tv Book Discussion on Havana Hardball CSPAN November 26, 2015 7:30am-8:01am EST
>> and next up on this long booktv weekend, cesar brioso discusses his book "havana hardball" from this your default for the book, weeklong book festival held in the fairfax, virginia, area every fall. >> [inaudible conversations] >> so welcome to barnes & noble perfect. cesar brioso is a producer for "usa today" sports where he served as a small editor from 2003-2004. born in havana, he graduated with a fatuous degree in journalism from the university of florida. in a 25 years as a sports
journalist is written for "the miami herald" and the sun something up just to name a few. so welcome cesar brioso. [applause] >> thank you. thank you for coming, and i want to thank barnes & noble forgive me the opportunity to discuss my book, "havana hardball." i'm going to talk all the bit about and why i wrote it and that hopefully i will some questions for you guys. so "havana hardball" chronicles a pivotal time in baseball history where cuba found itself at the epicenter of events that would impact major league baseball, the negro league and the latin league for years to come. and i chose to focus on this particular time period, the 1940s, at least in part because of my father. is on this vote over here, the boy into cat. he grew up in cuba in the 1940s and '50s as a fan of
-- that's the baseball cap he is one with one of his uncles. he would come after it's about american players who would come to cuba every winter to play baseball. and among some of those players that he would tell me about for people like tommy lasorda who went on to become energy of the dodgers obviously, future hall of famers monte, ray, negro league players such as hank thompson. and also before chuck connors assumes as the rifle man, he was just kevin connor, the dodgers farmhand who played. mike here's a sports writer, start to find some of these players retired in florida, and began interviewing them for newspaper articles with the idea that hopefully when did i would be able to write a book on the topic. then once i learned that jackie robinson, that his historic
major-league debut basically began in cuba with spring training, well, at the point yet the cuban league qaeda became mini obsession for me. so for some 20 years i conducted interviews, gathered information, collected photos, programs and other cuban league artifacts and finally years ago when the university press of florida expressed an interest in publishing my book, the subject was kind of a no-brainer. stories from my youth was the obvious choice. "havana hardball" specifically focus on on the 1946-47 cuban winter league season is still considered the greatest leaking issue. that dated back to 1870 just after the russian after the match -- the national league and attorney. that particular year the championship was decided by a three-game series in februar
february 1947 between -- the eternal rivals. they been in the league since its formation. at the conclusion of that three-game series, havana erupted into an epic celebration that spread across cuba. as a final games played out what also happened was the brooklyn dodgers arrived in havana for spring training that they brought with them the montréal royals, their aaa affiliate and that included stars like jackie robinson, don newcombe. robinson and the royals encountered quite a bit of resistance in florida during spring training in 1946. they would show up for a game and suddenly became would be canceled by a light malfunction or they would arrive in the state in which the padlock or
there would be a police officer informing them does a city ordinance preventing blacks and whites playing together. so in 1947 they decide to move the dodgers spring training base from daytona beach to havana. there had been interracial baseball in the cuban league since 1900 so he chose havana a more tolerant racial climate there as opposed to jim crow florida. in february 1947 it was still not entirely clear robinsons rise to the majors were guaranteed. he ran into a lot of obstacles in cuba. he had to learn a new position. he had stomach problems to deal with. and injury late in spring training, even segregated accommodations, surprisingly enough. and, of course, there was the petition by players designed to
prevent robinson from making the dodgers. so the book, the two main storylines also play against the backdrop of the mexican league trying to lure players, major-league players to break the contract and play in mexico. why that's important is in order to counter that commissioner happy chandler declared all the jumpers as being ineligible to play in organized baseball for at least five years. the impact that has on the cuban league was he also declared that anyone who have played either with or against the jumpers from the also were ineligible. so many cuban players suddenly found that their career and organized baseball was in jeopardy, and the cuban league itself was no a rogue league. so the book explores these conflicts have came into being and how they were resolved and then look at what happened going
forward. so those are all the remarks i have prepared. hopefully you guys have some questions that i would be glad to answer them if anybody has some. spent 20 years in the making. did you, traveled back and forth a good bit, or nose because actually no, i did not travel at all to the ivan. these were most, plenty of interviews with retired players. like i said in florida. most of the interviews i did actually with the players in the book were conducted probably between the early to mid 90s and early 2000s. the rest of it was just research. i was able to get a hold of two cuban newspapers through the library of congress. also the sporting news did a remarkable job really covering all the latin league's back and. so that was a big source for
research and the "new york times" opposite how to write with a brooklyn doctors in spring training in havana. a lot of it was just looking through old newspapers. there were books that touched on the subject here and there, maybe part of a chapter or chapter that mentioned especially books about jackie robinson. but no, unfortunately, i haven't been able to go to cuba. my family left when i was five months old and i've not been back. i am desperate to get there at some point. >> did you ever play baseball when you were little? >> mostly pickup games with friends. so no, i never played like organized ball beyond ninth grade maybe, partly. but i love baseball and always have.
