On the day of the coup, Canel scored a notable scoop when Batista and his followers surrounded the Hotel Nacional, where some of the general staff officers were living it up. The officers barricaded themselves in the hotel and shot it out with Batista's men. During a brief truce, Canel slipped inside the hotel where, his wife reports, "he spent all his time riding up and down in the elevator getting interviews."
When Batista became president, he went on the radio to deliver a pronunciamiento to the Cuban people. After he finished, he turned to Canel. who was in the studio, and said, "Here, Buck. Do my speech in English. They're probably listening in Florida." This was Canel's introduction to broadcasting.
After four years with the AP in Havana, Canel returned to New York. There, with the help of a couple of influential admirers—Drew Pearson, the columnist, and Sumner Welles, the former Ambassador to Cuba—he got a job with Havas, as Agence France-Pressewas called before the war. In 1936 Canel learned that the National Broadcasting Company was planning to start shortwave broadcasts to Latin America in Spanish. With permission from Havas, he applied for a job as a broadcaster and was accepted. One of his first assignments was the Yankee-Giant World Series. Thus Canel got his two careers, one with the French wire service, the other as a broadcaster. It has worked out very well for all concerned. When Canel finishes broadcasting a ball game or a fight over shortwave for Gillette, his sponsor since 1939, he then writes two different stories for the wire service, one in Spanish for Latin American clients, another in English for newspapers in the Far East. Neither story is a translation of the other. "I have two different personalities," Canel explains, "one Spanish, the other English. If Hector Lopez gets a hit, I lead with that in Spanish. In English, I write that Whitey Ford pitched a shutout for the Yankees."
In his early days at NBC, Canel did a bit of everything. For years he was Franklin D. Roosevelt in Spanish, and once he was even Churchill. Most of the time, however, Canel did sports. He broadcast the University of Havana-Long Island University basketball game from Madison Square Garden (surprisingly, Havana won), and he did the only Army-Navy football game ever done in Spanish. On one occasion he even broadcast the military funeral of a Chilean horse named Chilena that had been killed during a practice jump for the National Horse Show. In appropriately somber tones, Canel described the sad scene at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, where officers of the Chilean army, resplendent in grape-colored capes and black boots, stood at attention while the horse, covered with roses and wrapped in the Chilean flag, was lowered into the ground. (While covering the World Soccer Championships in Chile last year, Canel was invited to dinner by Chilena's owner, Eduardo Yanez, then a captain, now a retired lieutenant general and former minister of war. After brandy and cigars were passed, the general ceremoniously played a recording of Canel's funeral oration. "I gathered," says Canel, flattered, "that he had played the record a number of times.")
When France fell, Canel left Havas. He did not return to the wire service until 1950. During the war he worked for NBC, mostly under the direction of the Office of War Information. He resigned in 1947, and for the next three years devoted himself solely to broadcasting. For two years, he lived a good part of the time in Puerto Rico, where he ran a radio station and did the winter-league games. He also did games in Venezuela, and in 1948 he went to Nicaragua to broadcast the Amateur World Series in Managua. The highlight of the series occurred when General Tacho Somoza, the dictator of Nicaragua, was enraged by his country's failure to win a game. The general not only fired the manager, but locked him up in jail and took over the running of the team himself. "Somoza," Canel says, "was the only manager I ever saw in a dugout wearing a four-star general's hat. What is more, he didn't win a game either."
Returning to the States, Canel did the Brooklyn Dodgers in Spanish over a local station for a season, and then he later broadcast the Chicago White Sox games to Latin America. At the time, the White Sox—Los Medias Blancas—were a big attraction because of. the presence of Minnie Minoso and Chico Carrasquel on the Go-Go-Go team. One listener wrote to ask Canel if it were true that Shortstop Carrasquel and Third Baseman George Kell were brothers.
As a sports broadcaster, Canel has great appeal to Latins. He has a rich bass voice that combines authority and virility, a combination that they find irresistible. "I tell 'em something, they believe it," Canel says. Even so, there are problems. Canel, for instance, cannot do a baseball game using the Spanish words for catch or throw. In some countries these words have a rather risqu� connotation. As a result, the players, as reported by Canel, are forever grabbing or snagging the ball when not tossing, hurling or flinging it. It would be scandalous to translate the catcher literally as catcher. Canel solves this problem by calling him el catcher. "That's all right," he says. "Half of the baseball lingo in Spanish I invented anyway." By the same token, the names of some U.S. players are off color when given a Spanish pronunciation. Such is the case with Don Blasingame. His first name is a title of respect in Spanish, the first syllable of his last name is a proper name and the last syllables form an imperative that would make Fidel Castro blush. Thus he is always referred to briefly and simply as Bla.
In Spanish a foul is un foul, a walk una base por bolas, a bunt un toque (literally "a touch"), first base la primera base, second base la segunda base, third la tercera base and a home run un jonron. The names of teams are literally translated. The Athletics are los Atleticos and the Cardinals los Cardinales. (In the last All-Star Game, the National League had Cardinals at first, second and short and Ron Santo of the Cubs at third. Canel told his listeners that the American League did not have a chance, what with the National League having three cardinals and a saint in the infield. "They eat up stuff like that," he says.) One team, however, does have a special name in Latin America, and that is the Cincinnati Reds. Since the Reds were the first major league club to use Cuban players, the team is known as el querido Cinci, the beloved Cincy. In 1961 it was Canel's sad duty to report every unfortunate move as the beloved Cincy was soundly trounced by los Yanquis, four games to one, in La Serie Mundial.
Names are a perpetual problem with Canel. Some Latin players are known by one name in their home countries and another name here. The real name of the three Alou brothers, for example, is Rojas. Apparently the Giant front office was confused by the Spanish practice of placing a man's family name in the middle and his mother's maiden name last. Now, however, the Rojas brothers have become so publicized as the Alous with los Gigantes that Canel refers to them as Rojas-Alou. It was the same case with Luis Olmo, whose family name is Rodriguez. But this did not matter so much, because Rodriguez, or Olmo, was invariably called by his nickname, El Jibaro, Puerto Rican slang for hick. Similarly, Ruben Gomez is known as El Loco Divino, the divine crazy one, and Orlando Cepeda is Peruchin, the diminutive of Perucho, which is his father's nickname.
Besides the Series, the All-Star Game and important fights, Cane! has two local programs in New York. Once a week he does a sports show, El Panorama Deportivo Schaefer, and he does the television commentary for winter-league games of the week from Puerto Rico. The games are videotaped the day before and flown to New York, where Canel broadcasts two minutes of play-by-play in Spanish and one in English. "Last year we had a higher rating than the Mets," he notes with some pride.