TIME Baseball

Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks Dies at 83

Though he was an 11-time All-Star from 1953-71, Banks never reached the postseason

Even as the Chicago Cubs lost one game after another, Ernie Banks never lost hope.

That was the charm of “Mr. Cub.”

Banks, the Hall of Fame slugger and two-time MVP who always maintained his boundless enthusiasm for baseball despite decades of playing on miserable teams, died Friday night. He was 83.

The Cubs announced Banks’ death, but did not provide a cause.

Banks hit 512 home runs during his 19-year career and was fond of saying, “It’s a great day for baseball. Let’s play two.” In fact, that sunny finish to his famous catchphrase adorns his statue outside Wrigley Field.

And on a cold winter night Friday in Chicago, the ballpark marquee carried the sad news for the entire town to see: Ernie Banks. “Mr. Cub.” 1931-2015.

“Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known.”

“Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie’s life in the days ahead.”

In a statement Saturday, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama expressed their condolences “to the family of Ernie Banks, and to every Chicagoan and baseball fan who loved him.” The president said Banks became known as much for his optimism and love of the game as his home runs and back-to-back National League MVPs.

“As a Hall-of-Famer, Ernie was an incredible ambassador for baseball, and for the city of Chicago,” President Obama said. “He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team’s behind him, and Mr. Class — “Mr. Cub” — is ready to play two.”

Though he was an 11-time All-Star from 1953-71, Banks never reached the postseason. The Cubs, who haven’t won the World Series since 1908, finished below .500 in all but six of his seasons and remain without a pennant since 1945.

Still, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, the first year he was eligible, and was selected to baseball’s All-Century team in 1999.

Banks’ infectious smile and non-stop good humor despite his team’s dismal record endeared him to Chicago fans, who voted him the best player in franchise history. One famous admirer, actor Bill Murray, named his son Homer Banks Murray.

In 2013, Banks was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom — by a noted Chicago White Sox fan, President Barack Obama. The award is one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.

“Ernie Banks was more than a baseball player. He was one of Chicago’s greatest ambassadors. He loved this city as much as he loved — and lived for — the game of baseball,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “This year, during every Cubs game, you can bet that No. 14 will be watching over his team. And if we’re lucky, it’ll be a beautiful day for not just one ballgame, but two.”

Banks’ No. 14 was the first number retired by the Cubs, and it hangs on a flag from the left-field foul pole at the old ballpark.

“I’d like to get to the last game of the World Series at Wrigley Field and hit three homers,” he once said. “That was what I always wanted to do.”

But even without an opportunity to play on the October stage, Banks left an indelible mark that still resonates with fans and athletes from all sports.

“Ernie Banks… We are going to all miss you. #Legend,” quarterback Russell Wilson tweeted as he and the Seattle Seahawks were getting ready to defend their Super Bowl title.

Banks was playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues when the Cubs discovered him in 1953, and purchased his contract for $10,000. He made his major league debut at shortstop on Sept. 17 that year, and three days later hit his first home run.

Tall and thin, Banks didn’t look like a typical power hitter. He looked even less so as he stood at the plate, holding his bat high and wiggling it as he waited for pitches. But he had strong wrists and a smooth, quick stroke, and he made hitting balls out of the park look effortless.

When he switched to a lighter bat before the 1955 season, his power quickly became apparent. He hit 44 homers that season, including three against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 4. His five grand slams that year established a major league record that stood for more than 30 years before Don Mattingly hit six in 1987.

Banks’ best season came in 1958, when he hit .313 with 47 homers and 129 RBIs. Though the Cubs went 72-82 and finished sixth in the National League, Banks edged Willie Mays and Hank Aaron for his first MVP award. He was the first player from a losing team to win the NL MVP.

Banks won the MVP again in 1959, becoming the first NL player to win it in consecutive years, even though the Cubs had another dismal year. Banks batted .304 with 45 homers and a league-leading 143 RBIs.

