franchise,[33] probably to focus on the Sugar Kings. Bobby was an excellent promoter himself, but he had the help of an inventive publicist named Ramiro Martínez, whose “gregarious personality and flamboyant publicity stunts made the Sugar Kings one of baseball’s most storied franchises.”[34] Indeed, the following six and a half seasons could fill their own book with their mix of fun-loving yet serious baseball, Cuban sabor, and political tumult.

Gran Stadium was full of songs and drumming, coffee and rum, cigar smoke and Hatuey beer -- but the new team did discourage some local customs. As Tom Meany wrote in Baseball Digest in 1954, “Open gambling had always been a feature of ball games in Havana, but Owner Maduro promised [International League president Frank] Shaughnessy he would stamp the betting out. He did so, simply by seeing to it that 400 gamblers were arrested at the opening game. If there is still any gambling at Gran Stadium it is done very discreetly.”[35]

One wonders how Maduro may have had to contend with the Mafia, a significant presence in Cuba in the ’50s. If he did have any trouble with organized crime, though, his family doesn’t know of it.

The Sugar Kings lost nearly $50,000 in their first year, mostly because of air fares. Bobby had agreed, as a condition of entry to the IL, that the Sugar Kings would cover the costs for teams traveling south of Richmond. He paid out $40,000 in 1954 and $24,000 in 1955. League officials ruled that was no longer necessary in 1956, though, given the entry of the Miami Marlins. Bobby said, “This puts us on an equal basis with the other league teams.”[36]

In August 1954, the club formalized its working agreement with the Cincinnati Reds, who had supplied the Sugar Kings with several players that year. Maduro had a good relationship with Gabe Paul, then the Reds’ general manager. The men had known each other since at least 1952, when Paul was pictured taking in a Cienfuegos game from Bobby’s private box at Gran Stadium.[37] “Gabe is the only major leaguer who was of real help to me when I finally got my franchise,” declared Maduro. “I am very much indebted to him.”[38] Debts were something that this man always treated with utmost sincerity.

As Roberto González Echevarría noted, Cuban fans with longer memories could also still recall that Armando Marsáns and Rafael Almeida had joined the Reds in 1911, and that Adolfo “Dolf” Luque had enjoyed his best years in the majors in el querido Cinci (beloved Cincinnati).[39] Even into the 1990s, this “deep allegiance” was still visible.[40]

Shortly after the working agreement was signed, on August 23, Felipe Maduro passed away. The lad was an ardent baseball fan and played second base for his school team. He “was especially proud of photos he had taken of himself with Joe DiMaggio and Roy Campanella.” More than 1,000 people attended the funeral, and the presence of an obituary in The Sporting News was another measure of the respect that his father had earned. [41]

The next spring, Bobby and his staff worked with Paul Florence, then the Reds’ chief scout, to funnel prospects from the entire island to Havana. They held a 15-day tryout camp at Gran Stadium.[42] The pipeline of Cuban talent that reached Cincinnati in subsequent years included some fine big-leaguers, such as Mike Cuéllar, Leo Cárdenas, Tony González, and Cookie Rojas. (Tony Pacheco, who played for and managed the Sugar Kings, signed Tony Pérez for the Reds in 1960.)

Affiliation was a double-edged sword, though -- “a player who was doing well could be suddenly summoned. . .for the same reason, one who was not doing well could not just be sent home, as in the winter. The demanding Cuban fan did not suffer gladly mediocre minor-league players.”[43] That was another reason why attendance was up and down in Havana.

Starting in 1956, Bobby showed yet another sign of his international commitment. The Sugar Kings used the León franchise in the fledgling Nicaraguan League as a farm club, stocking the team with their prospects. León manager Tony Castaño, a Cuban who spent a good portion of his career in Nicaragua, was instrumental. The working agreement lasted through the winter of 1959-60, including players such as Conrado Marrero. One special highlight came when Manny Montejo of the Kings pitched a no-hitter early in the 1957-58 season. [44] He later appeared in 12 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1961.