spent what's the hardest thing about this project? >> the hardest thing was getting a publisher. like acetic i've started this thing 20 years ago and made for what i look back now is the queers to try to get a publisher. i was only focus on exactly what the book would say so and then when i got the rejection letters. and then time, just like happens, right was to get a job, mary, kids. it's hard to carve out the time to do something like this without knowing if it's ever going to get published. so i'm thankful that a former journalism professor of mine actually put in touch with a publisher of years ago. so once i knew that i had a publisher, that was the motivation i need to carve out my three hours a night to write, do the research, and get it do
done. >> what made you focus on that particular period that you wrote about? you have seemed to limited to a narrower focus. >> a couple of factors. one thing my interest but also their it already been, the pride of havana is about in depth sort of the entire scope of history of baseball in cuba. so that book had already been done. so when a publisher expressed interest i could really say i'm going to do the exact same thing. i needed to do something a little more focused. and because of, i thought because of jackie robinson's presence, the fact that you had the mexican league rating going on, the greatest season ever in history, ma all those factors coming together at the same time because that sort of made it a natural place to start the edit also help that the for manage in
the cuban league at the time, they were all legends as players in the cuban league. so when i talk about them as managers, i was able to use that as sort of a jump off point to tell the back story of the cuban league. and with the dodgers coming up for spring training, but also gave me chance, that was part, there would be major league teams or negro league teams coming in. citing a chance to talk of what they called their the american series, the back story of all the times the major-league teams had come to cuba before 1947. >> kind of a spoiler, i don't
know how spoilers, will you take questions specific? >> shirker i may not answer. >> the story about ernest hemingway, could you kind of -- >> sure. there were quite a few cultural stores and that was one of the best ones. and again this didn't happen in 9046-47 but the dodgers have been coming to cuba for a while. they did spring training in 1941 and 9042. on one of those trips hemingway at that point was living in cuba and had invited, he would run into the players at casinos, casino, whatever come and he invited a handful of them activist the state in cuba. and after many drinks, basically he got into a boxing match with
one of the dodgers players. and eventually suggested that they go back the next morning. there's many stories like that, especially with the dodgers. >> have you heard from people in the dodgers organization? >> no, not at this point, no. [inaudible] >> no, he actually played in the '50s, so although later so he would not have been there at this time. maybe for the next about -- the next book. [inaudible] >> i am. probably come off already actually started conducting interviews i want to do something on the final days of professional baseball in cuba with the cuban league and also the havana sugar cane, the trip to a team that was there at the time.