He led the NL in homers again in 1960 with 41, his fourth straight season with 40 or more. His 248 homers from 1955-60 were the most in the majors, topping even Aaron and Mays.

“Mr Cub. What you have done for the game of baseball the city of Chicago and everyone you have ever touched will never be forgotten. RIP,” tweeted Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Though Banks didn’t break the 40-homer barrier again after 1960, he topped the 100-RBI mark three more times, including 1969, his last full season. Then 38, he hit .253 with 23 home runs and 106 RBIs, and was chosen an All-Star for an 11th time.

On May 12, 1970, he hit his 500th home run at Wrigley Field, becoming only the eighth player at the time to reach the plateau.

Banks retired after the 1971 season. He owned most of the Cubs’ career slugging records, some of which still stand today.

Known mostly for his power at the plate, Banks was a solid fielder, too. He is best known as a shortstop, where he won a Gold Glove in 1960, but he switched to first base in 1962. He played 1,259 games at first and 1,125 games at shortstop.

Born and raised in Dallas, Banks would be bribed to play catch by his father, who always wanted him to be a baseball player. Banks grew to love the game and was a standout in high school, along with participating in football, basketball and track and field.

He joined a barnstorming Negro Leagues team at 17 and was spotted by Cool Papa Bell, who signed him to the Monarchs in 1950. Banks played one season before going into the Army. He returned to Kansas City after he was discharged, playing one more season before joining the Cubs.

“He was one of the great crossover baseball players of his day,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson said. “His personality was a racial bridge builder. He treated all people with dignity and respect. He never stopped reaching out to bridge the racial chasms.”

TIME MLB

Bye Bye, Bud: Selig Left His Mark On Baseball

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speaks to the media at Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2014. Jim McIsaac—Getty Images

Bud Selig was never the most charismatic public face of baseball. But his job was never to inspire

One thing everyone can agree on: It’s the right time for Bud Selig to hand over the keys.

Selig, baseball’s commissioner since 1992, officially leaves the job Saturday. Rob Manfred, a long-time deputy, takes over. Selig, 80, took baseball to a new place. He’s left his mark. Let’s see what the new guy can do. (Manfred seems fond, for example, of trying to speed up the game. That’s good news.)

Bud Selig was never the most charismatic public face of baseball. But his job was never to inspire. In sports, the players, and sometimes the coaches, do that. Commissioners are tasked with growing their sports for their bosses—the owners—and keeping the games fair. Baseball produces almost $10 billion in annual revenue; the game made just over a billion yearly when Selig took over. Local television deals, in particular, are flourishing. In a media world obsessed with “content,” baseball, with its 162-game schedule and hot-stove intrigue, benefits. Selig’s team was smart enough to capitalize on this: MLB Advanced Media, baseball’s tech engine, has minted millions. Interleague play, and the expanded playoffs, have been good for business.

As for fair play: The controversy over performance enhancing drugs has been picked over plenty. Whether or not Selig was willfully blind to the 1990’s steroid boom, it happened under his watch. Selig’s push for tougher drug testing wasn’t some heroic response. It was the only prudent one, and testing still has flaws. Remember, Alex Rodriguez may have copped to his 2010-2012 drug use. But he did not fail a test during that time.

Selig instituted revenue sharing, and even teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals, hopeless during most of Selig’s tenure, eventually became winners. His hawkish approach to controlling labor costs contributed to the 1994 strike. Like steroids, the work stoppage stains his resume. But since that disaster, baseball has enjoyed two decades of labor peace. Selig deserves some credit.

He also deserves blame for one of the dumbest polices in sports: giving home field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star game, instead of the team with the better record. This gimmick defies logic and fairness. Manfred should reverse it.

