Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013



The weekend box office totals are in.  Let's check them out.  As expected, the action/comedy Pain & Gain staring THE ROCK and MARKIE MARK is #1.  The latest Sci-Fi thriller from TOM CRUISE INC. is #2.  No surprises there.  However, the film at #3 is a shocker.  The movie '48' chronicles the amazing story of JACKIE ROBINSON, the first African-American to break the color barrier in baseball.  While you already know about the Brooklyn Dodger slugger...you might have missed another story about a former Major League hero from yesteryear in the news this week.  On Thursday, the oldest living former baseball player CONNIE MARRERO turned 102 years old.

Never heard of Marrero?  Don't feel bad...he played in only four seasons for the Washington Senators in the 1950's.  The right-hander was known for his deadly curve ball which earned him the uncreative nickname "El Curvo."  His career 297 strikeout victims included legendary players like Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Nellie Fox.  A confused slugger Felipe Alou called Marrero's delivery:  "A windup that looked like a cross between a windmill gone berserk and a mallard duck trying to fly backwards."  Try hitting that pitch!

Wondering why Marrero's career was so short?  Well, it took our hero quite a while to make it from the sugar cane fields of Central Cuba to the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium.  In fact, Connie didn't pitch in the major leagues game until he was 38 years old.  Conrado (his real name) spent his twenties pitching for Cienfuegos Elephants in the Cuban Amateur League.  His slider and change-up were impossible to hit.  One day, he caught the eye of a scout for the Havana Cubanos of the Florida International League.  Back in those days, Cuba and Florida were best friends.   Cuba had two baseball teams in the Florida Minor Leagues.  

Connie earned a spot on the team and continued to impress.  He won 70 games in three seasons...including a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Smokers.  As expected, Havana's parent team, the Washington Senators, called Marrero up to play in the majors.  Again, El Curvo did not disappoint.  American League sluggers fanned at his impressive array of slow-stuff.  Marrero won 39 games over four seasons.  His best outing was a one-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics in 1951.  Unfortunately, age caught up with Connie...in 1954 he was the oldest player in the majors.  That year, he was released by the Senators.  Marrero retired to a lavish apartment in Havana where he still lives today. He continued coaching kids on how to pitch until he lost his eyesight in 2008.

Unfortunately, Connie Marrero never got to pitch to fellow barrier-breaker Jackie Robinson. Back then, there was no regular season inter-league games, and the Washington Senators had only one World Series appearance in 50 years! However, Marrero and Robinson did both appear in the 1951 All-Star Game in Detroit for their respective leagues. While Jackie made movies about his experience, Connie tried to stay out of politics and only talked baseball. However, in 1999, he was asked by Fidel Castro to throw out the first pitch in a friendly game between the Cuban National Team and the Baltimore Orioles in Havana's Estadio Latinamericano. However, Marrero continued throwing pitches. He didn't yield until Manager Sparky Anderson came up to the mound and grabbed the ball out of his hand.

Fidel Castro and Bud Selig:  BFF's.

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