Connie Marrero, the Cuban right-hander who pitched for the Senators in the 1950s and was the oldest living Major Leaguer, died this week just two days shy of his 103rd birthday, the Associated Press reported. The AP said the death was confirmed by Marrero’s grandson. Only Red Hoff, who died at 107, played in an MLB game and lived longer than Marrero.
Our Rick Maese wrote a lengthy profile of Marrero earlier this year, filled with memories of the pitcher’s time in Washington:
They called Marrero “the Cuban cutie,” a “muscle-bound little gnome,” “the ageless Cuban,” “a real pixie,” and Chico — coined “by sportswriters who had trouble spelling Corrado [sic],” according to one newspaper account. They often quoted him phonetically in an exaggerated cartoon-like dialect (“Me peetch gude”) and seemed infatuated with the big cigar, thick accent and unusual physique. Shirley Povich, the Washington Post columnist, compared him with a fire hydrant — “as easy to step over as step around.”
“He was a chubby guy, not very tall,” Bob Wolff, the Senators’ broadcaster from 1947 to 1960, recalled recently. “He looked like anything but a pitcher. But he sure threw like a pitcher.”
Adam Kilgore talked to Livan Hernandez for the story; “In Cuba, everybody knows this guy,” Hernandez said. “He’s like the god of pitching.”
But there was more from Livo.
“He taught me how to throw my curveball,” Hernandez told Kilgore. “He saw me throw one time in Cuba. He asked me how I throw the curveball. He showed me how to throw a different curveball. I started throwing it. That was the curveball I throw.”
And what made the Marrero curve so effective?
“It had more movement on the ball,” Hernandez explained. “He got a different grip. I started throwing it, and I liked it. I throw all my career that way. That day, he told me that before the game. I used it in the game, and I throw a no-hitter. That was a good one. You can hold the ball better.”
And, as indicated in the story, Hernandez was deferential to Marrero’s role in Cuba.
“Everybody knows him if they pitch in the big leagues,” he said. “He’s really, really good. Everybody listens to what the guy says. On that day before the game, for a half hour, I listened to what he says. I started doing it, and I throw a no-hitter that day….It’s good we have people like that in Cuba, that play professional baseball and make a lot of history. We don’t have too many people like that in Cuba.”