Bjarkman: Havana bids adios to Conrado Marrero, MLB’s oldest player

From SABR member Peter C. Bjarkman at The Daily Beast on April 25, 2014:

An era encompassing more than half of baseball’s entire formal history closed obscurely this week for both the Cuban and North American versions of a shared national pastime when the oldest surviving big leaguer, Conrado Marrero, passed away quietly in his beloved homeland. The news of the Cuban legend’s final passage in Havana came less than 48 hours before a planned national celebration of the ex-pitcher’s milestone 103rd birthday.

There was little notice of the event anywhere north of the Straits of Florida—no moments of silence in big league parks, no ballpark flags flown at half-staff, only a mere handful of truncated obituary notices from stateside news services. It was yet one more token symbol of the enormous gulf that has separated Havana and Washington for nearly the entire six decades since the stereotypically nicknamed “Cuban Perfecto” last toed the pitching rubber (in September 1954) for the American League team ironically housed in the North American capital city.

If Fidel Castro’s late-‘50s Communist Revolution was meant to rupture an odious North American economic and political control over the Caribbean island nation, it never entirely severed the bond long established by a shared love for baseball, the adopted national pastime of two Cold War-era enemies. More than any single individual, Marrero provided the most enduring link in that binding chain, the last living connection with the professional game’s “Golden Era” midpoint during the previous century. If a sad irony might now attach to the fact that the ancient hurler so minimally failed to reach yet another landmark anniversary, a more fitting irony now arises from the fact that this “poet of the pitching mound” would succumb on the precise date marking the deaths of the two greatest wordsmiths of Hispanic and Anglo culture—Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. Marrero—who only reached “The Show” as a belated 39-year-old rookie—always did possess an odd sense of timing.

Read the full article here:

Related links:

Originally published: April 25, 2014. Last Updated: April 25, 2014.