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View Full Version : Adventures in Autographs, The Cuban Connection III, Conclusion


JimStinson
07-01-2012, 08:48 PM
In Cuba signs of the communist philosophy are pervasive. Images of Che Guevara , the Argentine revolutionary who took up arms with Castro in the revolution of 1959 are everywhere. "Seremos como el Che" (We will be like Che) is spoken by every school child every morning in much the same way our children recite "The Pledge of Allegiance".
Instead of advertising, bill boards in Cuba boast political propaganda "Patria o Muerte -Venceremos" (Patriotism or death -Victorious), "Te Sere Fiel" (I am loyal), "Aqui no se Rinde Nadia" (Here we have never lost).
Near the Hotel National a downtown Havana landmark where virtually every celebrity from Frank Sinatra to the Brooklyn Dodgers used to stay when Havana was the playground of the Caribbean, stands a sign picturing America's uncle Sam looking across the bay in the direction of the United States. It reads "Abajo Los Imperialistas Yanquis" (Down with Imperialist Yankees) In reality the 60 plus year embargo emposed by the United States has done more to help Fidel Castro than to hurt him. To blame the economic hardships and sacrifices endured daily by the Cuban people on the United States. Four to six hour televised rants against the "Imperialistas" was the norm and in a country with only two channels made the average Cuban furious that their favorite TV shows were pre-empted by "The bearded one".
After my near pummeling at the hands of boxer Teofilio Stevenson the day before I was eager to see some of the sights and to meet the man that is considered the island's foremost historian on Cuban baseball. He lives in a small modest house on the outskirts of Havana with his wife and son. I had hoped to track down two impossible autographs , those of the greatest Cuban home run hitter in history who died in 1938 Cristobal Torriente and the island's greatest pitcher Jose Mendez who died in 1928. But foremost in my mind was the athlete whose name is most synonymous with Cuba , the only baseball player to be enshrined in the American, Cuban, Mexican, Dominican and Venezuela Halls of Fame , Martin DiHigo the facts surrounding Dihigo's life were sketchy and I hoped with the help of my new Cuban friend I was about to meet to set the record straight.
He had prepared for my arrival by carefully laying out his collection of Cuban baseball cards. Knowing nothing about cards I was never the less impressed. Most dated to the 1920's and were in immaculate condition. Complete sets , some of the cards he was careful to point out to me had never even been cataloged in American price guides. Impressive yes. But I was there to talk about autographs. he smiled and dissappeared into a back room emerging with a box he was careful to tell me was "not for sale". he also warned me of something I had long suspected that almost all of the autographs of Martin DiHigo that come out of Cuba are forgeries. "You would be surprised at how many Americans come here looking for DiHigo's autograph" Cuban's have gotten very good at replicating the Hall of Famers signature and some of the worst culprits lived 4 hours away in Las Cruces the small town where his family still lived. Most of the signed items I have seen over the years were Christmas cards, Signed books and even letters. These I was told were manufactured to supply the demand , some rumors included family involvement.