One of Manfred’s more serious challenges will be to bring more cultural cachet back to baseball. That unquantifiable spark, buzz, whatever you want to call it. The game consists of thriving fiefdoms, but lacks the national bonds we’ve seen with players in other sports, like LeBron James and Peyton Manning. Baseball’s gone hyper-local: You can obsessively watch your team daily, on all kinds of devices. Maybe Manfred will tap into some marketing magic to make more young people fall for Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, and other emergent stars. Maybe he’ll push baseball beyond the bottom line.

That’s something Selig just wasn’t wired to do.

TIME Baseball

Reports: Max Scherzer Agrees to 7-Year Deal With Nationals

Division Series - Detroit Tigers v Baltimore Orioles - Game One
Max Scherzer pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore on Oct. 2, 2014 Mark Cunningham—Getty Images

Max Scherzer got his money, and the National League’s deepest rotation just got deeper. According to multiple reports, Scherzer has reached an agreement with the Nationals on a seven-year contract. Financial terms have not been announced, but FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the deal will be worth more than $180 million. If that is indeed the case, this contract would then rank second among those signed by pitchers in terms of both total value and average annual value behind only Clayton Kershaw‘s seven-year, $215 million extension signed with the Dodgers last year (that deal had a $30.7 million AAV). The signing also sets up the likelihood that the Nationals will trade one member of the starting rotation that posted the league’s best ERA while helping the team to an NL-high 96 wins and the NL East title last season.

Ever since Scherzer turned down a six-year, $144 million extension offer from the Tigers back in March — sometimes reported as a seven-years, $160 million offer when including his 2014 salary — on the heels of winning the 2013 AL Cy Young award, it was clear that the 30-year-old righty and his agent, Scott Boras, were aiming for a deal of distinction. They found one. If Rosenthal’s source is correct, Scherzer’s contract will be the largest free agent deal ever signed by a pitcher, topping the six-year, $155 million deal to which the Cubs signed Jon Lester back in December, and the seven-year, $155 million contract the Yankees gave Masahiro Tanaka last winter. Kershaw’s deal and the seven-year, $180 million contract signed by former Tigers teammate Justin Verlander were both extensions.

With the Cubs satiated by the Lester signing, the Tigers unwilling or unable to make another Verlander-sized commitment and the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and other big-spending teams all sitting this one out, the market for Scherzer had been slow to develop this winter. That’s in part by design, as Boras has operated this way in the past. Clients of his such as Michael Bourn, Prince Fielder, Kyle Lohse and Rafael Soriano all signed after most of the other comparable free agents had come off the board and just weeks before pitchers and catchers reported for spring training — or sometimes even afterward. As of Sunday afternoon one other team was said to be in the running for Scherzer’s services, but that team was never identified.

That Scherzer would wind up with Washington makes a certain amount of sense. Both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are heading into their final season before free agency and, barring injury, quite likely to command nine-figure deals themselves, and the move also reunites Scherzer with the man who drafted him. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was the Diamondbacks‘ scouting director back in 2006 when the team chose Scherzer with the 11th overall pick out of the University of Missouri. Scherzer didn’t actually sign until May 31, 2007, however, by which point Rizzo had moved on to Washington as its assistant GM.

After winning the AL Cy Young in 2013 on the strength of a season in which he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA, 2.74 FIP, 10.1 strikeouts per nine and 6.7 WAR (Baseball-Reference version) in 214 1/3 innings, Scherzer enjoyed a 2014 season that was nearly as strong, going 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 10.3 strikeouts per nine and 6.0 WAR in 220 1/3 innings. Both seasons were significant steps beyond the solid performances he put up during the first 4 1/2 seasons of his career with Arizona (2008-09) and Detroit (2010-12).

During that period, Scherzer’s best single-season ERA was 3.50 (2010) while his best FIP was 3.27 (2012); his overall numbers from 2008-12 included a 3.88 ERA and 3.72 FIP. By backing up his award-winning campaign and making his second straight All-Star appearance (he started the 2013 game at Citi Field), he made clear that he had elevated his game to a new level, and thus was worthy of a top-shelf deal.

