Greetings and salutations to a host of potential MLB.com readers. For openers, a few words of introduction and explanation are perhaps in order here. You might well want to know whose words you are reading, if only so that you might make an informed judgment about whether this author’s thoughts, opinions, and hopefully informative updates on Latino ballplayers and on Caribbean and Cuban League baseball might, after all, have any special interest or relevance for you.
In brief, I am the author of several books on Latin American and Cuban baseball history, mostly recently McFarland’s A History of Cuban Baseball, 1864-2006 (2007), which reviewers at Library Journal labelled "the definitive work on Cuban baseball" (in their February 1, 2007, "Baseball Preview" article). My earlier coffee table pictorial volume entitled Smoke: The Romance and Lore of Cuban Baseball (co-authored with photo archivist Mark Rucker in 1999) was a finalist for the prestigious Spitball-CASEY Award. And two additional tomes on international baseball have earned Society for American Baseball Research awards–Diamonds around the Globe: The Encyclopedia of International Baseball (The Sporting News-SABR Baseball Research Award, 2004) and Baseball with a Latin Beat: A History of the Latin American Game (Macmillan-SABR Baseball Research Award, 1994). I am currently at work on Who’s Who in Cuban Baseball, 1962-2007 (to be published by McFarland in mid-2008) and Latino Baseball Legends: A Biographical Encyclopedia (forthcoming from Greenwood Press in November 2007).
I am based in Lafayette, Indiana, but spend a good part of my year traveling in Havana, Cuba (where I make 4-5 research trips yearly) and in Zagreb, Croatia (where my wife, a Purdue University professor of linguistics, directs a research project on sign languages of the deaf). My own research interest and personal baseball passion for more than a decade now has been Cuba’s "socialist" version of the Pan-American "national" pastime, which I have had the rare opportunity to watch up-close and personal since 1996. I have witnessed the vaunted Cuban national team from the press box in more than a dozen international tournaments (including the WBC), covered the professional winter league Caribbean Series in Mexico and Puerto Rico, and attended numerous Baseball World Cup and Pan American Games competitions, as well as Olympic baseball tournaments (Atlanta 1996 and the Havana Pre-Olympic Tournament of 2006). I also write a regular report/column on Cuban League action and international tournaments for the Spanish-language monthly Beisbol Mundial and the annual Cuban League updates for Baseball America.
That is likely more than enough background. Anyone wishing more, or wanting to access photos and reports regarding my Cuban League baseball travels, is invited to visit my personal website at www.bjarkman.com.
This blog will henceforth eschew further biography (my own at least) and concentrate on reports and perspectives related to the Cuban and Latin American (Caribbean) baseball scenes, perspectives offered by someone who has spent many months during the past decade traveling the by-ways and back roads of the Caribbean baseball universe. My views are usually opinionated and sometimes tinged with noticeable political overtones (fair warning has now been given here) and I do not shy away from controversy. I will write in English in order to serve the bulk of my potential readers, but I certainly welcome all Spanish-language inquiries and comments.
Some topics on the immediate horizon for this blog include at least all of the following subjects:
1- The true birth date of Cuba’s oldest living big leaguer (Connie Marrero, not Orlando Hernandez)
2- The sad passing in early May of a pioneering 1960s-era Cuban League icon (Owen Blandino)
3- Opinions and musings on MLB’s proper projected role in a post-Castro Cuba
4- Controversies attached to MLB’s retirement of Clemente’s number "21"
5- Revisiting the issue of Cuban "blacks" in the majors before Jackie Robinson
6- Revisiting the oft-rumored pitching career of touted prospect Fidel Castro
And that is just a sample of what stands in the on-deck circle. I will also be reporting regularly on my periodic "road trips" to Havana and the Cuban League "front lines" with my next journey scheduled for late May (when the Cuban national team will be in preparations for upcoming challenges to their long-standing superiority at the July Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro and the November Baseball World Cup in Taipei).