The first Martin DiHigo item he showed me took my breath away it was his personal diary written in his own hand in spanish, it began with a brief description of himself , this was especially interesting in that various historical sources have listing conflicting dates and falsehoods about his life , here in his own hand he sets the record straight. He writes
"Martin Dihigo Llanos was born in the city of Matanzas on May 25th, 1906. The street is called good trip (Buen Viaje) and it was at number 40 where I saw the light of life for the first time. Through the years I have been a sportsman. Why for someone else you could be born in Europe where a man is born a man , with equal rights in the different things of life....Poor Cuba !" The other pages offered other insights into his feelings regarding friends and team mates but most interesting were the entries detailing numbers and amounts owed. Martin DiHigo it appears was running numbers and kept a record of his illegal lottery dealings as well as what would be called today loan sharking. he also produced documents which proved that DiHigo was never involved as "minister of sports" or in any official capacity with the government he was involved in baseball his entire life as a player, coach and manager, and in the 1950's became involved with the "Players Association" very similar to our "players union". Shortly after the Cuban revolution he suffered a series of strokes and returned to his home town of Las Cruces where his health grew worse and he died there in 1971. More important his health prevented his signing autographs for nearly 10 years before his death. In the 1960's rumors circulated around the island that he had died or had even been executed to prove the rumors wrong a seriously ill Dihigo agreed to a radio interview that was broadcast across the island. In 1971 he died and in 1977 was among the first group of former Negro League players inducted into the American Baseball Hall of Fame. I wanted to visit his final resting place and made the four hour drive to a small cemetary located outside of Cruces. Horse drawn buggies outnumbered cars in this land that time had forgotten. But finally I found it , a group of Cubans were excavating graves as is the practice after three years in the ground the deceased are dug up again and their remains labeled and stacked floor ceiling in the various mausoleum's that dot the cemetary. When I questioned the group they pointed to a building where the remains of national hero Martin DiHigo was housed. Looking for his name on the ossuary I found none. One of the cemetary workers began unstacking medal boxes until he located one with Dihigo's name on it. he asked if I wanted to see him and before I could answer opened the medal box containing his remains. In a land where the fight for daily survival is paramont the memories of long deceased national heros are easily forgotten.
The next day I returned to Havana. On my last evening I stood on a balcony leaning against a cast iron railing overlooking the narrow streets of old Havana. I sipped my Cuban rum and exhaled the smoke from my Monticristo. I wondered when I would return. I had come to look at the island's past and my experiences there were not something I would soon forget.
I watched the smoke from my cigar rise overhead and disappear above me as the warm breezes blew softly down the ancient streets of old Havana.

