In Havana, remembering a minor league championship

From Ben Strauss at the New York Times on March 24, 2013:

When the Havana Sugar Kings were mentioned to Asdrubal Baró, a smile crept across his wrinkled face, revealing missing teeth. Seated in a wheelchair on the balcony of his Havana apartment surrounded by cactus plants, he said, “I must show you something.”

Baró, 84, reached for a worn green book on the small table in front of him. He opened it to reveal newspaper box scores from each game of the Sugar Kings’ 1955 season, when Baró was one of their stars.

“We were going to be Havana’s major league team,” he said in Spanish, leafing through the yellowed clippings.

Luis Zayas, believed to be the only other former Sugar King living in Cuba, later said, “We had a slogan around the team that said, ‘One step from the big leagues,’ and we believed it.”

No ordinary minor league team, the Sugar Kings were the Cincinnati Reds’ International League Class AAA affiliate based in Havana for six and a half seasons in prerevolutionary Cuba. Though the team’s existence was brief, the Sugar Kings drew a strong following in Cuba and became a springboard for Latin American players.

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Originally published: March 27, 2013. Last Updated: March 27, 2013.