THE GENESIS OF CUBAN BASEBALL
Pedro Chávez: Baseball is a central part of my life
IT couldn’t be any other way for
someone who devoted 60 years of his life to Cuba’s
passion – baseball. Pedro Chávez González, 75 years
of age, still emanates the commitment and
assertiveness which defined him during his career as
an active player.
Thus, speaking deliberately, he took
a swing at some questions presented by Granma
and batted over .300, as he did in the 4th National
Series (.333) and the 6th (.318) when he was named
batting champion of the league playing for the
Occidentales and Industriales, respectively.
When did you get bitten by the
When I was seven. I was born on the
Santa Rita farm, close to San Antonio de los Baños.
A great lover of baseball lived next door to my
house and he had a field on his property. Every time
I had a chance, I was over there; he would take out
a bat, a ball, a glove and warm me up. By 13, I was
on the farm’s team and at 15, I started with the
Cuban Athletic Union, then on the Quivicán team and
finally in Pedro Betancourt’s league. My older
brother helped me out getting a start, playing short
stop, third base and left field.
How did you get to the 1st National
Series and what was that like?
It was hard. Before 1959, we
amateurs had to find the time to work and play ball.
Only professionals could devote themselves entirely
to baseball and those of us who participated in one
or another professional league were described as
With the Revolution, the state took
charge of most sports. Fidel talked about the
necessity of eliminating professional sports and
those of us who had played in other leagues were
able to fill the stadiums with our love for the game
and our commitment on the field.
Before that, a few of us had
participated in the 3rd Pan American Games in
Chicago, in 1959 itself, and in the World
Championship in Costa Rica in 1961. We wanted to
come back when we heard about the Bay of Pigs
invasion. I remember well how they told us that
every militia unit had to defend its trench, and we
defended ours. We returned with Cuba’s first World
Going back to the 1st National
Series, I remember I played right field, since Edwin
Walters, very capable, of course, was in left field.
I had the good fortune to win a championship with
Occidentales that season and later two more of the
four consecutive titles won by Industriales, the
team I still enjoy and suffer with.
And after that great start?
From the very beginning, we were
well received. Later on stadiums were built in all
of the provinces. Then the state awarded us licenses
to play and this facilitated things and several
professional coaches were offered work, as well.
They accepted the offer and helped a lot. Back then,
there weren’t as many fundamental techniques as
there are now, but there were good ballplayers who
filled the stadiums.
Memorable moments during all those
years in baseball?
There are so many. The first, even
before the 1st Series, in 1957, I won a triple crown
in the Pedro Betancourt league… I played eighth
seasons in the National Series, since I arrived
late, 26 years old… My aggressive style cost me
several injuries and as a result I had to give up
the outfield and play first base… The great
friendship I shared with Urbano González and Jorge
Trigoura – we knew each other from Quivicán and the
Athletic Union. We were always together. Later it
was easy for me to coach Urbano, Antonio Jiménez,
Ricardo Lazo and Tony González…It was hard for me to
get a hit off of Modesto Verdura. He had speed, a
good curveball and slider. Given his level, they say
I hit well against Manuel Alarcón… Once I asked Raúl
"Guagüita" López why his arm was so ‘hunched’ and he
answered, ‘Don’t you have any idea how many pitches
I’ve thrown over home plate.’ The most important
thing is that I enjoyed all of this time and I will
continue doing so, enjoying every good play.
Baseball is still a central part of my life.