March 20, 2006

History’s Underdog in Classic Finals

When was Cuba not the underdog?

The odds were against Carlos Manuel de Céspedes when he ushered in the age of armed struggle against the Spanish Empire and began the Ten Year War in 1868.

The odds were against José Martí when he began to organize the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892.

Three and a half centuries earlier, the odds were against Hatuey, the brave Taíno that opposed Spanish conquest of Cuba in 1512.

Cubans are used having the deck stacked against them.

Three months ago it seemed certain that Cuba would not be allowed to play in the inaugural World Baseball Classic tournament. But last Saturday (3/18/06) Cuba was the underdog in the tournament’s semifinal game against the heavily favored team from the Dominican Republic.

The press seemed ready and eager to excuse a Cuban “loss,” asserting that the Cuban players, the youngest in the tournament, had never faced major league caliber opposition before, and almost everyone on the Dominican roster is a major leaguer of some acclaim. As the Cuban National Team prevailed decisively, the press had to write a different story.

At the beginning of the series, there were 179 Major League players in the tournament, spread out over 12 of the 16 teams. Not one of them played on the Cuban team, and yet the Cuban pitchers ruled; Yadel Marti and Pedro Luis Lazo kept the big-league hitters on the Dominican team quiet and sedate. You almost couldn’t tell they were there.

Today Cuba plays in the championship game against Japan. Let the game begin.



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