It seems that baseball and politics are intersecting more and more each season. Such is the case this Tuesday when the Rays play the first exhibition game in Cuba since the Orioles played there in 1999.
The last time an MLB team played in Cuba back, the Cuban team put up a good fight but ultimately lost. That team was the Baltimore Orioles and the year was 1999. The Orioles, led by their owner Peter Angelos made a push for international diplomacy and ultimately ended up playing the Cuban national team in a two-game series (One game in Havana and the other in Baltimore).
The Havana game played in front of a crowd of 50,000 with Commissioner Bud Selig and Cuban leader Fidel Castro in attendance. The Orioles lead into the 8th, but the Cuban team would tie it up in the bottom of the eighth, but the Orioles won in the 11th when Harold Baines scored and brought Will Clark in for the game-winning run. The next matchup between the two teams was an entirely different story as the 7-17 Orioles hosted the Cuba team in Camden Yards. The Cuban team would go on to win 12-6 and the next day the press obliterated the Orioles.
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The message was the same from various outlets:
From Ben Walker of the Associated Press:
"The Orioles, whose AL-worst 7-17 record belies their payroll of more than $78 million, were outplayed by a team whose players make a total of about $2,250."
"From Richard Justice, also of the Washington Post:"
Already buried in the American League standings with a 7-17 record, the Orioles had promised to treat this exhibition game as anything but. In the end, they could not respond to one more challenge.
“I’m very embarrassed,” Orioles reliever Mike Fetters said. “We were representing the United States, Major League Baseball, our friends and family. We were trying, but they took it to us in our house. That’s the most embarrassing thing.”
This Tuesday the Rays will play the Cuban Team in what is sure to be an exciting game, despite attendance being on an invite-only basis.