Fidel Castro was a long-time baseball fan and often attended Havana Sugar Kings games at Gran Stadium del Cerro. In fact, Castro had been a pitcher during his days at the University of Havana. Soon after taking power, he pledged to underwrite the Sugar Kings’ debts. In an exhibition contest between his own pickup squad Los Barbudos (“The Bearded Ones”) and a military police team prior to a game between the Sugar Kings and the Rochester Red Wings on July 24, 1959, Castro pitched two innings. He ended up with two strikeouts.
The following day, another game between the Red Wings and Sugar Kings began late and continued into the night. Castro’s supporters were in full force in the stands, and when midnight struck, they erupted into a torrent of lights, music, flag-waving, and even gunfire in a raucous celebration of the anniversary of the 26th of July Movement.