Orioles Top Cubans In 11 Innings

NEW YORK - APRIL 11: Actress Jessica Lange arrives at the American Theater Wing Annual Dinner honoring CBS Television and it's chairman Leslie Moonves at Cipriani's 42nd St. April 11, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Fernando Leon/Getty Images) Getty Images


For the first time in 40 years, major league baseball returned to Cuba when the Baltimore Orioles took on the Cuban national team on Sunday, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts. The last time this happened, Fidel's beard was black and the revolution was young.

The last time an American major league team visited Havana was on March 21, 1959 when the Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles played. It was just 2½ months after Castro's revolution ousted dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day. A moment not lost on a group of U.S. school kids the Orioles chartered in for the game.

"I mean we're playing baseball in Cuba. It's like we don't really understand. It's overwhelming." Ben Zweifch of Washington D.C. said.

"It's an opportunity for both worlds to see each other's faces." added American Byron Armstrong.

And it wasn't just American who liked what they saw. Cubans like Gladys Galvez liked what she saw too. "It's good for both countries. This will be history," she said.

Many hope it will be a chance for democracy to grow in Cuba-- despite recent crackdowns by Castro against dissidents who oppose his one party rule.

"Nixon went to China with ping pong."said Cuban Henry Canto "Maybe this is like that. Maybe things will get better between America and Cuba."

In a normal exhibition game the score isn't supposed to matter, but this is no ordinary game and everything matters.

Baltimore took an early lead thanks to Charles Johnson's two-run home run in the second inning, but the Cuban national team rallied late in the game. When Omar Linares, Cuba's most renowned player, hit an RBI single in the eighth inning the score was tied at 2-2.

It wasn't until the 11th inning, when Baltimore's Harold Baines singled home Will Clark for the game-winning run, that the Orioles finally pulled out the victory.

The major-leaguers said afterward they were surprised by the caliber of Cuban baseball. The question now is, what did the leaders learn? And will anything between Havana and Washington change?

©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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