“I have had Enough of the Faithful Isle”

9 Apr

In January of 1899, Ted Sullivan was on a mission.  The man most famous for being the “discoverer” of Charlie Comiskey, was in New Orleans making plans.  The Times-Picayune said Sullivan and “some visiting baseball men” were meeting at the Grunewald Hotel (now the Roosevelt):

“America’s great national game, baseball, will be firmly planted in Cuba by the opening of the current baseball season…Ted Sullivan, the well-known baseball magnate, the man who has perhaps managed more teams than any other individual in the south, and who managed the Dallas, Texas team in 1895, has been in the city several days working up this Cuban proposition. He says one of the quickest ways to Americanize Cuba is to establish our national sports there, the first of which will naturally be baseball.”


Ted Sullivan

The paper quoted one of the backers of the plan:

“Sullivan is the proper man to manage this Cuban scheme because he has had more experience than most any other man you could find. He knows Cuba, and he knows what they think of baseball down there. Twelve years ago, he took two teams to the island and introduced the great game down there.”

The backers predicted “Sullivan’s scheme will be a first-rate success.”

Three weeks later, Sullivan returned to New Orleans. The Times-Picayune said:

“Honorable Ted Sullivan, the baseball magnate…who was at the Grunewald a short time since on his way to Havana, has been heard from…Honorable Ted has returned, but he has returned with some very different views.”

No longer did Sullivan think Cubans would be “brought in nearer accord” with “Americans across the Florida straits,” within months:

“’I have had enough of the ‘Faithful Isle,’ declared this baseball champion after two weeks in Havana seeing what could be done. ‘No more of it for me. Between the pompous air of the non-speaking English people and the arrogance of our own Americans who have a little gold braid on their shoulders, you can, perhaps, you can imagine what a comfortable time down there visitors are having.”

Among Sullivan’s complaints:

“In darkest Africa you can find more English-speaking people than you can find in Havana today.”

The interpreters, he said, were of poor quality and “bleed you on prices,” he called them “social highwaymen.”

Sullivan also complained about the food:

“The menu would disgust a Mississippi River roustabout. The butter is so strong that it would have proven quite a valuable ally to the Spanish army, had the idea occurred to them. It could resist an attack of the Rough Riders and defy the projectiles from (Admiral William T.) Sampson’s guns.”

Sullivan presented a bit more of an optimistic outlook for baseball in Cuba to other newspapers—telling The Washington Times that he would be bringing a Cuban team to the states and that he watched a Cuban team beat a team comprised of American soldiers in two games.

But to those in New Orleans, where the plan for Sullivan’s Cuba mission was hatched, he was clear:

“In the opinion of Ted Sullivan, baseball in Cuba must wait awhile—it’s too early for the Americanizing of the Spanish city in that way.”

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