Scott Garner
07-02-2012, 05:59 AM
In Cuba signs of the communist philosophy are pervasive. Images of Che Guevara , the Argentine revolutionary who took up arms with Castro in the revolution of 1959 are everywhere. "Seremos como el Che" (We will be like Che) is spoken by every school child every morning in much the same way our children recite "The Pledge of Allegiance".
Instead of advertising, bill boards in Cuba boast political propaganda "Patria o Muerte -Venceremos" (Patriotism or death -Victorious), "Te Sere Fiel" (I am loyal), "Aqui no se Rinde Nadia" (Here we have never lost).
Near the Hotel National a downtown Havana landmark where virtually every celebrity from Frank Sinatra to the Brooklyn Dodgers used to stay when Havana was the playground of the Caribbean, stands a sign picturing America's uncle Sam looking across the bay in the direction of the United States. It reads "Abajo Los Imperialistas Yanquis" (Down with Imperialist Yankees) In reality the 60 plus year embargo emposed by the United States has done more to help Fidel Castro than to hurt him. To blame the economic hardships and sacrifices endured daily by the Cuban people on the United States. Four to six hour televised rants against the "Imperialistas" was the norm and in a country with only two channels made the average Cuban furious that their favorite TV shows were pre-empted by "The bearded one".
After my near pummeling at the hands of boxer Teofilio Stevenson the day before I was eager to see some of the sights and to meet the man that is considered the island's foremost historian on Cuban baseball. He lives in a small modest house on the outskirts of Havana with his wife and son. I had hoped to track down two impossible autographs , those of the greatest Cuban home run hitter in history who died in 1938 Cristobal Torriente and the island's greatest pitcher Jose Mendez who died in 1928. But foremost in my mind was the athlete whose name is most synonymous with Cuba , the only baseball player to be enshrined in the American, Cuban, Mexican, Dominican and Venezuela Halls of Fame , Martin DiHigo the facts surrounding Dihigo's life were sketchy and I hoped with the help of my new Cuban friend I was about to meet to set the record straight.
He had prepared for my arrival by carefully laying out his collection of Cuban baseball cards. Knowing nothing about cards I was never the less impressed. Most dated to the 1920's and were in immaculate condition. Complete sets , some of the cards he was careful to point out to me had never even been cataloged in American price guides. Impressive yes. But I was there to talk about autographs. he smiled and dissappeared into a back room emerging with a box he was careful to tell me was "not for sale". he also warned me of something I had long suspected that almost all of the autographs of Martin DiHigo that come out of Cuba are forgeries. "You would be surprised at how many Americans come here looking for DiHigo's autograph" Cuban's have gotten very good at replicating the Hall of Famers signature and some of the worst culprits lived 4 hours away in Las Cruces the small town where his family still lived. Most of the signed items I have seen over the years were Christmas cards, Signed books and even letters. These I was told were manufactured to supply the demand , some rumors included family involvement.
The first Martin DiHigo item he showed me took my breath away it was his personal diary written in his own hand in spanish, it began with a brief description of himself , this was especially interesting in that various historical sources have listing conflicting dates and falsehoods about his life , here in his own hand he sets the record straight. He writes
"Martin Dihigo Llanos was born in the city of Matanzas on May 25th, 1906. The street is called good trip (Buen Viaje) and it was at number 40 where I saw the light of life for the first time. Through the years I have been a sportsman. Why for someone else you could be born in Europe where a man is born a man , with equal rights in the different things of life....Poor Cuba !" The other pages offered other insights into his feelings regarding friends and team mates but most interesting were the entries detailing numbers and amounts owed. Martin DiHigo it appears was running numbers and kept a record of his illegal lottery dealings as well as what would be called today loan sharking. he also produced documents which proved that DiHigo was never involved as "minister of sports" or in any official capacity with the government he was involved in baseball his entire life as a player, coach and manager, and in the 1950's became involved with the "Players Association" very similar to our "players union". Shortly after the Cuban revolution he suffered a series of strokes and returned to his home town of Las Cruces where his health grew worse and he died there in 1971. More important his health prevented his signing autographs for nearly 10 years before his death. In the 1960's rumors circulated around the island that he had died or had even been executed to prove the rumors wrong a seriously ill Dihigo agreed to a radio interview that was broadcast across the island. In 1971 he died and in 1977 was among the first group of former Negro League players inducted into the American Baseball Hall of Fame. I wanted to visit his final resting place and made the four hour drive to a small cemetary located outside of Cruces. Horse drawn buggies outnumbered cars in this land that time had forgotten. But finally I found it , a group of Cubans were excavating graves as is the practice after three years in the ground the deceased are dug up again and their remains labeled and stacked floor ceiling in the various mausoleum's that dot the cemetary. When I questioned the group they pointed to a building where the remains of national hero Martin DiHigo was housed. Looking for his name on the ossuary I found none. One of the cemetary workers began unstacking medal boxes until he located one with Dihigo's name on it. he asked if I wanted to see him and before I could answer opened the medal box containing his remains. In a land where the fight for daily survival is paramont the memories of long deceased national heros are easily forgotten.
The next day I returned to Havana. On my last evening I stood on a balcony leaning against a cast iron railing overlooking the narrow streets of old Havana. I sipped my Cuban rum and exhaled the smoke from my Monticristo. I wondered when I would return. I had come to look at the island's past and my experiences there were not something I would soon forget.
I watched the smoke from my cigar rise overhead and disappear above me as the warm breezes blew softly down the ancient streets of old Havana.

