BALTIMORE (AP) - The Baltimore Orioles knew the Cuban players
could hit hard. What they didn't know was that a Cuban umpire could hit,
Guarding his turf at second base, 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.
''Above all, I am Cuban,'' Valdez said. ''I just thought it was the right
way to do it.''
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 AL-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.
''It was very apparent they wanted it much more than we did,'' Orioles
manager Ray Miller said.
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,
man jumped onto the field down the right-field line. Carrying a sign that
said, ''Freedom - Strike Out Against Castro,'' he headed toward short
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
down to the ground hard. Valdez began swinging, and landed a few blows
to the man's head, before Orioles left fielder B.J. Surhoff rushed in and
pulled Valdez off.
''He wanted to go back and hit the guy some more,'' Surhoff said. ''I tried
not to let that happen.''
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
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
Just like every other team, the Cubans proved they could run around the
bases against the Orioles, too.
''It was a one-sided game,'' Cuban manager
Alfonso Urquiola said. ''We didn't expect this.''
So this became the most curious question at
Camden Yards: Would any of the Cuban
all-stars run away before the team left for
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. By the end of the game, there
Inside the park, fans had trouble keeping track of the Cuban hitters.
Castro, who scored four 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
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. Morales and Ariel
Pestano had three of Cuba's 18 hits, the most against the Orioles since
By the time Morales homered, more than half of the 47,940 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
After the final out, the Cubans celebrated on the mound with a Cuban flag
before the teams shook hands. Several Cuban players stopped in front of
their dugout to salute their fans.
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 Miller.
A light drizzle fell at the start of the game and it was halted in the
the first inning.
Clearly, though, there was not going to be a rainout, not after all the
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, 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 year. ... The game ended at 12:18 a.m. EDT.
© Copyright 1999 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.