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My Man in Havana
2008-09-05 11:56
by Bob Timmermann

My brother Tom has headed to Cuba to cover the upcoming US-Cuba World Cup qualifier this weekend.

Here's his first report.

And a followup.


The Hotel Nacional is a historic monument, and it celebrates its history with pictures of famous people who have stayed there (Michael Keaton?) and a photo display in the lobby of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, including a shot of Guevara playing golf. (Well, he was a doctor.) Needless to say, he wore his military fatigues on the links.

The cable in my hotel room includes several channels in Chinese – though I’ve yet to see anyone who looks Chinese in the hotel – and what seems to be the Venezuelan version of C-SPAN. But there is also the Disney Channel (in Spanish), ESPN, CNN International, and the Discovery Channel. It’s worth noting that your ordinary Cuban can’t see those channels. They’re only available in tourist hotels. Though a recent relaxing of rules now allows Cubans to stay in tourist hotels, presumably if they wanted to watch something on ESPN.

2008-09-05 12:25:11
1.   Eric Stephen
I thought your brother said he never met Johnny Ola?
2008-09-05 12:55:41
2.   old dodger fan
Venezuelan C-SPAN? That sounds like a riot.
2008-09-05 13:48:35
3.   Eric Enders
Last time I went to Cuba I stayed at the Nacional also. Great old hotel. And it definitely evoked memories of Godfather 2.

The Cuban television available to most Cubans consists largely of bootlegged American TV shows. I remember watching an episode of Friends that presumably had been captured from a Miami broadcast and been dubbed into Spanish.

The stadium that Tom speaks of, regardless of its official name, is known locally as La Tropical, after Tropical beer which sponsored it for many years. It was the main stadium in Cuban baseball before the current Estadio Latinoamericano was built in the 1940s.

Pretty much the entire Cuban Winter League season was played at La Tropical each year. It's the park where Josh Gibson hit what was supposedly the longest home run of all time. The Dodgers also held spring training there in 1941 and '42.

I remember the plaque Tom's speaking of, featuring the names of Carl Hubbell, Bill Terry, and about 30 other guys who made a trip to Havana in the thirties. When we found the plaque it seemed forgotten and in disrepair, so the group I was traveling with arranged to have it restored and cleaned up a bit.

2008-09-05 13:59:20
4.   Eric Enders
Here's a picture taken at the stadium during the aforementioned major league tour:

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