Wow Jim,
Very cool! The photos are incredible.

Tuna82
07-02-2012, 07:11 AM
If you ever compile your stories into a book, put me down for the pre-order of the 1st edition. Thanks ;)

JimStinson
07-02-2012, 09:31 AM
Thanks a million but to quote a REAL writer Ernest Hemingway who spent much of his life in Cuba he said

We canít ever go back to old things or try and get the 'old kick' out of something or find things the way we remembered them. We have them as we remember them and they are fine and wonderful and we have to go on and have other things because the old things are nowhere except in our minds now.
~Hemingway

mr2686
07-02-2012, 09:52 AM
"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time Ė back home to the escapes of Time and Memory." Thomas Wolfe.

JimStinson
07-02-2012, 11:11 AM
Found these pictures too from the original article , hope they come out clear enough
___________________
Vintage Autographs for sale daily
stinsonsports.com

scmavl
07-02-2012, 11:35 AM
Incredible, Jim. Thanks for sharing!

mschwade
07-06-2012, 08:52 AM
Jim - Have you been able to track down any of the three autographs you sought? Whether it be on your trip or sometime after.

JimStinson
07-06-2012, 09:51 AM
I have been looking for the autographs of Cristobal Torriente and Jose Mendez since long before they were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are only two known examples of Mendez signature and one of Torriente's Both of which are going to be in Ron K's upcoming book on Hall of Fame autographs.
But neither of them are in private hands. I know of no autographs ever being offered for sale or housed in private collections which I guess would probably make them if not the TOUGHEST at least among the toughest of all hall of fame autographs to find. I would not be surprised if either of the two were ever offered on a Bona fide authentic item, ie document, letter etc. I would expect them to sell for upwards of $50,000 to blue sky.
_____________________
Vintage autographs for sale daily
stinsonsports.com

mschwade
07-06-2012, 10:08 AM
I have been looking for the autographs of Cristobal Torriente and Jose Mendez since long before they were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are only two known examples of Mendez signature and one of Torriente's Both of which are going to be in Ron K's upcoming book on Hall of Fame autographs.
But neither of them are in private hands. I know of no autographs ever being offered for sale or housed in private collections which I guess would probably make them if not the TOUGHEST at least among the toughest of all hall of fame autographs to find. I would not be surprised if either of the two were ever offered on a Bona fide authentic item, ie document, letter etc. I would expect them to sell for upwards of $50,000 to blue sky.
_____________________
Vintage autographs for sale daily
stinsonsports.com

Wow, that's an incredible $ amount. So I assume that the baseball historian did not have any of them in the "not for sale" box then either?

JimStinson
07-06-2012, 11:44 AM
Not only were they not in the "Not for sale" box he had never even SEEN one

mschwade
07-07-2012, 10:31 AM
Not only were they not in the "Not for sale" box he had never even SEEN one

Wow, now I can understand $50k+ :D

dgo71
12-04-2012, 10:00 PM
Jim, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this ball purportedly signed by Jose Mendez. Seems if genuine, the price was extremely lower than one would imagine. I'm curious if you were in on the bidding as well, given your decades-long quest for his signature, though I understand if you don't want to divulge that information.

http://www.legendaryauctions.com/LotDetail.aspx?inventoryid=153271&searchby=0&searchvalue=None&page=0&sortby=0&displayby=2&lotsperpage=100&category=107&seo=Historic-1928-Cuban-Multi-Signed-Ball---Featuring-the-Only-Known-Signature-of-HOFer-Jose-Mendez---Th

JimStinson
12-05-2012, 08:48 AM
Jim, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this ball purportedly signed by Jose Mendez. Seems if genuine, the price was extremely lower than one would imagine. I'm curious if you were in on the bidding as well, given your decades-long quest for his signature, though I understand if you don't want to divulge that information.

http://www.legendaryauctions.com/LotDetail.aspx?inventoryid=153271&searchby=0&searchvalue=None&page=0&sortby=0&displayby=2&lotsperpage=100&category=107&seo=Historic-1928-Cuban-Multi-Signed-Ball---Featuring-the-Only-Known-Signature-of-HOFer-Jose-Mendez---Th

I was aware of the ball being offered , and I was not interested in bidding on it. After your post I checked the selling price and looks like the consignor and auction company are amazingly lucky individuals. My search continues
________________________
jim@stinsonsports.com

dgo71
12-05-2012, 12:25 PM
Ah, understood!