Before the 1958 season, as the Cuban Revolution gathered steam, Maduro’s fellow owner, John Stiglmeier of the Buffalo Bisons, expressed concern about safety. Key West offered to host the Sugar Kings temporarily, but Bobby turned the offer down, saying, “The trouble has come to an end and should be all right now.”[45] Miami businessman Jack Cooper, who had previously owned the Marlins, said publicly that he planned to talk to Maduro about buying the Kings and moving them to Santo Domingo (then known as Ciudad Trujillo).[46]

Frank Shaughnessy decided that the Sugar Kings would stay put, however; Bobby said that “baseball players would not be molested in his island. ‘Baseball in Cuba is like a religion, it’s out of politics.’” Yet, in a portent, Shaughnessy noted, “We could move to Jersey City tomorrow.” [47]

That May, columnist Norris Anderson of the Miami News wrote again about Maduro (also pictured, looking owlish in the large eyeglasses he had come to use). Anderson said that Bobby had “built one of the best farm systems outside the major leagues. . .Publicity director Ramiros [sic] Martinez points out, ‘We have several dozen future Sugar Kings playing Double-A to D Ball.’ How do the Sugar Kings do it? It’s simple -- every Cuban or other Latin American youth wants to play with Havana because that assures a double job in the Cuban Winter League. . .And, in the winter league, the Havana club has a choice opportunity of bringing players along at a much faster clip.”[48]

Maduro’s interest in player development extended as far as the children’s ranks. He supported and sponsored the equivalent of Little League in Cuba, a program called “Los Cubanitos.” A man named Mako Pérez, who was an instructor at Miramar Yacht Club (another elite institution in pre-Castro Havana), was the driving force behind the league. The program covered the entire island and kept roughly 5,000 children occupied.[49]

Bobby hoped to bring the Sugar Kings to Caracas for a “home” series in July 1957, but a soccer tournament there forced cancellation. As part of his effort to develop the team’s fan base throughout Cuba, in 1958 he also offered to pay other IL teams’ expenses to play in the city of Morón, 150 miles away from Havana. Morón had become the site of the Sugar Kings’ spring training, thanks to a new 12,000-seat stadium (which Bobby had leased). Buffalo made it there in June, and attendance was good despite torrential rains. Miami decided not to play the July series it had booked previously, though, costing Maduro $10,000. His hope that Columbus would visit later that summer appears not to have materialized.[50]

In April 1959, Bobby held a conference with Fidel Castro, who had ousted dictator Fulgencio Batista that January. The talks brought support: the Cuban government bought radio broadcast rights,[51] while the Cuban Sugar Stabilization Institute donated $20,000.[52] Though that funding only brought temporary relief, the team remained in Havana despite growing strain between Cuba and the United States. An incident at Gran Stadium that July 25 stoked tensions. Castro’s solders, the barbudos, had free run of Gran Stadium, and they loved watching the games, in uniform and armed. That night they got too exuberant, shot into the air, and Frank Verdi, coaching third base for the opposing Rochester Red Wings, was struck in the head by a bullet. Fortunately, he was wearing a protective cap liner. A bullet also grazed the shoulder of Leo Cárdenas.

Nonetheless, the Sugar Kings went on to win the IL championship in 1959. They then beat the Minneapolis Millers in the Little World Series, which went seven especially hard-fought and dramatic games. A cold snap in Minneapolis caused the last five games to take place in Havana, with the likes of Castro and Ché Guevara in attendance. “This is a national event,” declared Maduro.[53] Roberto González Echevarría went further; “the Series provoked a paroxysm of national sentiment.”[54]

As late as July 8, 1960, Bobby said he would not voluntarily move his club. However, Frank Shaughnessy said the Sugar Kings would be moved within a few days “to protect our players.” The official announcement that the IL was pulling out of Havana came the next day. Maduro, resisting to the bitter end, said, “The International League is making a big mistake. Baseball was a strong link between the Cuban and American peoples.”[55] He called the decision “completely outrageous. . .Cubans will interpret [the decision] as a demonstration to harm the nation.” He added, “For me it means bankruptcy and loss of an entire holding of $400,000. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”[56]

