Friday, March 18, 2011

Interview With the Author: Jim Vitti- Brooklyn Dodgers in Cuba

As I wrote about previously, "Brooklyn Dodgers in Cuba" is a new book being released on the 28th of this month by Arcadia Publishing. When I first heard about it I immediately sent along some questions to the author, Jim Vitti, hoping to hear more about the book and his experience in writing it. Thankfully, he responded back.

Jim Vitti's two year journey about the Dodgers in Cuba started during his research for a book about Baseball on Catalina Island- a book subsequently called "Chicago Cubs: Baseball on Catalina Island."
While researching that one, I stumbled onto the notion of ‘baseball on islands.’ Two of our favorite concepts, but like hot dogs and chocolate you usually don’t think of them at the same time. But a nifty notion, which I began to explore . . .
Soon, he discovered that Baseball was played on islands throughout the world.
But what caught my interest was the Dodger camps in Cuba...

So it seemed like a natural semi-sequel, and off to the races I went. The interesting irony is the completely different feel of the stories: The Cubs on Catalina is springtime, youthful and innocent . . . while The Brooklyn Dodgers in Cuba is booze and broads and betting and bullets – a steamy summer night.
This is about where I realized that this book would likely include much of the gossip and wild tales I had been seeking. So, instead of trying to recapture his words I thought it would be best to let the rest of the interview continue in his own words. It's a bit long, but it is really worth the read- especially the final part when I ask, "was Ernest Hemingway a Dodger fan?" You Betcha!

Did you have an opportunity to interview, not only former Dodgers from the time period, but also Cuban players and fans?
That was such a treat – I got to interview 41 Dodgers who played there (including the last living player from 1941 and the last one from 1942, helping add to the depth beyond the 1947 story). I also talked to about three dozen other non-Dodgers who played there. The timing was good but sad: two dozen have died since the interviews, so a silver lining is at least their tales are recorded here.

I did get to interview some Cuban players and fans, including Connie Marrero – who’s now the oldest living major leaguer (99) – living with his family in Cuba, lucid as can be. (On pitching against DiMaggio: “I punched him out” . . . about Robinson stealing 2nd: “on the catcher, not on me” . . . on seeing Castro pitch; was Fidel any good? “Let us say he liked to pitch.”)

2011 Topps Heritage: '62 Mint Dodgers

On with the parade of Dodgers cards within 2011 Topps Heritage. Here are a couple of limited inserts that feature, not only, a couple of Hall of Famers, but some vintage mint state uncirculated coins from 1962. It is an insert set called '62 Mint.

As a former coin collector who still dabbles in that hobby from time to time I really like these cards.

#62M-DS Duke Snider(click to enlarge)

Tsunami Relief Efforts Continue for Dodgers This Saturday

This would be a great weekend to be in Arizona. Not only can you catch some Dodger Baseball, but you can also lend some financial assistance to our friends in Japan while getting a Dodger autograph at the same time. BTW, here is a link to the Japanese Red Cross Society.
This Saturday, March 19 as the Dodgers take on the Milwaukee Brewers at Camelback Ranch – Glendale, the Dodgers will collect donations that will be given to the Japan earthquake and tsunami relief efforts. Dodger players and coaches will be available from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and all fans who make a monetary donation at that time will receive an autograph. Donation booths will then be open in both the center field and home plate concourse areas from 12:30 p.m. until the end of the game.

Dodger players and coaches who are scheduled to sign autographs tomorrow include Chad Billingsley, Casey Blake, Jonathan Broxton, Jamey Carroll, Andre Ethier, Rafael Furcal, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly, James Loney, Vicente Padilla, Ramon Troncoso, Juan Uribe and Maury Wills. Japanese minor leaguers Kazuki Nishijima, Kazuya Takano and Robert Boothe will also be on hand. Players will sign autographs in the ballpark’s third base side aisles at some point during the donation period.

Dodger pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who is starting the game Saturday, will also sign autographs for donors at the center field concourse table after he comes out of the game. Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda will sign autographs for fans at his usual table outside of the center field gate.

Fans that give $20 will receive a voucher good for one baseline reserve seat for any remaining Dodgers Spring Training game at Camelback Ranch – Glendale, with a maximum of four vouchers per guest, as well as two tickets to one of two upcoming Spring Training exhibition games at Dodger Stadium.

Monetary donations of cash and checks will be accepted. Checks should be made out to American Red Cross with “Japan Tsunami Fund” in the memo line.

This past Tuesday, Dodger Stadium hosted a drive-through relief event that raised funds for Japan.

The Dodgers have a long-standing history with Japan dating back to the 1950s. Current Dodgers from Japan include pitcher Kuroda and minor leaguers Nishijima, Takano and Boothe. Nine members of the front office are also originally from Japan

Day 30 Spring Training Report

Here is todays lineup for the Dodgers: Furcal SS, DeJesus 2nd, Ethier RF, Kemp CF, Loney 1st, Uribe 3rd, Thames LF, Navarro c, De La Rosa SP

Below are Day 30 Spring Training notes from the Dodgers:
  • GEARING UP: The Dodgers travel to Scottsdale to take on the Giants for the fourth and final time this spring, having dropped the first three matchups between the division rivals. The two clubs will meet next on Opening Day, March 31, at Dodger Stadium for a nationally-televised primetime contest on ESPN.

