December 27, 2009 marked the 135th anniversary of Caribbean baseball’s most celebrated landmark contest: the purported “first official game” played in the long-baseball-crazy island nation of Cuba. Of course the 51-9 “laugher” played between organized nines representing Habana BBC and Matanza BBC and staged on the latter city’s Palmar de Junco” grounds was not that country’s actual first baseball exhibition. The prior existence of the two clubs and the playing grounds itself would be enough to attest to earlier “lost” matches. What transpired in Matanzas in late 1874 was only the first-ever match reported to the reading public in the nation’s sporting press. Over the years, of course, the celebrated contest has taken on all the same dubious trappings of importance that for decades attached to fictionalized accounts of Abner Doubleday’s supposed “creation” of an American version of the bat and ball sport in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. Cubans quite obviously love creation myths every bit as much as do we Americans.
A highly readible summary of what actually occurred in Matanzas on December 27, 1874, and a capsule account of how it later took on the aura of history was recently published on Christmas Day in the pages of Havana’s Granma daily. The electronic version of journalist Sigfredo Barros’s entertaining summary can be readily accessed at
http://www.granma.cubaweb.cu/2009/12/25/deportes/artic01.html. A longer and more analytical treatment of the details and consequences of Cuba’s “first game” has also recently been penned by Ray Otero for the pages of www.BaseballdeCuba.com and can now also be found at http://www.baseballdecuba.com/newsContainer.asp?id=1981.