Alfredo Despaigne’s dramatic tenth-inning walk-off three-run homer provided an unsurpassed climax to what may arguably have been the most thrilling Cuba-USA showdown game ever staged. And the heart-stopping 4-3 comeback was also easily one of the most significant-ever matches between the two fierce longtime rivals. Some in Cuba may point nostalgically to the 1987 13-9 Pan American Games Gold Medal triumph in Indianapolis (where Cuba rallied for five tallies in the final two frames against an overworked future major leaguer named Cris Carpenter), or to the 4-3 1988 World Cup finale in Parma (capped with Lourdes Gourriel’s game-winning blast against an American squad featuring the likes of Robin Ventura, Tino Martínez, and Ben MacDonald); yet neither of those games were laced with quite as much drama or featured nearly as much sterling defensive play by both squads as the one staged in Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu Stadium at the conclusion of the fifth edition of baseball’s World University Championships. The crowd may have been relatively small (an estimated 4000 were on hand for the memorable clash), and the relatively new championship venue may not yet hold the same luster as more high profile IBAF events like the World Cup or Olympic Games tournaments. Yet in the long series of contests between the world’s two top ball-playing nations dating back to the 1930s, no single showdown match has carried quite the same weight for Cuba’s international baseball prestige. And no Cuba-USA showdown–perhaps no single gold medal game matching the powerhouse Cubans with any of their international rivals–has ever concluded with a more heart-stopping or magical single dramatic moment.
For the complete story of why this was (at least in this author’s view) the most memorable and significant Cuba-USA baseball game ever staged, see the article found at http://www.baseballdecuba.com/VUniversityGames2010/peter03.asp
For a video replay of Despainge’s historic home run see http://www.baseballdecuba.com/49SN-VIDEOS/VIDEOS.html