For Conrado Marrero, beating the Yankees was "the sweetest feeling in the world." Blowing out 101 candles on his birthday Wednesday probably felt almost as good.
Marrero became the oldest living former major league baseball player last year. Born on a farm in El Laberinto, Cuba, on April 25, 1911, he now lives with his family in a modest Havana apartment, enjoying cigars and the sounds of Cuban baseball on the radio. The right-handed pitcher recently talked with the Associated Press about his career with the Washington Senators, and an aftermath that hasn't been as glamorous as some might imagine.
Although he was a star in Cuba from his years in the country's minor and major leagues, Marrero was already 38 when he made his debut with the Senators. Standing at just 5 feet 5 inches tall, Marrero recalls the Yankee batters as tough.
"They were the best," he told the AP's Paul Haven. "Each batter was a struggle."
Though, according to Haven, Marrero's memory isn't always sharp, he remembers meeting Babe Ruth, spending time with Connie Mack and sharing an elevator with Dwight Eisenhower. During his five years with the Senators, he faced batters like Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams.
In 1951, he pitched a one-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics -- giving up a hit to Barney McCosky. He finished his major league career with a 39-40 record and though he was selected to the 1951 American League All-Star team, he didn't play in the game.
He returned to Cuba to coach the Havana Sugar Kings and work as a pitching coach. Although many other former major league players left Cuba when Fidel Castro took over, he stayed. He doesn't follow MLB too closely, but tales of Cuban expat and Oakland A's slugger Yoenis Cespedes haven't escaped him.
Marrero is supposed to receive a $20,000 payout from the MLB as part of a 2011 agreement, but the economic embargo on Cuba, which makes direct bank transfers impossible, has been a sizable hurdle. An MLB official told the AP that his organization is working hard to get the money to Marrero despite the logistical challenges.
With his 101st birthday already a day behind him, that money probably couldn't come soon enough. But it seems Marrero is content with his quiet life in Havana. It's served him well so far.
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