Journalist Gaspar González delved into the franchise’s history in a special feature in 2005. The uprooting of the Sugar Kings was a key theme. Outfielder Danny Morejón told González, “Bobby Maduro always thought, until the day he died, that the Sugar Kings could have been a big-league franchise.” Roberto Maduro Jr. added, “My father wanted to keep the team in Cuba. He had not given up on the idea of joining the major leagues.”[57]

The protests -- some of the Cuban players did not want to go at first -- were to no avail. The Sugar Kings became the Jersey City Jerseys; their home ballpark was Roosevelt Stadium, which had hosted the Dodgers for several games in both 1956 and 1957. Jersey City gave the new arrivals a “noisy welcome” -- neighboring Union City had a strong Cuban presence -- as an eight-car motorcade toured the city streets for twenty miles.[58] The Jerseys renewed their lease on Roosevelt Stadium for 1961, but attendance was poor. Talk of another shift was already circulating in the newspapers by early that summer; one rumor concerned a switch to Miami, where the Marlins had pulled out after 1960. “We’ll have to do something,” said IL president Tommy Richardson, who had succeeded Frank Shaughnessy. “We can’t exist on crowds of 600.” [59]

The weak gate was just one of several reasons for the struggles of the franchise, though. Others included lack of subsidy from the league, high operating costs in Jersey City, loss of radio and TV revenue, the peculiar nature of the working agreement with Cincinnati -- and, not least, Maduro’s “growing, personal financial crisis.”[60]

Bobby himself had hung on in Cuba until that April. His last asset there that the Castro regime had not confiscated was a seaside home he had built in 1958. “They took it from me over a period of three or four months,” Maduro recalled in 1977. “First the buses. Then they said I couldn’t write any checks on the insurance business without approval. I wound up with nothing. I was allowed to leave the country with $5. That was all.”[61]

Like many other Cubans, he was fortunate to get out. “Friends,” he said in 1962, “friends worked a miracle. They produced my papers and passport, somehow, and I boarded the plane at the last minute.”[62] The Bay of Pigs invasion two days later quashed any thoughts of return.[63]

“My mother was a true source of stability, the glue that held our family together,” daughter Rosario reminisced in 2010. “When we had to flee the Castro regime, beginning life anew was certainly difficult. And while we may have been without the comforts we had always known in Cuba, we were lacking nothing, thanks to my mom and dad; we were happy and adapted well to our new life.” While Bobby traveled to provide for the family, Fufila was at home making sure the children endured and prospered.

Sportswriter Dick Young described Maduro as a “symbol of class and courage.” With a rueful smile, Bobby said, “I am the only man who lost everything in Cuba and over here, both.” Young continued, “At Jersey City, he blew $100,000, and borrowed. By June there wasn’t enough money in the box office to support his family. One day the phone rang, jarring Maduro out of his worry. It was Walter O’Malley. ‘You’re on the Dodger payroll,’ said O’Malley, who had learned of Maduro’s plight. ‘One thousand dollars a month. Just sit tight, I’ll think of something for you to do.’”[64]

O’Malley and Bobby had known each other for some years; the noted cigar aficionado enjoyed the special Havanas that Maduro would send him. Maduro would remain a frequent visitor to Dodgertown during the 1960s.

The IL dropped Jersey City as a location that October, but Maduro remained owner in the franchise’s new home: Jacksonville, Florida. Houston Astros broadcaster Gene Elston told how it came about.

