Friday, April 30, 2010

The Lost Son of Havana, El Tiante

This story kinda pulls at the heart strings.

The Lost Son of Havana


One of the main attractions of sports is that they’re a welcome escape from the ­politics of the day and the things men do to one ­another in the name of this or that cause. Occasionally, however, the world of sports and politics collide. And when they do, it’s usually without a happy outcome—think of the 1972 Munich Olympics, when 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists; Jimmy Carter’s boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics; and the subsequent Soviet boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.


Pitching great Luis Tiant, the subject of ESPN’s “The Lost Son of Havana.”

It should come as no surprise then, that “The Lost Son of Havana,” an ESPN Films documentary about Red Sox pitching great Luis Tiant’s return to Cuba after 46 years of exile, is not a happy tale (Sunday, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. ET on ESPN Deportes; Monday, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN). It is, rather, the story of a refugee’s rise to major-league stardom and the torment of returning home decades later to visit family on an island gulag.

“Things could have been different,” says Mr. Tiant, overcome with emotion at his aunt’s cramped and run-down Havana home. He is, of course, right. The wealth he accumulated in the ­major leagues could have helped lift his entire family out of poverty. But ­Castro’s revolution dashed any hopes he might have had of playing professionally in his country or returning home to help support his family and the community he left behind. In 2007, he was finally allowed back into Cuba as part of a goodwill baseball game ­between American amateurs and ­retired Cuban players.

Written and directed by documentary filmmaker Jonathan Hock, “The Lost Son” begins with a shot of the 67-year-old Mr. Tiant puffing on a cigar and examining an old black-and-white photo of his father, Luis Tiant Sr., a baseball great in his own right who pitched in America’s Negro League in the 1930s and ’40s. Luis Sr. didn’t have an overwhelming fastball but was, like his son, an absolute master of the screwball and other off-speed pitches. With his “herky-jerky” windup and off-beat delivery, he dominated the Negro League and twice defeated the Babe Ruth All-Stars in exhibition play, holding the Babe to just one single.

There’s no doubt that Luis Tiant Sr. had the stuff to be a star in the majors. But by the time Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, Luis Sr.’s professional baseball career was over and he was forced to return home to ­Havana.

The dream of playing in the major leagues, however, lived on in his son, and in the summer of 1961 Luis Jr. left Havana for a three-month stint in the Mexican league, where he hoped to be discovered by an American scout. He quickly became a sensation and it wasn’t long before the Cleveland Indians signed him to a minor-league contract.

“But that was also the summer of the invasion of the Bay of Pigs,” the film’s narrator, actor Chris Cooper, explains over old footage of the failed U.S. invasion. “Cuba and the United States severed relations, and Castro tightened his control over every aspect of Cuban life. Suddenly no Cuban was free to leave the island. Cubans playing baseball overseas received an ultimatum: Come home and play as amateurs in Cuba or never come home again: And so, Luis’s three-month trip became 46 years of exile.”

Through interviews with sportswriters, former teammates and footage from scores of games, the film documents the dramatic ups and downs of Mr. Tiant’s 19-year career, including the 1970 injury (a fractured scapula) that nearly ended his playing days; his remarkable climb back to the majors (he taught himself to pitch again, it seems, by imitating his father’s wild windup and off-speed pitches); and his winning starts for the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series, which Boston lost to Cincinnati 3-4.

But it is the sounds and images of his return to Cuba that are most poignant, and elevate the film to far more than a sports documentary. Antique cars and dilapidated buildings abound. Ordinary household goods are nearly impossible to come by. Like most ­Cubans, Mr. Tiant’s aunts and cousins receive enough staple goods from the government each month to last about 15 days; they must “improvise” for the rest. Not surprisingly, the black market is thriving and U.S. dollars are the currency of choice. One relative tells Mr. Tiant, holding back tears, “We are living on cigarettes.”

Knowing they’re in need, Mr. Tiant brings a suitcase full of gifts and basic supplies such as clothing, toothpaste, sewing kits and medicine. And though we only see him give money to one relative, one suspects he brought a thick wad of greenbacks with him as well.

Sadly, there’s an air of resentment among some. When an old neighbor says he was “forgetful” of his family, Mr. Tiant disagrees and explains that he sent gifts, money and supplies but they were always confiscated by the Cuban authorities. Still, his sense of ­regret at not doing enough for his family in Cuba is apparent, even though it was Luis Sr. who told him over and over again never to return, to live the life his father couldn’t.

Amazingly, there’s more to the story. In 1975, not long before the World Series, Castro (by all accounts a genuine baseball fan) gave Mr. Tiant’s parents a special visa to travel to America. Sen. George McGovern, as he testifies in the film, hand-delivered a letter from Luis Jr. to Castro asking that he allow his parents to travel to the U.S. to see him play. For whatever reason, Castro granted his request, and Luis’s parents came to America and lived with him until their all-too-early deaths the following year.

Nevertheless, a few days after his arrival in Boston, Luis Tiant Sr. was ­invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in a game against the California Angels at Fenway Park—a perfect strike. As he and his son stood together on the mound at Fenway, 30,000 adoring fans chanted “Luis! Luis! Luis!”—a glorious, and one hopes for a father and son from Havana, healing moment in baseball history.

