My conservative cousin from New York, who used to take me to baseball games at the Polo Grounds and Griffith Stadium (where we’d watch Cuban pitchers Camilo Pascual and Pedro Ramos), finds that Jon Miller and Joe Morgan “served as conduits for Castro’s propaganda” in their broadcast of the World Baseball Classic game between Cuba and The Dominican Republic. He writes:
Not since Jim McKay’s gushing over the East German Olympic teams have sports fans been treated to such an uncritical view of a Communist regime’s use of sports as a vehicle to gain acceptance. Throughout the game, Miller and Morgan kept referring to the warm reception they received during their junket to Cuba a few years ago with the Baltimore Orioles. Several times we were treated to views of a glistening Havana skyline with luxury tourist hotels and the Communist party cadres cheering on their heroes at a government sports center.
The players love of the game was repeatedly cited. No less an authority than Fidel Castro’s son who serves as team physician was called upon to support the notion that this event was all about the purity of baseball and no political controversy should be allowed to intrude. It never occurred to Miller and Morgan to ask why no Cuban Major Leaguers were invited to try out for the team. Surely if there were no political considerations the great Jose Contreras of the Chicago White Sox who defected some years ago would have be given a chance to join the team. Nor would they inquire as to the reasons why none of the Cuban players would be allowed to try out for positions in the majors.
By contrast, there were only a few brief references to the Dominicans. Miller and Morgan developed a story line that made the Cubans seem like heroic amateurs against the heavily favored Dominican hirelings.
Growing up in New York during the 1940’s and 50’s I used to enjoy the broadcasts of announcing legends like Mel Allen, Russ Hodges and Red Barber. They were all “homers” whose commentary reflected their rooting interest in respectively the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers. It’s particularly sad to see one of the game’s greats, Joe Morgan, turn into Fidel Castro’s “homer”.