Baines makes history in Orioles' win over Cuba

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

It was an exhibition match-up in name only, one that had a much greater influence on world matters than almost any other baseball game played that year.

But at the end of the day, the game itself was what mattered to the players on the field in Cuba.

Future Hall of Famer Harold Baines singled in the winning run in the top of the 11th inning as the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Cuban National team 3-2 on March 28, 1999.

With Cuban president Fidel Castro on hand along with more than 50,000 other fans at Havana’s Estadio Latinamericano, a big league team played a game on the island nation for the first time in 40 years.

“Nobody came here thinking about making history,” Orioles left fielder B.J. Surhoff told the Baltimore Sun. “We came down here to play a game.

“History is for others to write and for us to read.”

The game was scheduled early in 1999 after United States President Bill Clinton lightened the four-decade old trade embargo against Cuba.

The Orioles played their regular lineup and made almost none of the usual Spring Training in-game changes.

Starting pitcher Scott Erickson allowed just one run over seven innings, with Mike Fetters picking up the win and Jesse Orosco the save. Baines' two-out single in the 11th inning scored Will Clark with what proved to be the winning run.

Future big leaguer Jose Contreras dominated on the mound for Cuba, allowing just two hits and four walks in eight shutout innings, striking out 10.

Then 27 years of age, Contreras would make his big league debut for the Yankees in 2003 and win 78 games over 11 big league seasons, including earning a World Series ring with the White Sox in 2005.

“I’m not sure I see enough power,” said Orioles manager Ray Miller to the Baltimore Sun when evaluating the talent on the Cuban National team. “But I certainly see enough pitching.”

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s collection contains several artifacts from this game, including Fetters’ cap, Erickson’s jersey, Surhoff’s bat from when he collected the first hit of the game, a Team Cuba jersey worn by coach Rodolfo Puentes, game-used baseballs and tickets.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series