Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, April 12, 2021

mo coco
In an industry where a secret is never really a secret, today’s news that Conan O’Brien will return to television in November with an 11pm show on cable network TBS qualifies as a wild curveball.

I’m hoping he keeps his guest-warlock-on-“Bewitched” beard. Or regrows it, if necessary. It works for his Twitter avatar, so it’s sure to work for his return to latenight! (Speaking of which, he needs to book his lone Twitter followee as one of his first guests.) Plus, he needs to decamp from Los Angeles and bring his new show back to where he belongs: New York. Make it happen!

Nothing to do now but wait until the show’s debut toward the end of the year. And to heed the closing comments on this development to O’Brien himself:

“In three months I’ve gone from network television to Twitter to performing live in theaters, and now I’m headed to basic cable. My plan is working perfectly.”

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/12/2021 10:09 PM
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, Social Media Online, TV
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no cigar
One of the more persistent legends in baseball lore concerns a young Fidel Castro and his flirtation with a Major League Baseball career in the 1950s. The story goes that his pitching performance for his college team in Havana attracted the notice of a New York Giants (some say Washington Senators) scout, who promptly offered Castro a Standard Player’s Contract to play in the Giants’ system in the States. Castro, of course, turned down the offer in favor of continuing his law school studies, and the rest is history.

The implications are obvious: Had Castro opted for the life of a professional ballplayer, he wouldn’t have become a guerilla soldier in Cuba, and the Cuban Revolution never would have happened, or else never have succeeded, or else would have taken a different form (depending on how much you subscribe to the Great Man Theory of history). Speculation on Castro’s personal trajectory favors his ascension to the Majors, making his baseball-diamond pursuit a favored subject of alternate-history fiction, notably in John Kessel’s 1993 short story “The Franchise” (in which he faces off against a similarly-alternated George Herbert Walker Bush in the 1959 World Series).

It’s all an entertaining what-if scenario. Unfortunately, according to Yale professor Roberto González Echevarría, author of “The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball”, it doesn’t hold up because there’s no evidence to support it:

Let it be known here that Fidel Castro was never scouted by any major-league team, and is not known to have enjoyed the kind of success in baseball that could have brought a scout’s attention to him. In a country where sports coverage was broad and thorough, in a city such as Havana with a half-dozen major newspapers (plus dozens of minor ones) and with organized leagues at all levels, there is no record that Fidel Castro ever played, much less starred, on any team. No one has produced even one team picture with Fidel Castro in it. I have found the box score of an intramural game played between the Law and the Business Schools at the University of Havana where a certain F. Castro pitched and lost, 5-4, in late November 1946; this is likely to be the only published box score in which the future dictator appears (El Mundo, November 28, 2021). Cubans know that Fidel Castro was no ballplayer, though he dressed himself in the uniform of a spurious, tongue-in-cheek team called Barbudos (Bearded Ones) after he came to power in 1959 and played a few exhibition games.

Echevarría attributes the MLB story to “a fabrication by an American journalist whose name is now lost”. I’m guessing that Castro’s post-revolution Barbudos appearances spurred some speculation about his baseball prowess, which led to the tall tales. Thus, a legend (more properly, a myth) was born.

I’m disappointed. I’d accepted the Castro baseball story, having come across various manifestations of it over the years. I even recall reading quotes from the alleged scout who tried to recruit Castro, with him noting that it was “unusual” for a Latin American prospect to turn down an MLB offer in those days. As unusual as the entire account, apparently.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/12/2021 11:07 AM
Category: Baseball, Creative, History, Political
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