Ashwill: The tragic story of Antonio Susini

From SABR member Gary Ashwill at Agate Type on September 7, 2014:

During the 1921/22 Cuban winter season, the Cuban League could only field two teams, and when Almendares totally dominated, winning 4 out of the first 5 games played, fan interest plummeted. The league called it quits even before the New Year. Deprived of their expected income, most of the players were hired by the Central and Cuba clubs of Santiago de Cuba, on the eastern end of the island. The two teams promptly arranged their own lengthy series, the Campeonato de Oriente, or Championship of Oriente province.

On January 30, 1922, in the eighth inning of one of the games, a controversy erupted over a close play at home. Players from both teams argued with the umpires and with each other.  It went on and on. The crowd grew restless, and the argument more heated. José Leblanc, a pitcher for Cuba playing right field in this game, squared off against Antonio Susini, Central’s shortstop. They exchanged harsh words. Suddenly Susini lost it. With the bat he held in his hands, he struck a brutal blow to Leblanc’s head and knocked him senseless to the ground.

The crowd poured onto the field, and only the intervention of the police already on hand kept more violence from breaking out. Leblanc was taken to a nearby hospital where doctors drilled holes in his skull to relieve the pressure from swelling. In the meantime, the police handcuffed Susini and took him away.

Leblanc had suffered a serious fracture in his left frontal parietal region. That night doctors operated on him, extracting several pieces of bone from his brain with tweezers. He never regained consciousness, and died the following afternoon.

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Originally published: September 8, 2014. Last Updated: September 8, 2014.