Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Conrado Marrero 1911-2014

The oldest living Major League, Conrado "Connie" Eugenio (Ramos) Marrero passed away on April 22, 2014, just two days shy of this 103rd Birthday. Born on April 25, 1911 in Sagua La Grande, Villa Clara, Cuba, Marrero would become one of the most successful Baseball players as an amateur in Cuba before reaching the majors at the almost ancient age (for a ballplayer to be a rookie in the pros) of 39.

Peter Bjarkman wrote an article on Marrero for the New York Times entitled Bridge to Cuba’s Baseball Past on August 13, 2011, a few months after Marrero's 100th birthday where Marrero states that his road to the pros started in the following manner:
In those days, the all-white Cuban amateur circuit was much more popular than the racially integrated professional winter league based in Havana. The amateurs played games only on weekends, and they received well-paying token employment from enterprises that sponsored their clubs.
Photo Credit Cuba Collectibles

“I earned great fame pitching for the Cienfuegos club, and they paid me good,” said Marrero, who was known in the United States as Connie. “With the national team in 1939, I was the first Cuban to beat the Americans in the amateur world series. I had no need to be with the pro clubs in Havana. I never wanted to sign a contract.

“But then on two occasions, they suspended me from the Amateur Athletic Union league. It was because I was playing in some exhibition games on the side, which was against the rules. I had won 123 and lost only 39 in seven seasons, but they threw me out. I didn’t have any choice, and then Reinaldo Cordeiro gave me a contract with the Chihuahua team in the Mexico League, and I went there in 1945 and won 28. That was how it started with the pros.”
As Bjarkman states, Marrero spent three seasons with the Havana Cubans of the Class B Florida International League, where he had 70 victories, a no-hitter and a sub-2.00 earned run average. On April 21, 1950, four days shy of his 39th birthday, Marrero would make his debut for the Washington Senators with 0.2-innings pitched against the New York Yankees in Old Yankees Stadium. Marrero would give up 1-hit to the three batters he faced. This is his career line for the five seasons he played for the Senators (Courtesy of Baseball

The Cold War era politics between the United States and the Fidel Castro led Cuba caused many a former major league to stay behind in Cuba when Castro closed the borders to the United States. This was no different for Marrero. In wouldn't be until 1999 when Marrero would be heard from again by Baseball Fans here in the United States.

During the first game of the 1999 exhibition series at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban National team on March 28, 1999, Marrero would steal the show with his throwing out of the first pitch. Richard Goldstein in his obituary for Marrero Connie Marrero, Popular Pitcher in Cuban Baseball, Dies at 102 describes the scene:
When the Baltimore Orioles played exhibitions against the Cuban national team in Havana in 1999, Marrero was selected to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. He was so enthusiastic that he could not stop. After he hurled several pitches, with the Orioles’ Brady Anderson standing at the plate, officials finally called a halt to his unofficial comeback.

At age 87, Marrero could be excused for imagining that he was back in his prime, when, in the words of Felipe Alou, the longtime major league player and manager, he confounded batters with “a windup that looked like a cross between a windmill gone berserk and a mallard duck trying to fly backwards.”

When Marrero put on his pitching performance against the Orioles, the sportscaster Bob Wolff, who had broadcast Senators games during Marrero’s time with them, remembered how “Connie was one of the Senators’ all-time popular players.”

“He was a wily, chunky guy, always with a cigar, even on the bench,” Wolff told The New York Times. “He could really make the ball do tricks. He was an excellent pitcher on a lousy team.”
Marrero would live out the rest of his life in Havana with his grandson. Now, as in June 1951, Life magazine dubbed Marrero “The Senators’ Slow-Ball Señor.”, the Slow-Ball Señor is throwing his trademark off-speed pitches in Baseball Heaven. En Paz Descanse Conrado.

Here is Conrado "Connie" Marrero celebrating his 102nd Birthday:

Hasta la próxima, no dejamos de jugar el Beisbol
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access the article A Cigar With the Oldest Living Former Major Leaguer by Tom Hawthorne from the website dated March 4, 2011
- Click Here to access the article Going to bat for the Slow-Ball Señor by Tom Hawthorne from The Globe and Mail website dated April 26, 2011 and updated on September 10, 2012

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