In signing with the Nationals, Scherzer joins a team that won the NL East flag for the second time in three years in 2014 and a rotation that led the league in ERA (3.04) while ranking second in quality start rate (65 percent). The team’s top five starters — Zimmermann, Fister, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark — all posted ERAs of 3.57 or better (105 ERA+ or better) while accounting for all but 13 starts; both Fister and Gonzalez served stints on the disabled list during the first half of the season.

With the 28-year-old Zimmermann and soon-to-be-31-year-old Fister both a year away from free agency, the likelihood is that one of the two will be traded to create room in the rotation and to trim payroll. Zimmermann, a second-round pick in 2007, will make $16.5 million in 2015, while Fister, a former teammate of Scherzer’s in Detroit who was acquired in December 2013, will make $11.4 million. The Nats are known both to have discussed an extension with Zimmermann and to have engaged with multiple teams about the possibility of trading him. According to a tweet from Jon Morosi of FoxSports, they also would be “willing to listen on Strasburg.”

We’ll have more information on the signing as news becomes available.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Baseball

Pedro Martinez Names the Hitter Who Gave Him The Hardest Time

29th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner To Benefit The Buoniconti Fund To Cure Paralysis - Arrivals
Former baseball player Pedro Martinez attends the 29th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to benefit The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis in New York City on September 29, 2014. Stephen Lovekin —Getty Images

"It pissed me off when I had to throw 13 pitches to get a guy out”

Eight-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez had a way of making the best hitters in the Major Leagues appear merely mortal. However, there were those who apparently gave the feared pitcher pause.

After being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, Martinez admitted that Seattle Mariners’ designated hitter Edgar Martinez had been the “toughest guy” he faced during his legendary career.

“He would make me throw at least 13 fastballs above 95 (mph). I would be hard-breathing after that,” said Martinez during an interview with former Boston Red Sox teammate Kevin Millar on the MLB Network. “Edgar was a guy who had the ability to foul off pitches, and it pissed me off when I had to throw 13 pitches to get a guy out.”

The Hall of Famer’s admission came as a bit of surprise to baseball insiders, considering Edgar earned only three hits during his 33 career plate appearances against Pedro.

Martinez was one of four former players, including two other pitchers, to be elected to the vaunted the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York on Tuesday.

[NESN]

TIME Baseball

Here’s the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2015

Randy Johnson smiles after pitching a perfect game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta on May 18, 2004.
Randy Johnson smiles after pitching a perfect game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta on May 18, 2004. MLB Photos/Getty Images

Four players enter the Baseball Hall of Fame this year

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

Johnson, nicknamed The Big Unit for his towering 6-foot-10 frame, was one of the most feared pitchers in the game during his prime. His dominant fastball and filthy slider guided him to five Cy Young awards, including four in a row from 1999 to 2002. In 2001, Johnson shared World Series MVP honors with Curt Schilling in the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ seven-game series win over the New York Yankees. Johnson played for six teams in his career before retiring after the 2009 season.

Joining Johnson is Martinez, an eight-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young winner. He played an integral part of the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that won the franchise’s first World Series in 86 years. His 1999 season with Boston remains one of the greatest pitching seasons in modern baseball history. Martinez finished 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts, en route to a unanimous Cy Young and a second-place finish in MVP voting. He retired after the 2009 World Series, in which he pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Rounding out the trio of power pitchers in the 2015 class is Smoltz, the longtime Atlanta Braves pitcher who was at separate times in his career among the game’s best starting pitchers and closers. Smoltz started regularly through 1999, helping the Braves to a World Series win in ’95 and earning a Cy Young in 1996. After Tommy John surgery, Smoltz became a full-time closer in 2002 and promptly recorded 55 saves, a then-National League record. He returned to Atlanta’s starting rotation in 2005. He retired after 2009 with more than 3,000 strikeouts, 200 wins and 150 saves.

