Pitchers & Catchers Report to Ft. Myers

Friday, April 24, 2009

Looie

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Tribeca Film Festival showing of "The Lost Son of Havana," the documentary made by the Farrelly brothers about Luis Tiant's journey back to Cuba after 46 years in exile.

It is a beautiful, touching and extremely well-made movie. There was a full house on hand for the showing, which included an introduction of the film (it was the world premiere, the first I have ever attended) by the Farrellys and Looie himself. (But before the film began, I had an obnoxious Yankee fan sitting behind me, and I got to talking to him a bit. He talked about "hearing too many Boston accents" and then said something about the Red Sox "not winning World Series." Which led me to ask him we'd been the last five years. To which he replied something about those last two "not counting." "Clueless putz" was the perfect description for this guy, and he was the dictionary definition of why I so despise the Yankees. Because of their "fans.")

The film was a tremendous account of Looie's trip back to his homeland, which he had not been to since May 1961. He went to America to pursue his dream, and could not return to Cuba. The film interweves his trip back home and his big league career seemlessly. Looie returns to find the incredible poverty of his home island, and meest some folks he knew before he left, including some relatives. He brings them ordinary, every day items like candy, gum, toothpaste, knitting needles and thread, that sort of thing. His relatives are living in total poverty and it is very sad to see and it clearly has an incredible effect on him.

The movie also documents his father's pitching career in Cuba and the USA, where he played in the Negro Leagues in the 1930s and '40s. It also beautifully marks his return to the US in 1975, with the help of Senator George McGovern, who personally went ot bat for him on a trip to Cuba where he met with Fidel Castro. His parents were able to see him pitch in the World Series, and they both stayed with him before both passed away within days of each other in 1976.

Looie gets a sense of closure by his journey back to his home, and it is something he was very glad he was able to do. It is a special journey that the Farrellys have taken the moviegoers on, tagging along with Looie, and showing us all what a state Cuba is in right now. But we are all better for taking the journey with him. Thanks for bringing us along, Looie. (Here is my previous post about the film.)

One thing I have to say about the crowd at the Tribeca Film Festival. Everyone seemed to enjoy the film very much, and it got a standing ovation after it was over, and Luis Tiant got another after he came back for a Q&A session. (He also got emotional after the first question when someone asked him about his first moments being back in Cuba.) But there were people around me who were laughing at the wrong moments, like when Looie was giving out the simple gifts to his relatives. I was a bit put off by that.

After the film ended, my friends and I returned to Professor Thom's. I was there until midnight, and I was contemplating calling it a night. But just before my departure, who should come into the bar but Luis Tiant, the Farrelly brothers and many others associated with the film. For the next hour, my friends and I were having a few drinks and chatting with Looie and his friends. He is quite a gentleman, very approachable and a really nice guy. I told him how much I enjoyed the film, and I also made it a point to tell him that I believed he belonged in the Hall of Fame. I'll never forget his response: "Well, it's been 21 years, and I hope I make it in before I die."

We all enjoyed his company, and we took pictures with him. He and his family and friends couldn't have been any nicer.

Thanks for letting us go with you on your journey back to Cuba, Looie. It was an evening I'll never forget.

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