HAVANA (AP) -- Baseball fans here were delighted with Cuba's exhibition
game against the Baltimore Orioles, saying that even though their beloved
team lost, it proved it could play with major leaguers.
They hope for more such games, and ultimately a warming of relations
between Washington and Havana.
"It was a great show," said Raul Garcia, 40, a mechanic. "Let the other
come. Let the Yankees come!"
Many in this country of 11 million people followed Sunday's game on TV
"Excellent Game, Victory for Baseball," the Communist Party workers'
newspaper, Trabajadores, trumpeted.
The goodwill game between the Orioles and selected Cuban players proved
"that it is possible to have exchanges to develop a relationship between the
two countries," said Ricardo Alarcon, president of Parliament.
"I don't know how many baseball games we will have to carry out until we
arrive at that point. But if it takes many games, I hope we will win more
games than we lose."
More than anything, the game proved to Cubans that their players can
compete against the highly paid professionals in the majors. For the past 40
years, the Cubans always said their players were just as good, but often they
really weren't sure.
The last time a major league team played in Cuba was in March 1959, three
months after the triumph of the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Cincinnati Reds in that exhibition match.
Alarcon insisted that in Sunday's game, "both teams won" because they were
tied 2-2 at the end of the ninth inning and Cuba lost 3-2 only after the game
went into extra innings.
The Orioles, with a projected payroll in excess of $80 million payroll,
squeezed past a team of amateurs who earn an average of $10 a month. The
Cubans outhit the Orioles, 10-6.
The importance of the game to Cuba was demonstrated by the presence of
Castro, himself a former player. He watched the game from the first row
behind home plate, sitting between U.S. baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and
Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who broached the idea of the game three years
The game, said Alarcon, "reflected the possibilities that can exist between
countries to have normal fruitful, peaceful interchanges, when based on mutual
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.