Biggio enters the Hall of Fame in his third year on the ballot. He spent his entire 20-year career with the Houston Astros, playing catcher, second base and outfield. He became the 27th player in MLB history to join the 3,000-hit club in 2007, and the first in Astros history. He’s the only player in baseball history with 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 250 home runs. He also retired with 285 hit-by-pitches, the most in MLB history.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME

Baseball’s Hall of Fame Set for Bumper Crop of Honorees

Pedro Martinez Baseball Hall of Fame
Former Boston Red Sox player Pedro Martinez is honored prior to the game between the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park in Boston on May 28, 2014. Jared Wickerham—Getty Images

Results set for 2pm ET on Tuesday

On Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern, the results of the BBWAA 2015 Hall of Fame election will be announced. If the ballots published thus far are to be believed, we’re in for not only a bumper crop of honorees — three, four, or even five players receiving at least 75 percent of the vote — but also the kind of history we haven’t seen in at least 60 years.

As of Monday afternoon, 146 voters have made their ballots public thus far, via Ryan Thibs’ Hall of Fame Tracker, just over one-quarter of the electorate based on last year’s final vote total of 571. According to those ballots, five players have received at least 75 percent of the vote: newcomers Randy Johnson (98.6 percent), Pedro Martinez (98.0 percent) and John Smoltz (87.8 percent) and holdovers Craig Biggio (80.8 percent) and Mike Piazza (79.4 percent). Via the Baseball Think Factory 2015 HOF Ballot Collecting Gizmo — which unlike Thibs’ Tracker merely aggregates the totals instead of recording each individual ballot but has a slightly larger sample size (154) — Piazza is down to 76.6 percent, but Biggio is up to 82.5 percent, and the other three are within a whisker of Thibs’ numbers…

This is an excerpt from an article that was originally published on SI.com. Read the entire article here.

TIME Football

Ken Griffey Jr. is Now a Professional Photographer

Griffey has taken a shine to photography since his retirement from the big leagues

That man above with the professional looking camera set up on the sidelines of the Fiesta Bowl is not a stringer for the Associated Press or Getty Images. It’s Ken Griffey Jr. Because, of course.

Griffey didn’t just watch the game from the sidelines Wednesday night – he photographed it for ESPN.

Griffey has taken a shine to photography since his retirement from the big leagues. His new hobby afforded him the opportunity to watch his son, Arizona wide receiver Trey Griffey, both in the flesh and from behind the lens. Arizona eventually lost to Boise State, 38-30.

No word yet on whether all of Griffey’s shots were of Trey, or just some of them. Look at the size of that lens, though!

This isn’t Griffey’s first time hitting it big with a hobby outside of baseball. One must not forget his illustrious rap debut.

This article originally appeared on Si.com

TIME Baseball

Mo’ne Davis Named AP’s 2014 Female Athlete of the Year

World Series - Kansas City Royals v San Francisco Giants - Game Four
Little League Baseball pitcher Mo'ne Davis waves after she throws out the ceremonial first pitch before Game Four of the 2014 World Series at AT&T Park on October 25, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Elsa—Getty Images

She’s the youngest winner ever

Little league star Mo’ne Davis was named the Associated Press’s Female Athlete of the Year on Monday as the accolades for the young athlete continue to mount.

Davis, who earlier this month was named Sports Illustrated Kid of the Year, stepped onto the national stage when she became the first girl to throw a shutout during a Little League world series. She was 13.

She has since made it onto the cover of Sports Illustrated, met the Obamas, participated in a commercial shot by Spike Lee, and was named as one of TIME’s 25 most influential teens of 2014.

For her latest award, Davis was selected by editors and news directors across the country, beating out runners up Laruen Hill, a freshman basketball player at Mt. St. Joseph who played while battling terminal brain cancer and three-time winner Serena Williams.