WHAT is going ON HERE????

My wife hands me the mail, laughing her ass off......

Piece #1: Latest issue of BIKE Mag....cover highlighting a story "bitter and twisted old dudes take on MTB racing"
Piece #2: AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Membership, Card Enclosed (I never even sighed up for it....those bastards!!)

ok, Dear, you can stop laughing NOW!!!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Northern Wisconsin Road Ride

Met a Customer for dinner at Northern Pines Resort. Nice scenic ride through some pretty lake country.

Rode the bike to and from. 21 miles. MAP
Nice recovery after the weekend. Put in a a light ride yesterday, too, just to stretch out the legs some.
Tonight was more aggressive. 100 miles of single track will be here before I know it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

BALLS III...In the books

For the history and official information:
BALLS III, the link

Little over 100 miles the first day, little over 60 the 2nd. 26 riders the first day, 10-12 the 2nd.
This ride was started 3 years ago because the single track is normally too wet to get on yet in late April. Typically not the best of weather, this year was not an exception, but still better than the last 2.

Weather forecast was close...but not as much rain or wind as predicted, but still crazy enough for a 165 mile 2-day ride.

Saturday: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 66. East wind between 10 and 15 mph. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Saturday Night: Periods of showers. Low around 46. East northeast wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Sunday: Periods of rain. High near 55. Breezy, with a north northeast wind between 15 and 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Gathering at Bear's house. 6:45.

Nate guuing up. Or is that Butt-Butter???
Nelson, no risk getting dehydrated.

Chuck, he's such a blurr....7:20 ready or not, we head out.
First wrong turn, 3 blocks from Bear's house!!!
Next stop, Dodgeville. Tim avoiding a $168 fine for riding on the wrong side of the road.
Bear's old work place....first snickers bar?

Critical Mass, WI style?

Into the Mystic.
Buying trail passes in Mineral Point....Chuck!! wake up!
Just thinking of beer makes a guy smile.

Warm only?....another WI custom? Not hardly, but we didn't need to buy ice when we got to the campground. The beer didn't warm up very fast.
Bear, showing off again.

a few flats

Mile 50 update by the Mayor to Bean....good the wind muffled his initial comments.

Trailside treasure.
Helmet head.

30 miles to go, hot coffee and McGrease burger, ahhhh!

10 miles to go and some stretching was in order.
At the Crazy Horse Campground (we had cabins, with hot showers available) Brodhead, WI.

Bri, the road crew we couldn't have done without. Poor pic, sorry about that!
Day 2, the tunnel.
One of the few times I was out in front.

35 miles or so of headwind.
Ready to head home.

Fritch Farm near Platteville, WI

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Interesting Spring Day

A great spring day for a couple rides. Did a quick ride from the Condo in Madison to a local trail and did a dirt loop to look over the trail at Quarry Ridge. Tail looking good.
Then headed over to REI in Madison to buy a bike bag for the Salsa. Got there a little early and the Store Manager had the crew out back talking business over a disc golf practice session....nice.

Then headed to Cedar Rapids, IA for work. After work, headed down to Sugar Bottom Trail. Last time I was here it was under water from the big flood a couple years ago.

Was having trouble with the chain bouncing off the chain ring (only one ring up front) in the rougher downhill stuff. After the 4th time or so, I looked it over and saw the chain guard had slide off too far from the chain. After an adjustment things worked fine.
Met Phil who was out camping in the nice spring weather. He'd been doing some riding from area to area on his Surly Pugsley. I commented that I thought these big boys were more for riding in the snow or sand, but Phil said they work fine for touring. Good balance, stable and once those big rubber brutes get rolling, they want to keep on rolling. From the amount of equipment Phil had it probably made sense to have a strong bike with big meats on it to handle the load.

Note the guitar. I gave Phil my blog address, maybe he'll send a pic with all the gear on the Pugsley.
The basket was for his cat Percy, that had wondered off. Hope he comes back looking for dinner.

Came to a spot and just decided to stop and take a pic. Lucky for me. Like the time in MT when I decided to obey the sign out in the middle of nowhere to walk the park trail and I came across a rattle snake. If I'd have been riding, who knows what would have happened. (Man, this summer will be 5 years since that trip....)
When I stopped here I noticed a goose up the trail 15 yards after I took these 2 pics.
It was hissing and was not moving far from the trail. I figured there had to be a nest somewhere. I've heard that geese can be pretty mean, so I didn't want to push him and try to ride by, but had to locate the nest first so I knew how to avoid disturbing them.
Then I saw the hen on the the other side of the trail at the base of a tree, sitting on their nest. She wasn't moving an inch. I decided not to ride between the hen and the gander and cut across in front of them to the trail.

Stopped along the trail and took the next 2 pics at the same location.
Looks like the crew is making improvements. A floating bridge that was tied off to the tree across the way. A great idea for the area where the water level changes.
Came across this pic on a trail sign. A fellow rider that left us too early almost 5 years ago. From the rusty nails, the memorial appears to have been there for a bit.
Happy trails, Craig......and Garett. Another young rider from Madison that left us way too early last winter. Ride on together.