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Montreal's press corps won the team title, eased up. Les Canadiens had a definite edge, because they traveled with as many as five writers at a crack, two-platooning in French and English. After one muddled visit, two Montreal writers missed a plane back home and wound up in New York City, from where they took a cab to Montreal and handed the tab to the Montreal GM.
A special Sportsmanship Award went to Dixie Walker, the Rochester manager in 1955-58 and former "People's Cherce" of Brooklyn. Walker copped the coveted citation even though he consumed only 18 of the frosty devils one night. But that was a good performance for Dixie, because he was usually a non-drinker and, by derby standards, strictly an amateur.
The Great Frozen Daiquiri Derby ended in July of 1960 at a Rochester- Havana doubleheader. Machete-wielding farmers and then-undisciplined Castro troops roamed the city, still fighting anti-revolutionary elements. An explosion behind Gran Stadium killed at least two Cuban college students and provoked a panicky exodus of wealthy Americans, wealthy Cubans, the Red Wings and Havana Sugar Kings. Castro saw the International League's defection as another act of American aggression, and U.S.-Cu-ban relations—not to mention the Daiquiri Derby—went down the drain.
Castro was personally involved in an earlier incident that had made the league nervous about playing in Cuba. On the night of July 25, 1959 he pitched one inning of an exhibition that helped fill the ball park before a Rochester- Havana game. Castro got the side out, with the assistance of the plate umpire and the opposing team.
The regularly scheduled game that night ran until midnight, which made it July 26, the birthday of Castro's revolution. So some of the fans and troops decided to play Cuban Fourth of July with .45 pistols, submachine guns and M-1 rifles. They fired away at the fences and the roof. They even caused some of us in the press box to drop our daiquiris. And they shot Rochester Third Base Coach Frank Verdi in the head. Verdi's metal batting-helmet liner saved his skull. He wobbled, but never fell. The Red Wings got the hell out of Havana without playing the next day. Apologies from Castro's government persuaded league officials that it was a frivolous matter, and the International League decided to return to the land of guns, sunshine and frozen daiquiris.
A year later the curfews and censorship and bombings convinced the league and the State Department that Cuba was no longer safe for U.S. baseball. But dwindling attendance and frightening nights had doomed baseball before that. The game was a sport and a religion to Cubans, but who needed the Americans to play it?
So it was goodby to the International League. Goodby .45s and M-1s. Hello Russians. Hello Jersey City.
It is nice to know that all that hysteria is over. The International League doesn't seem likely to get back to Havana, but I'd sure like to—provided that the frozen daiquiri hasn't been one of the casualties of the revolution.