TIME Baseball

Nationals Pitcher Doug Fister Buys Everybody Starbucks for Christmas

Doug Fister of the Washington Nationals celebrates scoring a run in the sixth inning on a Ryan ZImmerman single during one of a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins on Sept. 26, 2014 at Nationals Park in Washington.
Doug Fister of the Washington Nationals celebrates scoring a run in the sixth inning on a Ryan ZImmerman single during one of a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins on Sept. 26, 2014 at Nationals Park in Washington. Mitchell Layton—Getty Images

But cautions against using the barcode more than once

Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister was feeling particularly generous on Christmas Eve, so he decided to buy Starbucks for everyone.

Fister posted a barcode on his Twitter page and told followers to have a Starbucks barista scan the barcode, which would give them a free cup of coffee. He also cautioned potential Grinches to only use the barcode once.

Fister made $7.2 million in 2014, so as long as everyone stays away from Venti-sized coffees, he shouldn’t have too big an issue footing the bill.

This article originally appeared on SportsIllustrated.com

TIME Cuba

MLB All-Star Minnie Minoso: A Happy Ending for My Cuba

Minnie Minoso
Portrait of Cuban-born Chicago White Sox baseball player Orestes 'Minnie' Minoso, circa 1955. Getty Images

Former MLB All-Star Minnie Minoso writes about his hopes for his home country.

When I heard the news that the United States and my home country, Cuba, were resuming diplomatic relations, I was so happy. I never thought this day would come in my lifetime. Though it took too long—I’m 90 years old—I’m thrilled to be here to see it. I’ve been an American citizen for 30 years. I have always loved living here. Playing major league baseball in America was my dream. But you always have a soft spot for the place where you were born.

I grew up on a sugar farm in Perico, a small town around 90 miles east of Havana. We were poor; we had no electricity, no radio. But I was raised in a loving family, and my parents taught me the values of hard work. Like my father, I worked in the sugar fields while growing up, but also knew I had baseball talent. Each sugar ranch had a baseball team, and I threw so hard—I was a pitcher back then—that other players were afraid of facing me. We didn’t have real gloves. To pay for our uniforms, we would buy empty sugar boxes and resell them for a dollar profit. We gave our money to a woman who made them out of cotton flour sacks.

In 1945, I left Cuba to play in the Negro Leagues in the U.S. Some people warned me not to go to America, because of racial discrimination and segregation. But although segregation wasn’t as formal as it was in the United States, Cuba was no racial paradise. It was very, very difficult for black ballplayers to play professionally in Cuba.

As my major league career took off in the 1950s, I went home to Cuba every offseason, to play winter ball and visit my family. It was a golden age. Tourists vacationed in Cuba. Havana nightlife was thriving. You can’t overstate how big baseball was in Cuba.

Things started to change once Fidel Castro came into power in 1959. I was a ballplayer, not a politician. To me, you don’t prop up the poor by taking away from the well-off. I feared the Cuban people would lose their freedom, their hard-earned property.

In 1961, I made the painful decision to leave Cuba for good. I saw where the country was headed, and did not agree with the Castro’s policies. I said goodbye to my two sisters, and my father. I never saw them again.

This brought great pain. But I like to look at the positive: We are entering a new era. If my doctor says I’m healthy enough to fly, I plan on traveling to Cuba soon, to be inducted into a hall of fame. Maybe I’ll see some of the same trees, the same sugar fields, I remembered as a boy.

We still don’t know what this new policy means for Cuban baseball players. Will they be able to go to the majors, and have the same opportunities I did? Will baseball teams construct academies in Cuba, like they’ve done in the Dominican Republic? If I get to talk to any young up-and-coming Cuban baseball players, I will tell them: don’t try to escape. Be legal. Don’t risk it. Everything is going to work out now. Everything is going to be happy. – as told to Sean Gregory

Minnie Minoso, a seven-time MLB All-Star, is the first black Cuban player to appear in the major leagues, and the only player to appear in a professional baseball game during seven different decades.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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