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Commissioner Curtis Sliwa
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Bringing Stickball to Cuba

Curtis lies before Russian tank
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Curtis Sliwa practicing stickball diplomacy in a scene from our video
Don't miss our QuickTime video of Curtis in Cuba (11 MB)!

Like most Latin Americans, Cubans are passionate about baseball. Unfortunately, they have no experience with a spaldeen or an equivalent hollow rubber ball and this has restricted their options for play. Kids go out in the streets hitting whatever they can get their hands on, including rocks, socks, taped up balls, etc. Responding to this dire situation, our own stickball humanitarian Curtis Sliwa contacted the Cuban government about the idea of bringing down equipment and a Bronx team to teach the game on the island. The government wasn't moved.

Not one to be deterred, in January 2004, Curtis joined the Bronx County Democratic Club on a visit to our Communist neighbor. His goal: to spread the game of stickball behind the "Sugar Cane Curtain." His approach, mixing basic instruction about the game with as assorted array of barbs and challenges against all opponents, Classic stickball fare in New York City, though surely something new for the Cubans (see video of the trip - QuickTime format 11 MB).

Although the government might not have been interested, the people seemed to be. Curtis pulled out the balls and bats in the middle of Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution, one of the island’s most famous sites. The moment the ball started bouncing, kids came running out. Even the security guards were interested enough to stop by to see what was going on.

Summing up the experience Curtis said “We went down to Cuba and played the first stickball game in the history of the island. We were speaking an international language that everyone understands, playing and having a good time. We left the shirts, balls and bats for the kids and you know they’ll use them and repair them until nothing is left.” And as for the future, he mused “We’d love to go down there for a real competition, but I’ll say one thing... George Steinbrenner, check it out now. You could be winning championships into the new millennium with these guys. The moment Fidel Castro kicks the bucket, it's your island.”

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