Bottom of the 2nd Inning:
Later that evening, after returning home and taking care of some household responsibilities, I made myself a nice cup of decaf tea and headed downstairs to my home office. My office was my sanctuary for writing articles, doing research, catching up on all things baseball, and was the only room in my house that I personally decorated. The pictures on the walls were a tad crooked. Some of the older posters were creased and faded. The room itself could have used a fresh coat of paint and a deep cleaning to get the college dorm room smell out of it. But, it was my place of refuge and a great place to unwind and think deeply about baseball. Tonight, I went down to my baseball room with a mission – Who was in the photo and what could I learn about him?
I found the photo in my pictures folder and expanded it to fill the entire computer screen. Inch by inch, I scanned the photo for clues, taking notes along the way. What team was this? What stadium was this? What league was this? How old were the players in the photo? The people in the stands, what were they wearing? Did they have any signs around the stadium that would clue me in to where the photo was taken? I stopped for a moment to think ‘you know, all I have to do is just ask Javier and Benita these questions.’ But, with the abrupt end to my lunch at the 205th, I thought it best to just stay away for the time being and try to piece together some clues without their involvement. I took a long sip of the now lukewarm tea and began my investigation of the photo again.
The photo was so grainy and creased and not in very good condition. I strained my eyes to see a few business banners along the backstop area. The Cuban flag was prominently being held by a few fans. Most of the men in the stands were dressed as if they had just come from working on a farm or in a machine shop. There were very few woman I could make out in the photo, and they were similarly dressed. It was like a recreational game, not a big time Cuban National team or Professional League. If you look up photos from the 1950s and 1960s of fans in the stands at Major League Baseball games, the dress code looked more like business casual and Sunday best. These fans were not dressed up at all, from what I could see. I zoomed in on an object in the sky, it appeared to be some kind of military plane. Maybe the stadium was near an airport? There were no other markings on dugouts or billboards to denote the name of the stadium.
Then, I zoomed in on the players to see if any last names or numbers or uniform markings could help me. Again, it looked kind of like a recreational baseball league game with basic uniforms – hat, matching shirts, black/gray pants. The photos was black and white, so I obviously couldn’t get much information on color schemes or anything distinguishing about the hats or jerseys. Struck out there. Then, I noticed some white lettering in the bottom right corner of the photo. I zoomed in as far as I could without it being completely blurry. In the corner, there was a row of sentences. It started with “June 8, 1964” then “Havana Summer Sports” then “La Palma vs Batua” and then “B.A. No hitter. T Reilly.”
So I continued to look harder and harder at this photo of Tiziano and Benita’s Grandfather, perhaps a young man living in Cuba, who was a Cuban baseball player, perhaps a very good baseball player, who threw a no hitter at this particular game. Who took the photo? Who is T. Reilly? Havana Summer Sports, was that a recreation league in the 1960s? Why was Javier being so secretive about a photo of his children’s grandfather, perhaps his father and his accomplishments on the baseball field? I stared and drank my tea and stared some more until my eyes were literally straining and watering up. A knock on the door to my baseball room startled me and brought me out of my staring contest with the photo. It was Tim, who came down to see the photo. He put his hand on the back of my chair and leaned into the photo. I had zoomed in on the dugout area to look for any other clues before retiring for the evening. And then Timmy said something rather profound, pointing to a woman standing next to the third base dugout looking directly at the pitcher in question. “Hey Dad, that woman looks just like Benita.”