Monday Morning Brief | Baseball on Cuba’s stamps

Mar 28, 2016, 4 AM

Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz discusses stamps, baseball and diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.

Full Video Transcript:

Good morning and welcome to the Monday Morning Brief for March 28, 2016.

It’s the end of March and that means that baseball season is just days away. Perhaps the one baseball event that might be viewed as the most interesting development in 2016 may have already taken place during spring training when the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Cuban National Team in Havana with President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, at the stadium sitting side by side.

Two national leaders watching a ball game together was not the only step towards diplomatic rapprochement to end nearly 55 years of bitter enmity. Earlier this month the United States Postal Service began sending mail directly to Cuba.

Still, the U.S. embargo on Cuba remains in effect. Only Congress can end that. The embargo precludes Americans from importing and selling Cuban goods like cigars and even Communist-era postage stamps.

In this thawing of frosty relations, it seems only fitting that baseball be on center stage because it is so deeply ingrained in the cultures of both the United States and Cuba; one of the few things we still have in common.

The Cuban love of baseball has been shown on its postage stamps from time to time. There are not an overwhelmingly large number of Cuban stamps depicting baseball. All told there are about 60. Their first stamp showing a baseball player was an air mail stamp issued in 1957. About half of the baseball stamps were parts of sets that depicted other sports played at international events like the Olympics and Pan-American Games.

Only 15 of the Cuban baseball stamps show players who are identified by name. They’re not the great Cuban stars that Americans know from Major League Baseball, like Tony Perez and Luis Tiant, players who never returned to Cuba after Fidel Castro took power, but stars of the Cuban National Team who didn’t leave Cuba to play for big money. These are the great baseball talents that Cuba seldom let the rest of the world see play. In recent years many Cuban players have defected to play ball away from Cuba.

Only one player appears on two Cuban baseball stamps, issued in 1992 and 2004. Oddly enough, he too was a defector from Cuba. Martin Dihigo, however, defected in 1952 to protest the regime of Fulgencio Batista, the dictator who Fidel Castro eventually overthrew. Dihigo is a member of the U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame, though he never played in a Major League game. He was a black Cuban who excelled in the Negro, Cuban and Mexican Leagues from the 1920s through the 1940s, before Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier. Dihigo is also a member of the Cuban and Mexican Baseball Halls of Fame. After returning to Cuba after the Castro Revolution, he served for a while as Cuba’s Minister of Sports.

So here’s to enjoying a new baseball season and baseball stamps.

For Linn’s Stamp News and the Scott Catalogues, I’m Marty Frankevicz. Enjoy your week in stamps.