Cubans strike baseball gold

Picture by Getty Images

National Sport

Cubans play baseball just as Brazilians play soccer - it’s their national sport. Pick any street in Havana and you are as likely to see impromptu games taking place as you are to see locals walking to the shops. The sport was introduced to the island by American sailors back in the 1860s.

Banned during the first Cuban War of Independence from Spanish rule in 1869 because Cubans began to prefer it to bullfighting, the baseball ban only increased interest in the sport. Baseball became a symbol of Cuban freedom and independence and even former President Fidel Castro was known to pitch a few balls from the mound in his day.

Political strikeout

The Cuban Olympic team missed both the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles and the South Korean 1988 Games in Seoul but when baseball graduated from demonstration sport to full-medal status in Barcelona, the Cubans arrived to dominate proceedings.  

Cuba’s home run

Played seven, won seven – the Cubans’ record was second-to-none. The team beat Italy, Japan, Puerto Rico, host nation Spain, Caribbean neighbours the Dominican Republic and, most notably, the USA - twice. The debut final of baseball as a full Olympic sport was contested between Cuba and Taiwan. 

Cuba 11 – 1 Taiwan

A small pocket of travelling Cuban supporters held a riotous party at the L'Hospitalet Stadium as their team trounced the Taiwanese by 11 points to 1. The veteran Cuban team, with five players over the age of 30, scored 18 hits, including home runs from Lazargo Vargas, Orestes Kindelan and Alberto Hernandez.