Castro’s Curveball

Written by Tim Wendel
Review by Ken Kreckel

In 1947, career minor leaguer Billy Bryan is in Cuba playing winter ball, chasing a dream of making it to the majors that is fading as rapidly as the splendors of old Havana. After another trying day behind the plate, he meets an enigmatic young political protester with a wicked curveball. This chance encounter soon plunges the fading catcher into a world of high adventure and danger. Going beyond the glitz and glamour of turista Cuba, he finds sad, desperate revolutionaries, duplicitous leaders, and a beautiful crusading photographer named Malena, with whom he falls in maddening and passionate love.

Told from the perspective of a recently widowed and retired Billy, the story enfolds as a memoir of the meaning of loss. Traveling back to Cuba with his daughter, he seeks to uncover the truth about that winter of 1947 and to make peace with his painful memories of that Cuba of so much promise and disappointment, as well as the personal failures of that fading ballplayer, both of which haunt him daily.

This is a skillfully rendered story that resonates with the ring of truth. The author’s prose is so convincing you’ll smell the aroma of Billy’s leather mitt and feel the softness of the grassy field cooling in the tropical evening. Your heart will pound whether staring into a rifle held by a shaking soldier, an oncoming fastball thrown by the team’s latest young prospect, or the deeply evocative eyes of the lovely Malena. This book has the power to get under your skin, and the wisdom to make you reflect on the meaning of your own life. Above all, it stands as an allegory for the story of Cuba itself, in all its tragic magnificence. Highly recommended.