“Jim Pendleton may be the only guy in baseball history acquired for a franchise. Jim was an original Colt .45’s outfielder who came to Houston in 1962 because of Bobby Maduro. Maduro owned the Jersey City franchise in the International League in 1961 and wanted to purchase the Jacksonville territory and move his team to that city. At the time the Colt .45’s owned the rights to the Jacksonville territory. However, Maduro could not buy the rights since his money was in a Cuban bank account and unobtainable. The silver lining was that Maduro owned Pendleton’s contract, so Houston set up a trade, “Give us Pendleton and we’ll give you our rights to Jacksonville.”[65]

Elston’s account is correct in that Jim Pendleton was part of the transaction, but there was more to it. Along with the outfielder, the Astros also received $10,895.72. The shift was also contingent on a ticket drive, and the people of Jacksonville responded strongly. Citizens sold 100,000 advance tickets in two weeks during football season in the fall of 1961. In addition, Jacksonville Baseball Park got improvements amounting to $100,000.[66] Maduro established a new working agreement with the Cleveland Indians, whose president then was Gabe Paul. He served as his own general manager, too, though that December he lost his right-hand man of nine years, Paul Miller, to a heart attack.[67]

Salomón Maduro also passed away in Jacksonville in March 1962.[68] Although he had lost his father, Bobby came into some inheritance, as Momón -- who, according to Gabe Paul, had “always chided Bob for wasting so much time in baseball” -- had apparently collected on some business debts in the States.[69] Paul added that fall, “He [Bobby] has paid off every debt, including those in Cuba, where he knew he was finished. A remarkable man.”[70] What went unwritten, though, was that Bobby would take out more loans in order to operate.

Jacksonville went on to success, finishing first during the regular season. Attendance was a healthy 229,479 in 61 games, although the team won a league-record 51 games on the road. However, they lost to the Atlanta Crackers in the seventh game of the IL playoff finals.

The Suns fell to last place the next year, though, in a season marked by tragic events. Manager Ben Geraghty, who was very popular in Jacksonville, died of a heart attack at age 50 that June 18. A few weeks before, a fan named Elijah Skinner -- nicknamed “Gabriel” for his horn-blowing at the ballpark -- was stabbed to death after a game. Bobby suffered sizable losses and divested his majority 51% ownership stake through a sale of stock to the people of the city. The club was valued at $135,000, while $65,000 was earmarked for 1964 operating costs.[71] Leading the effort was Jacksonville resident and Hall of Famer Bill Terry.

In January 1964, Maduro returned to the Suns as GM.[72] The club had signed a new working agreement with the St. Louis Cardinals just a few weeks before. As a scout, Bobby convinced the Cards to purchase three players from Mexico, notably Mexican home-run king Héctor Espino. Espino hit .300 in 32 games with Jacksonville late in the season. He refused to report for 1965, though, and went back home after the deal was canceled.[73]

The Suns bounced back and won another IL pennant in ’64, but the Jacksonville experience also ended unhappily for Maduro. As Marta Jackson-Maduro recalled it in 1988, the franchise folded after the 1965 season and Bobby lost $250,000.[74] It wasn’t quite like that -- the Cardinals severed their working agreement in September, and Bobby resigned shortly thereafter -- but even though he was no longer owner, Maduro himself was still heavily indebted. He said, ‘I decided to pay the debts instead of declaring bankruptcy because my education in Cuba taught me that going bankrupt is like stealing money. Debts have to be paid. I borrowed the money on my name, not the club’s, and I do not want to disappoint the people who believed in me enough to loan me the money.”[75]

International League president Richardson took a dim view of the Cards’ approach. He said, “Two years ago a campaign was conducted in Jacksonville to preserve class AAA baseball, and $250,000 worth of stock was purchased, in good faith. International League directors cannot sit by and permit the major leagues to run out on our franchise holders.”[76] Eventually, in 1967 the New York Mets (who took over as the new parent club in 1966) bought out the 4,200 shareholders for pennies on the dollar -- $62,000, including the assumption of a $40,000 debt.[77]

