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...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!
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.
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.”)