Hernández, Lou. Bobby Maduro and the Cuban Sugar Kings. Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishing Company, 2018. Pp. 218. Bibliography and notes. $39.95 paperback.
Reviewed by Leslie Heaphy
Lou Hernández provides a comprehensive biography of one of baseball’s most successful and overlooked executives, Bobby Maduro. Maduro had a long career in Cuban baseball before starting over again in the United States, where he continued to show his strong leadership. However, while presenting the full context of Maduro’s contributions to the game, Hernández’s primarily focuses on the rise and fall of the Cuban Sugar Kings. Maduro hoped to use the Sugar Kings to help expand the reach and recognition of Cuban baseball. Unfortunately, baseball got caught up in politics when Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba. Maduro was forced to leave and the Sugar Kings disappeared.
Each chapter builds upon the previous, making the book an easy and organized read. We learn first about who Maduro was and how he began in baseball. Hernández walks the reader through his rise prominence, from a builder of stadiums to an owner to a founder of the successful Sugar Kings. Maduro was considered by many to be the father of Cuban baseball, something he championed his entire life. That dedication was carried on after he died by his family through the creation of the Cuban Sugar Kings Foundation. After the demise of the Sugar Kings, Maduro fled to the United States. In the States, one of his more daring adventures was the establishment of short-lived Inter-American League, which brought together Latin and American ball players. Yet, the league struggled from the get-go due to lack of support and fears about defection by Latin players. Hernández closes with Maduro’s eventual return to Cuba. The issues surrounding his one final trip back are essential to the overall story presented, being as much about politics as baseball. Maduro did not want to return but was eventually convinced to go back.
Hernández also provides a short bibliography and notes at the end of the book, highlighting both the primary and secondary sources he used to tell Maduro’s life story. In the epilogue, he makes clear his ultimate purpose for writing this book, using the final page to advocate for more recognition of Maduro and all Latino players, especially by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Since he saves these thoughts until the end of the book, they do not take away from his comprehensive view of the importance of Bobby Maduro to Cuban, as well as American, baseball. Hernández’s work is much-needed addition to the literature on Cuban and international baseball, belonging in anyone’s baseball library.
Dr. Leslie Heaphy is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Kent State University. An admitted New York Mets fan, Dr. Heaphy has published several works on women in baseball and on the Negro leagues.