Maduro’s next position came courtesy of Felipe Alou, then a player with the Milwaukee Braves. Alou campaigned for Major League Baseball to have someone oversee the welfare of Latin American players. In December 1965, Commissioner William Eckert hired Bobby to direct the Office of Inter-American Relations, which he established in Miami.[78] He served as “coordinator between the Latin American winter leagues and organized baseball, liaison with the three Mexican leagues affiliated with the national association, and [lent] assistance to the continued growth of amateur baseball in Latin American countries.”[79]

The “ebullient” Maduro, as author David Voigt described him, “in a brash new version of the missionary myth. . .called on the United States State Department to purchase equipment to be donated to Latin American countries for the purpose of currying good will.” [80] It was a sweeping generalization, of course, but Bobby felt that “Spanish speaking lads see the American flag on every ball they smack out of a park. . .Wherever baseball is played, there is pro-United States sentiment. Put a glove and ball and bat in the hands of a Latin American, and it makes him think indirectly of the United States and democracy.”[81]

One of the issues that Bobby examined, in 1966, was the practice of under-the-table payments from winter leagues to imported players. This was interesting, because as late as 1965, he had represented the Aragua Tigers of the Venezuelan League in their efforts to import U.S. players.[82] However, “his hands were tied” by inability to levy fines or take other punitive action.[83]

A 1967 editorial in The Sporting News said that “Maduro could be even more successful if his post carried wider authority. . .he needs a few more tools to do the job well. Baseball should see that he gets them.”[84] Unfortunately, he was never so empowered. Author Samuel Regalado wrote, “Maduro’s position. . .was temporary and did little to upgrade the conditions of Latins in the United States. By the 1970s, the position no longer existed.”[85]

Nevertheless, the role had some more impact than Regalado suggests -- notably, Bobby “helped facilitate rules changes allowing more U.S. ballplayers to play in the winter leagues and also improved relations with the club owners.”[86]

Isolina “Fufila” Maduro succumbed in September 1974 in Miami after a long, noble fight against cancer. “Bobby and Fufila would be very proud that all their children, grandchildren (24 in all), and great grand-children (currently 14, with two on the way) remain close-knit to this day.  Hers was an inspiring story and their family a lasting tribute to their marriage,” said daughter-in-law Joanne Ross Maduro, wife of Jorge.  “To this day, I still look to her memory for encouragement in my role as mother and wife. . .we all do.” 

Bobby stayed with the Commissioner’s office for a total of 13 years. The work did not offer much compensation either. Even in 1977, Maduro needed extra jobs to supplement his modest salary, which was not enough by itself to cover the payments he was still making on his Jacksonville debts.[87] That March, Dave Anderson of the New York Times quoted Bobby in his capacity as liaison. The topic of the column was a possible visit to Cuba by major-league all-stars. Maduro expressed concern for exiled Cuban ballplayers who might return to the island -- not for what might happen there, but for fear of what embittered emigrés might do.[88]

Bobby also got married for the second time in 1977. He and Marta had first met back in Havana in 1952, when she was 22 years old. As of 2010, she had been teaching ballet for nearly 50 years. She remained Artistic Director of the Marta Jackson School of Dance in Orange Park, Florida.

In 1978, Bobby joined his old friend (and fellow Cuban Jew) Bernardo Benes Baikowitz on a special mission. Benes, a lawyer and banker, had become prominent in Cuban exile politics. He invited Maduro to become a member of a six-person committee consisting of exiles working with the U.S. government. Their duty was to facilitate the transfer of the first political prisoners to be released from Cuba.[89] Maduro had extended his personal protection to Benes on two serious occasions back in their homeland.[90] Now Benes was in a position to do something special for him, as Robert Levine wrote.

