Talk about a full count. Conrado "Connie" Marrero's birthday cake would have needed 102 candles on it Thursday. Marrero, an ex-Washington Senators pitcher from 1950-1954, is the oldest living former Major League Baseball player.
There were no candles on his cake, but Marrero chomped on a cigar to celebrate. He wore a Cuba T-shirt fashioned like a Chicago Cubs logo and a Washington Nationals cap. Marrero, a one-time All-Star, has lived in the same apartment in Cuba for about 60 years, according to an MLB.com story by Doug Miller.
Marrero was best known as a lovable character of the game, a man who came from pre-revolution Cuba and didn't make it to the big leagues until he was 39. He won 11 games two years in a row, and he was on the American League roster for the 1951 Midsummer Classic, although he didn't pitch, having worked the day before. He had a windmill windup and he was known to enjoy a cigar or two.
One gift Marrero got recently — long overdue, we might add — is a $20,000 payout that Major League Baseball gave to old-timers from 1947-1979. It wasn't that MLB was lagging, rather the rough US-Cuba relations held up his payment since 2011.
From the Associated Press:
The money had been held up since 2011 due to issues surrounding the 51-year-old U.S. embargo on Cuba, which prohibits most bank transfers to the Communist-run island. But the funds finally arrived in two parts, one at the end of last year, and the second a few months ago, according to Marrero's family.
Steve Rogers, a former Expos pitcher who is now an official at the Major League Baseball Players Association, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the funds were delivered to Marrero by hand, and with Washington's approval.
"Everything that he was entitled to has now been delivered to him. We found a way to get the funds to him," he said. "It was personally delivered and it was all sanctioned by the Treasury Department."
Kit Krieger, a Society of American Baseball Research member, is a friend of Marrero's and one of his links to the game. He even convinced former players such as Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Bob Feller to write letters to Marrero.
Krieger said Marrero's sight is gone, but his mind is as sharp as ever. Marrero can remember intricate in-game details from more than 50 years ago with ease. He's even corrected Krieger on the score of a game.
How does he do it, even at the age of 102?
"I always ask him how he remembers these things, because it just amazes me," Krieger said.
"He says, 'When you live inside of baseball, it's easy.'"
All these years and the fountain of youth was actually inside a baseball, huh?