Roundtable: Toronto Blue Jays Pre-Spring Training 2007
This article is a continuation of my memories from Maple Leaf Stadium in Toronto. Today I will reminisce about the Havana Cuba Sugar Kings.
Not many Toronto Maple Leaf players made it to the Majors. Most were, older, journeymen minor leaguers or Negro leaguers that were past their peak. Toronto was an independent team during the late 1950s and into the 1960s. The Sugar Kings had many players that went on to play and star in the Majors. They were a Cincinnati farm club.
Of course Toronto was my favourite team but my second favourite team of all time was the Havana Cuba Sugar Kings. Can you imagine growing up in WASP Toronto in the mid fifties and all of a sudden a team comes to town with players that had such romantic sounding names associated with them. Names that I had never heard of before but I can always remember.
I can name the Sugar Kings lineup with no problems at all almost 50 years later
Catcher Enrico Izquierdo
1st Base Rogelio Alvarez
2nd Base Elio Chacon
Shortstop Leo Cardenas
3rd Base Octavio Rojas
Left Field Daniel Morejon
Center Field Angel Skull and Pompeyo (Yo-Yo) Davalillo
Right Field John Powers
Pitchers Miguel Cuellar
My two favourites though were Enrico Izquierdo and Rogelio Alvarez. Their names were so foreign but the sounds just seemed to flow off your tongue. They were followed closely by Octavio Rojas (pronounced Rohas) and Daniel Morejon (Morehon)
Havana was the farm team of the Cincinnati Red Legs and many of these players ended up in the Majors and some played for the Reds in the 61 classic against the Yanks.
Chacon and Cardenas played for Cincinnati and had solid major league careers. Octavio Rojas was probably better known in major league circles as Cookie. He had major league career for some time with the Kansas City Royals as well as being their manager.
My first ever autograph of a professional ball player came from Miguel Cuellar. I wonder what that would be worth now for Miguel became a star pitcher in a stellar starting rotation that included Jim Palmer and Dave McNally. My first autograph turned out to be Mike Cuellar a twenty game and Cy Young winner for the Baltimore Orioles.
I always wondered what John Powers felt like. Here he was the only “American” on a virtually all Latino squad. Was that a precocious thought for a seven or eight year old?
I always tried to go games involving Havana. They were one of my all time favourite teams. Alas it all ended when Fidel took over. When Toronto got knocked out of the playoffs I always hoped Havana would come through. And that they did, when they won the Junior World Series by defeating the star crossed Gene Mauch and his Minneapolis Millers in 1959.
The video below details the 1959 Little World Series between the Havana Cuba Sugar Kings of the International League and the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association. This was just months before Castro’s rise to power . It shows Fidel in attendance at Havana’s Gran Stadium (now Estadio Latinoamericano) as the Sugar Kings rally in the bottom of the 9th to win game 7 and the series.
Yep, Iâ€™m going to introduce yet another stat into the Mop Up Duty glossary. Speaking of a glossary, expect one explaining our usually phrases and stat descriptions later next week.
Ok, so you have the stat BOB (modified contact rate, Bat on Ball %), so what exactly is the ROB stat? Well, right off the bat (ha ha), the ROB (Runs on Base) is far from perfect, so if you wish to dispute itâ€™s validity, than by all means say so in the comment section.
Two weeks ago three of the MUD.com writers attended what was to be called the Annual Blue Jays Meet and Greet. On a cold and blustery February Friday evening we went to the Rogers Centre to Meet and Greet.
There was not to much greeting done unless you call hosts and ticket salespeople greeters. The evening was for people who purchased Flex Packs (a dozen or so tickets) so most people, except the MUD.com people who coattailed in on someonelses Flex Pack. There were long line ups but it was nice to be talking baseball in February.
The highlight of the trip was going through the Blue Jays clubhouse. The trophy cabinets and memorbilia collection was impressive. It was also interesting to see how the clubhouse is laid out. Stars are spaced out. Wells, Thomas and Halladay have the corners. Glaus had a locker in the middle of the room with noone beside him. Overbay was two lockers down from the third sacker with noone beside him either. Gregg Zaun had another corner. I hate to say that Jeremy Accardo still had a locker with his name above it.
As for the meet. There were two Blue Jays we got to meet. John MacDonald and Greg Zaun. Callum, as most MUD.com readers would know has a non-sexual mancrush on Greg Zaun and dressed up to meet him. Unfortuanley Zaunie didn’t bite and Callum went home alone that night to think about what went wrong while swooning over the Greg Zaun bobble-head doll.
John MacDonald looked to be about 20 years old and seemed genuine, welcoming and friendly. Also, washed up Major Leaguer Kevin Elster was on site. Elster looked like a Steven Segal wannbe. Long slicked back hair and has doubled his weight since his playing days ended. Elster, of course played on the 1986 Mets and had a career year in 1996 with the Rangers where he had 24 HR and 99 RBI’s as a SS. Then I guess the HGH caught up with him and he fell off.
Anyways, the Meet and Greet wasn’t really anything to write home about, but I’ll tell MUD.com readers about it, anti-climatic but still nice to go to SkyDome in the middle of winter. Callum may have a MUD photo gallery to follow.
In the spirit of Valentines’ Day, Mr. X brings you a tale of love gone wrong.