Monday, October 12, 2015

Pitching Around Fidel by S.L. Price

Pitching Around Fidel by S.L. Price was an interesting book from 2000 with the subtitle A Journey Into the Heart of Cuban Sports. Price is a writer who I've posted on a number of times, both from pieces he's written for Sports Illustrated and two other books of his that I enjoyed a great deal, Heart of the Game: Life, Death, and Mercy in Minor League America and Far Afield: A Sportswriting Odyssey.

Price is currently writing a book that will be a much expanded version of his 2011 SI story "The Heart Of Football Beats In Aliquippa" on the small Pennsylvania town and while I had heard of Pitching Around Fidel, what compelled me to read this now 15 year old book was Price on a podcast discussing how sports can very much be a lens into society.

Pitching Around Fidel was both a travelogue of Price's time in Cuba and detailed such interesting lives the athletes in Cuba led, both adored and often penniless. The concept of amateurism championed by Fidel was an interesting one and people were rewarded based on their athletic successes, but oftentimes in an arbitrary manner and punished for haphazard reasons, like the regime fearing someone would defect and taking away their ability to compete in a sport, effectively making them more likely to want to defect. Price chronicled his interactions with a number of people in Cuba and two that compelling me to research what they're doing now are baseball player Yasser Gomez and U.S. fugitive Charles Hill.

One thought that I had from reading the book was that at least at the time the book was written, if sports about money in the U.S., it was about life in Cuba. Also, apart from sports, it was fascinating reading of the sense of desperation many had and made me curious whether it better or worse there now.

A fascinating book from Price and I'm looking forward to reading the forthcoming one on Aliquippa.