May 3, 1999
Packing a punch
Cuba embarrasses Orioles amid sideshows, boos and rain

                  BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Baltimore Orioles knew the Cuban players
                  could hit hard. What they didn't know was that the Cuban second-base
                  umpire could hit, too.

                  The umpire, Cesar Valdez, body-slammed and punched an anti-Castro
                  demonstrator in shallow center field Monday night as the Cuban all-star
                  team embarrassed Baltimore 12-6.

                  Omar Linares and Danel Castro each had four hits, and Andy Morales
                  spread his arms wide as he steamed around the bases after a three-run
                  homer in the ninth inning. Reliever Norge Vera pitched seven strong innings
                  as the Cubans avenged a 3-2, 11-inning loss at Havana on March 28.

                  The Orioles, whose American League-worst 7-17 record belies their payroll
                  of more than $78 million, were completely outplayed by a team whose
                  players make a total of about $2,250.

                  The crowd at Camden Yards was already booing the home team and the
                  Cubans led 6-3 in the rain-delayed exhibition when it became a real slugfest
                  in the fifth inning.

                  An inning after three protesters ran into the outfield and were arrested, a
                  man jumped onto the field down the right-field line. Carrying a sign that said,
                  "Freedom -- Strike Out Against Castro," he headed toward short center.

                  But Valdez, one of three Cubans on the six-man umpiring crew, took
                  exception and charged after the fan.

                  They tangled briefly, then Valdez lifted the fan over his head and threw him
                  down to the ground hard. Valdez began swinging, and appeared to land a
                  couple of blows to the man's head, before Orioles left fielder B.J. Surhoff
                  rushed in and pulled Valdez off.

                  Police said the four people who ran onto the field -- all from Miami -- were
                  arrested on a charge of trespassing.

                  At least one of the protesters wore a T-shirt that said, "40 Years Is Too
                  Much," an apparent reference to Fidel Castro's leadership of Cuba. As
                  police led one fan past the Cuban dugout and the Cuban delegation, he
                  yelled at them while the Cubans booed and gave him the thumbs-down sign.

                  Just like every other team, the Cubans proved they could run around the
                  bases against the Orioles, too.

                  So this became the most curious question at Camden Yards: Would any of
                  the Cuban all-stars run away before the team left for Havana?

                  There was a heavy police presence outside the ballpark to monitor
                  demonstrations, and Immigration and Naturalization Service agents stood by
                  just in case of potential defections.

                  Inside the park, fans had trouble keeping track of the Cuban hitters. Castro,
                  who scored three times, lined a triple that highlighted a four-run second
                  inning as Cuba batted around.

                   Harold Baines hit a two-run double in the first, right after a 56-minute rain
                   delay in the middle of the inning. But that was about all that went right for
                   Baltimore as Scott Kamieniecki was hit hard.

                   Orioles pitchers never retired the Cubans in order, and Baltimore fielders
                   made three errors. Albert Belle went 0-for-3 and struck out twice.

                  Instead, the fans standing behind the Cuban dugout on the third-base side had
                  a field day.  Waving flags and banners, blowing whistles and dancing, they
                  watched their club win first-ever game between the Cubans and a major
                  league team in the United States.

                  Danel Castro hit two triples and scored four runs. Ariel Pestano had three of
                  Cuba's 18 hits, the most against the Orioles since opening day.

                  By the time Morales homered, more than half of the fans had left. He raised
                  his arms high as he reached home plate, the Cubans streamed from the
                  dugout to greet him. Delino DeShields hit a three-run homer in the Baltimore

                  The Orioles did everything to make their visitors feel at home. Along with
                  playing Cuban music over the public-address system, Boog's Bar-B-Q Pit
                  -- run by former Baltimore star Boog Powell -- added rice and beans to the

                  The Bird mascot greeted the Cuban players as they were introduced, and
                  fans gave them nice ovations. In fact, the only booing before the game was
                  directed at Orioles manager Ray Miller.

                  A light drizzle fell at the start of the game and it was halted in the bottom of
                  the first inning.

                  Clearly, though, there was not going to be a rainout, not after all the trouble
                  baseball went through to arrange this game. And, there was no curfew -- this
                  was the Cubans' last trip into town, of course.

                  Though baseball officials and police seemed somewhat tense because of the
                  possibility of defections, the Cubans seemed to treat the topic lightly.

                  In a pregame news conference, Cuban manager Alfonso Urquiola was
                  asked whether he was afraid one of his players might run into the Baltimore
                  dugout chasing a foul ball and never return.

                  Urquiola laughed, as did Cuban stars Antonio Pacheco and Linares.

                  "We are not concerned about that," Urquiola said through a translator. "We
                  have no fear, otherwise we wouldn't be here."

                  Unlike in Havana, where Castro sat in a front-row box, there was no
                  obvious presence of American government officials. U.S. Senators
                  Christopher Dodd, Patrick Leahy and Paul Sarbanes attended, but sat in
                  private boxes on upper levels.

                  Notes: Kamieniecki is on the disabled list because of a strained left
                  hamstring. He has made two rehab starts in the minors. ... Commissioner
                  Bud Selig said four teams have asked about playing against the Cubans next

                    Copyright 1999 Associated Press.