>> when you write a book like this, if it gets relegated to the sports section, it may be limited simply because people don't see the book. i'm not a baseball persevered i don't know baseball history but it looks like a book that i probably will buy and read. and it seems to me it's a book that belongs somewhere else, football, baseball and it's a book that is more than that. >> i think whenever you write something about jackie robinson from especially at that time raking the color barrier, sort of by the topic itself your do with more than just baseball. gimmie jackie robinson breaking the color barrier is the most socially significant event in history of sports may be. because the impact it had as far as what happened in the future with the civil rights movement and having an african-american player in the majors, what they did to further that cause.
it can't be understated. i did try, while it is a baseball book i did try to put it in the historical context of the time, especially in cuba was happening then or what had happened, just for example, what i found in my research was that from almost from the beginning baseball went hand in hand with cuba's war for independence against spain. games would be set up in key west or tampa, and some of that money would go back to cuba for the cause, for the cause of independence. and some of the founders of the cuban league were also involved with cuba's war for independence from spain. i kept finding those sort of political links during the research. so yeah, it is a baseball book but it did try to put in the context of the historical events
at the time. >> athletes today not knowing the history of the game, the cuban players today know the history? >> of the cuban league? you know, that's hard to say. i'm not sure how much in cuba they know about the past tha but seems like they do. i mean, whenever you see, if you're familiar with it at all, in cuba it's called -- the hot corner in this park in downtown havana where guys hang out and just argue baseball all the time. they definitely know what's going on here. they get information about the games you. i'd do think they know about the history there, but as far as the young players, i'm not sure. i would be curious.
>> anybody else? >> what surprised you the most about what you found? >> a couple, one thing that was surprising that this is kind of inside baseball so i apologize for that but i found it fascinating that if you ever watched batting practice and into the screens that have in front of first base and third base and second base to protect the infielders while they're taking batting practice, dixie walker who was one of the people instrumental in the petition against jackie robinson, he actually invented that in cuba. just stumbled across it reading the "new york times" story. something i've never heard of at all. he and his family owned a sporting goods store back where they live. and one of his teammates got hit with a ball during batting practice him and he decided to fashion this thing, this net
held in a friend to protect them. and there's a quote in the "new york times" article from 1947 in cuba said this is fantastic fantastic, you will see this used in baseball from now on. and he was right. but i had never realized that happen. i thought that was a neat little detail the fact that happened during spring training site included in the book. this was surprising but not striking, the way newspapers at the time dealt with race and ethnicity. i kept running into these references, for example, a player in the cuban league we may give major-league debut in it night for 61 of the nuke papers refer to them as the giants latest spaghetti curveball binder. you would see in the cuban
players were quoted phonetically, not just in the white house but also even in the black press that covered, that was covering, that was embedded with jackie robinson in cuba during spring training. and another example in the cuban newspapers, i kept finding one of the teams they're being referred to as the oilers. i thought that's odd because they aren't the elephants was the team name. and have been hardball is explained that one other broadcasters have started, had called them a term used in cuba for white men who like black women. and the phrase stuck and was actually used in newspapers but, in fact, i hardly found in 47 without any references to the elephants. they were almost always called
the oilers but i kept finding these references both the newspapers in the u.s. and in cuba. and they said i'm not surprised that race was dealt with that way then, when you see those repeatedly, like when the first cuban born players in the majors in 1911 and the modern era, newspapers rushed to assure baseball fans that they were not black. i just kept finding these references over and over again. very striking. >> what's next? >> the well, as far as of this, someone asked earlier, i am already started writing, interviewing for hopefully the next book which is on the final days of the professional baseball in cuba. stiff are you going to try to go down there to research that
went? >> gosh, i hope so. >> are there any women's elite's? >> the professional, during the world war ii or the had the american women's professional league that had again and that cuban players in the league as well. [inaudible] spent i don't know specifically towards cuba but i mean i found photos of the cuban players from that league and the cuban team that played also during that league. [inaudible] >> we all know that editors make you choose between your children. so what's not in the bookmarks what's on the floor that you would love to have put in their that we are not going to get? >> oh, gosh, i mean, since i