“Perhaps the most touching event during the committee’s visit was Bobby Maduro’s visit to the Cementerio de Colón to take flowers. . .to the tomb of his late son. . .Benes knew that Maduro longed to visit his son’s cemetery, and [it] was the main reason Benes invited him to be part of the exile commission. To be able to put flowers on the grave, Benes said later, Maduro swallowed his hatred of the Castro regime for twenty-four hours.”[91]

On December 26, 1978, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn announced that Maduro had resigned from his office, effective as of that year-end. [92] Bobby then embarked on the most daring plan he had ever attempted: the launch of the Inter-American League. In May 1979, after the IAL had started play, the new league’s president described his goals, which were in keeping with his past history. “I think this new league will help get more Latin players into the major leagues. There is a great deal of difficulty for the players to adapt themselves here. That’s one of the big reasons I started this new league. I feel the players, no matter how good the instruction, develop and learn quicker if they are playing for their own teams in their own countries.”[93]

To describe the IAL’s history is beyond the scope of this biography; one should refer to Bill Colson’s story in Sports Illustrated from June 1979. Colson described the initial obstacles. “To get the new league under way, Maduro had to overcome strong opposition from the Caribbean winter leagues, which view the Inter-American as a competitor for Latin players’ services and Latin fans’ affections, and from several major-league owners, who felt they had a corner on talent in the Caribbean.”[94]

A quarter-century later, Sam Jacobs of the Miami Herald also looked back. He summed up the IAL’s fate succinctly. “The league, which began play in mid-April, was gone by the end of June, a victim of high costs, shaky financing, visa problems, unreliable plane schedules and incessant rain. A total of 70 games were washed out.” One of the people Jacobs quoted was Bernardo Benes, who was part-owner of the Panama franchise. Benes said, “The idea was good, but the planning should have taken another year.”[95]

In his final years, Bobby Maduro worked for the City of Miami as baseball supervisor for the Parks and Recreation Department. He also remained active with the Federation of Cuban Professional Players in exile. The Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame, which the Federation ran, inducted him as an executive in 1985.

In February 1986, Maduro was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Tony Pacheco wanted only to remember better days. Pacheco said, “Bobby was totally 100 percent a baseball person. He had a tremendous personality and he made great connections with all the baseball people. When he was the king in Havana, all the baseball people that went to Havana first got in touch with him. And Bobby would throw the red carpet. . .for scouts, club directors, everybody.” [96]

That August, Miami held its fifth annual Youth World Series, a tournament that Maduro had launched. The five teams (Guatemala, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and a squad from various local baseball academies) dedicated the series to Bobby in view of his condition.[97] After six months in Jackson Memorial Hospital, Bobby Maduro spent his final three months at the Green Briar Nursing Center in Southwest Dade.[98] He passed away that October 16 and was buried at Miami’s Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery.[99]

Although the Hispanic community and Miami took notice, otherwise the sporting world had let “the king of Cuban baseball” slip from memory. A man named Nicolás Álvarez wrote to Fausto Miranda to say, “The big surprise was to read not a single line in The Sporting News of his death.”[100]

One of Bobby’s colleagues then took action. Hiram Gómez, then assistant director of Parks and Recreation for Miami, said, “When he died, it affected me a lot.”[101] He came up with an idea: “The best way to honor the memory of Bobby Maduro is giving his name to Miami Stadium.”[102] The little ballpark (capacity 13,500) in the Allapattah neighborhood had a remarkable history. Another Cuban, José Alemán Sr. -- who reputedly embezzled on a massive scale from the Cuban government -- built the stadium in 1949. Many branded it as a “folly” and “white elephant” -- but others thought it was a jewel. Notably, the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers held “A” exhibition games there from 1950 to 1958; it then became the spring home of the Baltimore Orioles in 1959. The Miami Amigos of the IAL played their home games there too (before average crowds of 1,350).

The Miami City Commission voted unanimously in favor of the renaming in February 1987, and the ceremony took place the following month. The ballpark became known officially as Bobby Maduro Miami Stadium. Said Maduro’s widow Marta to herself, “Gordo (fat one), they finally know who you are.”[103]

Under its new name, the stadium continued to host the Miami Marlins of the Florida State League through 1988. The next regular tenant was the Gold Coast Suns of another short-lived league, the Senior Professional Baseball Association, in 1989 and 1990. Although the Orioles moved out after 1990, the 1991 edition of the Caribbean Series also took place there -- which was fitting, since Maduro had helped plan the inception of the original Series in the late ’40s. There were also college and youth baseball games. Outside of baseball, the Central American Soccer Association played at Bobby Maduro Stadium, which also provided temporary shelter for Nicaraguan refugees in 1989.