  • THE FINAL 42: Following yesterday’s game, infielder/outfielder Jerry Sands and infielder Justin Sellers were reassigned to minor league camp. Sands, the Dodgers’ 2010 Minor League Player of the Year, batted .364 with two home runs, five RBI and a .773 slugging percentage in 16 games with the big league club. The Dodgers now have 42 players left in camp with an even split of pitchers and position players.

  • BOMBS AWAY: The Dodgers slugged three home runs yesterday, including back-to-back jacks by Hector Gimenez and Gabe Kapler in the eighth inning as Los Angeles scored a 6-4 comeback win over the Diamondbacks. Matt Kemp put the Dodgers on the board with a two-run blast in the fourth inning off Aaron Heilman for his team-leading third homer of the spring. Kemp is batting .316 on the spring and leads the Dodgers in hits (12), home runs, RBI (9) and total bases (24).

(Pic Link: Yfrog Dodgers)
  • LITTLE BIG LEAGUE: The minor league schedule kicks off today with four games against the Rangers as a trio of big leaguers will join the future Dodgers with Ted Lilly pitching in a game on the back fields at Camelback Ranch and Jay Gibbons and Jamey Carroll playing in Surprise. Also back at Camelback Ranch, Vicente Padilla will throw off a mound for the first time since having forearm surgery on February 24.

  • THE RUB: The Dodgers’ reigning Minor League Pitcher of the Year Rubby De La Rosa will make his second start of the spring after striking out two and surrendering just one hit over 2.0 scoreless innings on Sunday against the Cubs in Las Vegas. The 22-year-old has limited opposing hitters to a .182 batting average without issuing a walk and struck out five in 6.0 Spring Training innings. RHP Ramon Troncoso, RHP Blake Hawksworth, RHP Kenley Jansen and LHP Ron Mahay will follow De La Rosa to the mound this afternoon. The Giants will counter with RHP Jeff Suppan.

  • LEADERBOARD: Dodger outfielder Marcus Thames is tied for third in the Cactus League with five doubles while fellow newcomer Tony Gwynn Jr. is tied for second with six steals. Gwynn is hitting .344 (11-for-32) and is second on the club in hits, trailing just Matt Kemp, who has 12. Trent Oeltjen, who became the fourth Australian-born player to suit up for the Dodgers last season, leads all Dodger hitters with a .438 average (min. 15 at-bats).

(PicLink: Yfrog Dodgers)
  • MAKING HIS BID: Xavier Paul stroked a double in his only at-bat yesterday and has caught fire of late, batting .545 (6-for-11) with a double, triple and one RBI over his last five games dating back to March 12. The 26-year-old is batting .290 (9-for-31) with a home run and three RBI in 17 Spring Training games.

  • BLUE CHIPS: A few Dodgers players and staff have a stake in this year’s NCAA tournament as Tony Gwynn Jr. (San Diego State), Strength and Conditioning Coach Brendon Huttmann (Kansas) and right-hander Josh Lindblom (Purdue) have their alma maters in the dance. Meanwhile, Dodgertalk host Josh Suchon has already ruined one of his brackets by picking his SDSU Aztecs to win it all, while his co-host Joe Block saw his Michigan State Spartans’ hopes dashed last night by the hometown UCLA Bruins.

(PicLink: Yfrog Dodgers)
  • BOYS IN BLUE: The Third Annual UMPS CARE Charities online auction is underway at, featuring priceless memorabilia and one-of-a kind experiences for teams throughout baseball. Fans can bid on a Dodger batting practice experience among the other great packages until March 20.

Blog Kiosk: 3/18/2010

Let's start the season, already!
  • New Dodger billboards are out and Vin Scully is My Homeboy has a pic of a beauty. "It's Time For The Voice Of Summer"
  • Even better, Left Field Pavilion made their own hilarious billboards, check them all out here.
  • Here's a great article from Steve Dilbeck about the the real vintage Dodgertown, it's St. Patrick's Day tradition and the painful loss of our teams history at the hands of a marketing campaign.
  • The Seattle Times has a story focused on some former MLB'ers in Japan.

    At least Ruiz, who homered off Josh Beckett, Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett during a late-season run with Toronto in 2009, is safe. He was playing with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in an exhibition game 400 miles away last Friday and never felt the magnitude-9.0 quake.

    Ruiz first learned of the disaster when umpires suddenly stopped the game in the eighth inning. The team's English translator explained the situation to Ruiz and fellow former major leaguers Darrell Rasner and Ryan Speier, and fans were sent home.

    Ruiz and the other Eagles - Kaz Matsui, Byung-Hyun Kim and Akinori Iwamura, among them - are practicing in Nagoya, about 300 miles from their hard-hit home in the port city of Sendai. They're staying in a hotel, feeling guilty.

  • Gold Baseballs? Are you kidding me? From Sports Collectors Daily.
  • They destroyed this Lamdo!
  • Atlantis?
  • Michael Lewis, the soothsayer? In 1989 he wrote "How a Tokyo Earthquake Could Devastate Wall Street and the World Economy." Read a copy of it here at The Big Picture.
  • Star Wars?