Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Future Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro was once given a tryout by the Washington Senators baseball team.
Origins: "What if?" alternative history scenarios are a favorite topic of conjecture for everyone from barroom philosophers to professional historians. How different might our world be today if a prominent historical figure had never been born, had died before achieving prominence, or had been prevented from dying early? How much of what we know might be changed if we could go back in time and alter the outcome of some key event? That we cannot establish definitive answers for these questions doesn't matter
One of the quirkier historical "What if?" scenarios involves the legend that Cuban leader Fidel Castro was once given a tryout (and rejected) by an American major league baseball team (usually specified as either the Washington Senators or the New York Yankees). Consider what might have turned out differently had Fidel taken up a career in professional baseball rather than politics: no revolution overthrowing the Batista regime, no establishment of a Soviet-aligned government in Cuba, and thus no Bay of Pigs or Cuban Missile Crisis
Even if one opts for the "historical footnote" interpretation, the Castro legend is still appealing because of its unconventionality. Many alternative history scenarios are based upon a consideration of what might have happened if an influential historical figure not died — or been prevented from dying
Although this legend has an aura of plausibility to Americans in that baseball has long flourished in Cuba, and Castro has been a very visible supporter of (and pseudo-participant in) the sport, it is neither true nor credible, as Cubans have always been aware. Castro never had a tryout with a major-league baseball team, never played the sport professionally, and didn't come close to possessing skills which would attract the interest of a big-league team. As Yale professor Roberto González Echevarría noted in his history of Cuban baseball, the claim that Castro was a star pitcher at the University of Havana and turned down a $5,000 bonus offer from the New York Giants in 1951 to pursue a law degree is nothing more than a reporter's fabrication:
I have written a book that I hope will correct some of the views Americans and others have of Cuban baseball. To me, the most vexing example of how lightly and condescendingly the history of Latin baseball is dealt with in the United States involves a story about Fidel Castro that I would like to set straight here once and for all. Every time I mentioned that I was writing a book about Cuban baseball, the first thing Americans said had to do with Fidel's (which is how we Cubans call him, never "Castro") alleged prowess in the sport, and the irony that, had he been signed by the Senators or the Giants, there would have been no Cuban Revolution. The whole thing is a fabrication by an American journalist whose name is now lost, and it is never told in Cuba because everyone would know it to be false. Let it be known here that Fidel Castro was never scouted by any major-league team, and is not known to have enjoyed the kind of success in baseball that could have brought a scout's attention to him. In a country where sports coverage was broad and thorough, in a city such as Havana with a half-dozen major newspapers (plus dozens of minor ones) and with organized leagues at all levels, there is no record that Fidel Castro ever played, much less starred, on any team. No one has produced even one team picture with Fidel Castro in it. I have found the box score of an intramural game played between the Law and the Business Schools at the University of Havana where a certainThis tale includes a few other folkloric elements as well. The archly humorous detail of Castro's having a tryout with the Washington Senators (making him a 'Senator' in America's capital city) or the New York Yankees (installing him as a 'Yankee' in the
Last updated: 2 January 2006
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
snopes and the snopes.com logo are registered service marks of snopes.com.