Neyer: Conrado Marrero’s stint in MLB doesn’t tell his whole story

From SABR member Rob Neyer at on April 24, 2014:

It’s quite possible that you’ve never heard of Conrado Marrero, which is a tremendous accident of history and politics. He died on Wednesday, and he should have been one of the more famous old baseball players in America.

Marrero pitched for many years in Cuba. He was the Cuban League MVP in 1947 and 1948. Even that might not have happened if he hadn’t lied about his age. When Marrero made his American League debut with the Washington Senators in 1950, he was just a few days shy of his 39th birthday. That made him 40 in the summer of ’51, when Marrero was an All-Star.

In his five-year major-league career, he pitched against the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and all the other AL stars of the early ‘50s. You might imagine the stories he could tell.

And he would tell them, for almost 60 years. But he wouldn’t tell them to big-city newspapermen at Old Timers Days, and he wouldn’t tell them in those documentaries built by Ken Burns or hosted by Tom Brokaw. That’s because upon the Fidel Castro-led revolution in Cuba, Marrero chose to remain behind the Sugar Curtain.

“I stayed here,” he once said, “because my parents were here and they were old.”

He stayed, and so it took a great deal of effort for American writers and fans to draw upon Marrero’s experiences and his memories. But a few have made that effort; most notably, SABR members Peter Bjarkman and Kit Krieger. Bjarkman knows as much about Cuban baseball as anyone you (or anyone else) are likely to meet, and he penned the essay about Marrero for SABR’s indispensable BioProject:

To aging North American fans, Marrero is remembered exclusively for his five brief seasons with the American League also-ran Washington Senators, the team he joined in 1950 as a grizzled 39-year-old rookie. It has often been reported that Washington owner-manager Clark Griffith erroneously believed Marrero was born in 1919 instead of 1911 when he signed him on, but that part of the legend is probably only apocryphal. Marrero was nonetheless anything but a novelty act during his Washington years, featuring one of the league’s most devastating curves and claimed repeatedly by manager Bucky Harris to be the most valuable “stopper” on an otherwise lamentable Washington mound corps. “Connie Marrero had a windup that looked like a cross between a windmill gone berserk and a mallard duck trying to fly backwards,” once noted Dominican slugger Felipe Alou. But it was always the issue of his age (more even than his huge cigars or funky delivery) that remained the Cuban’s most notable calling card. 


Read the full article here:

Related link: Read “The Mysteries and Misconceptions Surrounding Conrado Marrero,” by Peter C. Bjarkman

Originally published: April 24, 2014. Last Updated: April 24, 2014.