In his comprehensive and vibrant picture of baseball in Cuba, Milton H. Jamail explores the sport’s relationship to U.S. baseball. Jamail, whose personal love of the game matches that of the Cubans, examines the roots and traditions of baseball on the island and explains why Cubans play such excellent baseball. His analysis of the development of Cuban baseball after the 1959 takeover by Fidel Castro includes a detailed description of the formation of the Cuban amateur baseball system that has dominated international competitions for more than three decades.
Before 1961, when the U.S. government severed diplomatic relations with Cuba and Castro abolished professional baseball, Cuba provided the bulk of the foreign players in the major leagues (more than one hundred since the color barrier was lifted in 1947). Major league interest in Cuban baseball remains high, Jamail notes, as he examines the changes necessary, both in the United States and Cuba, to return Cuban ballplayers to professional baseball in the United States. He discusses Cuban defectors, including Liván Hernández, and describes the intrigue surrounding agent Joe Cubas’s courting of Cuban players and his attempts to spirit them away when the Cuban national team plays outside the country.
An academic trained in Latin American politics, Jamail has spent twelve years as a Spanish-speaking journalist writing about Latinos and baseball. To write this book, he conducted extensive interviews with baseball officials, journalists, players, and fans in Cuba, as well as Cuban players who have defected. He also talked to scouts and front office people from U.S. baseball organizations.