Break up Cuba!

Baseball diplomacy: They could always play the third game in a neutral country.

May 05, 1999

IT TURNS OUT the livelier ball and wooden bat agree with Cuban players. Now we know their hitters defect to this country not for the salaries but to escape the tyranny of Cuban pitching. Cold and rain didn't slow them. What ever became of visiting-team disadvantage?

The great international spectacle of Cuba vs. the Orioles was a success everywhere but on the field. The police outside and overhead (every force from the Maryland State Police to the U.S. Capitol Police was observed) were the model of diplomacy.

Pre-game, there was a little too much fan baiting of anti-Castro demonstrators at Eutaw and Camden streets. But the anti-embargo crowd a block away at Paca Street ranted blissfully unmolested.

Demonstrators interrupting the middle innings were pretty well contained by Baltimore's finest until one ran into decorum's secret weapon, an innocuous-looking Cuban umpire with martial arts skills.

Never since the rockets' red glare in 1814 was Baltimore such a center of international attention. A tent city of outdoor television studios, south of the ballpark, sounded to a passer-by like the center of the Latino media world for an evening. There was more press on the field before play than at a so-called World Series.

It's refreshing to hear "Take me out to the ballgame" with a salsa beat, once in a while, and wolf down rice and beans instead of burgers, occasionally. Real fireworks to end the anthem about bombs bursting in air was a neat effect, but a bit much at a time of real bombing.

The event was wonderful, but now that it's over, maybe the Orioles can hand foreign policy back to those bush-leaguers in Washington and think seriously about the job at hand.

That is to overtake the American League East, now that everyone else has a head start, and make the world right-side-up once again. Monday night, those Cubans were just too good.

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