focused so much, i was so narrowly focused on this era, i pretty much try to empty the notebook on this. you know, i couldn't come although it about me the chance to go back and do some backdoor, just by the people involved, you know, certainly i wasn't able to go as in depth on stuff before 1947. but no, i tried to stick in as much as i could. >> how long did it take for you to write this? i may have missed it earlier. >> the writing part, probably a little over a year and a half. i basically just forced myself from 9 p.m. to midnight every night to try to write it. i tried to write a chapter a
month and i pretty much stuck to the. there were times when it took a month to just do research or just do read the chapters i've already written just to make sure everything was all right. but about a year and half of actual writing and surprise lake about a year and a half of editing and proofing and all that. that part, i did expect that the someone once told me it takes about three years and it ended up being about right, from start to finish. >> i know this is nonfiction. did you have to embellish it a little bit, some stores do it? >> no, not at all. i've found plenty of colorful stories just, whether in newspaper articles or in books on the topic. i mentioned before the ernest hemingway thing. there was a character, i got from the dodgers who also was on
one of the previous spring training trips. just for example, was caught in a hotel by two women by one of the woman's husband come and they had to get out of the country as quickly as possible. there was no need to embellish anything. was plenty of good material to work with. [inaudible] spent even a conclusion of the cuban league, one of the pages had to pitch on one day's rest, which you never see that happening here, ma except with the giants made it last year. he started the first game and then another pitch -- another pitcher pitched the second and anthony pitch the 13. two games in three days.
>> was there a commission with a link? >> with the cuban league? i mean, they were just, they were not the same kind of characters i don't think that you would see here. i mean, i doubt much more with happy chandler because of the impact he had in terms of the cuban league, you know, and before him basically nothing in at the attempt, not wanting to do with any of the thames by the black press to try to push integration. but no, i didn't really deal too much with the cuban league commissioners. i don't think, they certainly were not the characters that you see with the major league, and the impact certainly. >> actually with your last comment, how is cuba responded
with that? have they responded to remarks of your book? have they, you know, any outpouring of? >> i haven't heard anything yet. i think, it's not a political book so i don't know, and you know, even though in cuba the government of professionalism in baseball, it's basically an amateur league now since the revolution. i think that the country has always hung onto its baseball past, even the professional baseball past. so i can't imagine that there would be anything controversial in that for them. but i have not heard anything, no. >> was their tobacco used in the league's used in the leagues like the ones you? >> i'm sure there was. i didn't see anything specific
about that. i'm sure come a special with all the american players going over there. [inaudible] >> quite a few. max india was one of the key players, key pictures, and he was in my circulation and when i was at a small newspaper in florida. so talk to him several times over the years. don newcombe was a terrific. i talk to him over the phone back in 97 with great detail about the jackie robinson spring training. and also a writer for baltimore african-american. he was embedded with robinson and the other players that spring training i talked him back in 1997, called them on the phone, and he was at that point in his 80s and he was just tack sharp with his recollection of everything that happened.
so they were quite a few great interviews. [inaudible] >> almost all of them unfortunately have passed away this point. don newcombe is the only one of the main people that i interviewed that is still around, and ramirez who is the spanish language broadcaster other than that they've all passed away. we are talking about after world war ii, so they would be in their late '90s. i think don newcombe is in his early '90s at this point, yeah, so. >> this a little bit out of the book that you would probably know. do you explain why cuba and baseball are so interlocked?
i mean, it's been what, 70 years of tremendous interest in baseball, even now. >> i mean, goes back to cuba is introduced, i'm in baseball was introduced into cuba back in the 1860s by wealthy families who came here and brought baseball back there. i think as i mentioned before, that it was so interlocked with the fight for independence against spain. i think that was one of the main things that sort of ingrained in the culture and away choosing baseball over, say, bullfighting or any of the spanish sports was away, another way of rebellion against the spanish crown. i think that's really what it became so ingrained in the culture. the rejection of all things spain it and then and embrace of the united states in a way.