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Félix Julio Alfonso: “Cuban baseball has the chance to recover lost ground and show its full potential”

He is one of the Cuban intellectuals who knows the most about the history of baseball in Cuba. He is the Doctor of Historical Sciences, Félix Julio Alfonso (1972), who has devoted a good part of his professional life to researching this topic. This man from Santa Clara has turned his passion for baseball into the pages of his books to help us understand that baseball for Cubans is “much more than a sporting event, it is a fundamental component of nation building.”

“We are facing a phenomenon of the deep culture of this country, a culture that initially belonged to the elites and quickly became an inseparable part of nationalist, modern and popular-rooted discourses. We are therefore before a powerful device of national identity that, of course, goes beyond differences of any kind”, he declares to OnCuba.

Felix Julio Alfonso. Photo: Claudio Peláez Sordo.

“The World Baseball Classic is the tournament of the highest sporting level in which a baseball team already had a great performance in 2006 and now it is once again among the four teams with options to fight for the title, which shows that the aleph The baseball player continues to be part of our history and of a triumphant heritage that has accompanied us for more than a century, since Habana and Almendares faced their Major League counterparts on an equal footing and José de la Caridad Méndez and Cristóbal Torriente challenged and they beat Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth,” says Alfonso, who is also a member of the Academy of Cuban History.

His books include baseball apology (Sports Publisher); Baseball and nation in Cuba (Scientific-Technical Publishing); The letter in the diamond (Editorial Capiro) and The gallant game Baseball and society in Havana (1864-1895) published by Ediciones Boloña and Editorial Letras Cubanas.

He also prefaced other texts on the same theme, such as Aedas in the stadium (2008); confessions of great (2012) and scribes in the stadium (2017).

Félix Julio Alfonso: "Cuban baseball has the chance to recover lost ground and show its full potential"

Is there any historical precedent similar to what we are experiencing now?

Among the historical background, many memorable moments of Cuban baseball could be cited: the mythical confrontations between Conrado Marrero and Daniel Canónico in the World Series of the 1940s; the euphoria of the great Orestes Miñoso with the Chicago White Sox in the 1950s; the triumph of the Cuban Sugar Kings in the 1959 Little World Series; the great duels of the Curro Pérez and José Antonio strike in Santo Domingo and Cartagena; home runs by Marquetti in Nicaragua, Muñoz in Tokyo and Lourdes Gurriel in Parma, and a long etcetera.

How do you assess the formation of this team? What is for you the biggest weakness?

I think the integration of a team with the best players from the National Series and a part of the greatest talents that participate in different circuits of the best baseball in the world is very healthy for Cuban baseball.

What I liked the most about this Team Cuba is its cohesion as a group and its resilience, that is, its ability to overcome an adverse start, in addition to the ambition to win and the desire to put on a good show.

His weakness could be, perhaps, in underestimating the opponents, because more difficult games await him. Cuban baseball is today an ecumenical and globalized phenomenon, and as such enjoys prestige in various settings, from Mexico to Japan, and its most distinguished players are respected at the highest level of quality.

In this sense, it seems to me that Cuban baseball has the possibility of recovering lost ground and showing its full potential.

Why can’t we get rid of the baseball feeling?

It is no coincidence that the first organized baseball team on the island was created in 1868 (Havana BBC) at the same time that Carlos Manuel de Céspedes gave the cry for independence against Spain. Dozens of baseball players were mambises and created an imaginary of freedom and sovereignty associated with baseball.

The great sports heroes of the Republic were players of the stature of Adolfo Luque, Armando Marsans, Alejandro Om, Martin Dihigo and Orestes Miñoso, of humble origins and mestizo culture.

He says that when Luque wanted to encourage himself to face a difficult opponent, he would call Havana and ask them to put the piece “Tres lindas cubanas” by Antonio María Romeu on the phone.

The Cuban popular language is full of baseball phraseologisms and in the same way literature, music, plastic arts and to a lesser extent the cinema have collected all the polyphonic richness of meanings that the baseball possesses for the Cuban being.

Félix Julio Alfonso: "Cuban baseball has the chance to recover lost ground and show its full potential"
Photo: Claudio Peláez Sordo.

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Félix Julio Alfonso: "Cuban baseball has the chance to recover lost ground and show its full potential"

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