A Time Machine – Tropical Stadium in Havana

Imagine walking around upper Manhattan and stumbling into the Polo Grounds – decayed, but intact. That’s the feeling I had a few days ago in Havana when I visited what is now called Pedro Marrero Stadium, but which began life as Gran Stadium Cerveza Tropical. I had been aware of the history of the place for quite some time: it was home to the Cuban League from 1930 until 1946, and the Brooklyn Dodgers – with Jackie Robinson in tow – trained there in 1947 to avoid the Jim Crow laws of Florida. One happy aspect of the Cuban government’s lack of resources (for history buffs, anyway), is that buildings are either used or re-purposed instead of being torn down. Tropical (er, Pedro Marrero) is now Cuba’s national soccer stadium, but it had changed very little since giants of Cuban, Negro league, and major league baseball roamed its expanses. (The park also hosted the Bacardi Bowl football game, which was played sporadically from 1910 to 1946). The main grandstand remains, as do the press box, light standards, and much of the building that once must have held team or league offices. There are several plaques commemorating the park’s place in baseball history, which is somewhat unusual for Cuba, as many people seem to have a sort of self-imposed amnesia about anything that happened before Fidel Castro ended the Cuban League and created the current amateur system in 1961. On the day I visited there was a youth track meet, so the stands even had cheering spectators and I saw the odd snack vendor going through the stands. One can see the remains of the third base dugout, and the old smokestack of the Cerveceria Tropical brewery is still visible beyond what used to be right field. I even located a set of decrepit concrete stairs that took me up to the roof. To some, this may just look like an old, decrepit stadium. To me it was to suddenly find the past had come alive, and to mingle with ghosts with names like Robinson, Gibson, Luque, and Marrero. I could almost hear them…

Check out all the photos here.

La Tropical today.

La Tropical today.

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