After Hurricane Andrew struck in August 1992, though, a long process of decay ensued.[104] That December still saw another Juego de Recuerdo (Game of Memory), a series celebrating the old days in Cuba. By 1996, however, Bobby Maduro Stadium could no longer even stage the Miami Youth World Series. Demolition finally took place in 2001.

“We were very proud they named the stadium after him,” said Bobby’s daughter, Rosario. “But we understand it’s very rundown, and what are you going to do? It’s a shame because it’s a historic site, but we don’t have a strong opinion one way or another about the stadium.”[105]

Bobby passed down his “baseball genes” and love for the game to his sons and grandchildren in various forms. Oldest son Roberto, though more of a car enthusiast and outdoorsman, was in later life a driving force in renaming Miami Stadium in honor of his father. Together with brothers Jorge and Alberto, he worked to keep the Cuban baseball legacy alive. Third son Jorge was an All-American catcher for the University of Miami (UM), graduating in 1969.  He signed with the New York Yankees, playing in their minor league chain as high as Triple A in Syracuse, New York. Back injuries ended his career in 1974. He was inducted into the UM Hall of Fame in 1990. Fourth son Alberto played three years at the college level.

Grandson Robert McDaniel has made a career of baseball administration and currently works for the UM baseball program. Grandson Jorge Maduro Jr. signed with the Seattle Mariners, playing from 1999 to 2006 in the minors and also reaching Triple A. His brother, Jon, played for four years in college; Jorge was a catcher, Jon a pitcher. That the Maduro men inherited their “baseball blood” through Bobby is undeniable.

More than 20 years after his passing, the influence of Bobby Maduro was still visible in baseball at the big-league level too. In 1965, he gave his fellow Cuban exile, Rafael “Ralph” Ávila, his first break as a scout.[106] When Ávila joined the Dodgers in 1970, he became a primary force in making the Dominican Republic a baseball power. He made a marked impact as a scout throughout the region. As of 2009, Latin Americans made up nearly 30% of the players in the major leagues, up from 13% in 1990.

New sources of talent have entered the mix, too. Men from Curaçao and Aruba began to reach the majors in 1989; Bobby had visited Curaçao (his father’s birthplace) on the job in 1967.[107] The game has also broken ground elsewhere, as Australia has emerged as a significant lode of players and several men from Taiwan have attained the highest level. The 2009 season saw 11 Brazilians under contract with big-league organizations,[108] and scouts are eying the large emerging markets of China, India, and Africa as well.

Maduro would undoubtedly have taken great delight in this trend. He would also have applauded the gains, albeit marginal, in the front office by Latino executives such as Ralph Ávila’s son Al and Omar Minaya. Mexican-American owner Arte Moreno might have been a man after his own heart. Here too, though, Hispanic advances should be just part of a greater whole.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame considered 10 Executives and Pioneers for induction in 2010. Bobby Maduro was not among the men on the Veterans Committee’s ballot. Yet at the very least, his accomplishments merit the Screening Committee’s attention for Cooperstown’s Class of 2012.

In 2005, Bobby Maduro Jr. said of his father, “He was a national treasure in Cuba. He loved baseball. He loved el cubanismo.”[109] Along with all of the wonderful Cuban players over the years, Roberto Maduro de Lima helped weave baseball tightly into his homeland’s fabric. Yet few if any men in the game’s history have had such a broad worldview.

Grateful acknowledgment for their assistance to the Maduro and de Marchena families, and to Eileen Keating, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Carl A. Kroch Library, Cornell University.

Notes

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