Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spook Jacobs steals the show at the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society Cuban Baseball Celebration

Spook Jacobs
Tony Taylor
Forrest "Spook" Jacobs is back stealing again; this time it's not bases, but the spotlight from two prominent former Major Leaguers. 9-time All-Star Minnie Minoso and 19 year veteran Tony Taylor, as well as former Pirate Cholly Naranjo spoke the highest praises of "Spook" Jacobs at the recent Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society tribute to these former stars of the Cuban League. While Jacobs only played parts of three seasons from 1954-1956 with the A's and Pirates, his play south of the border left an indelible impression on those that watched him.

Taylor fondly remembers Jacobs from Cuba. "[Jacobs] was a guy I've known for many years from when I was a young man in Cuba. He played baseball in Cuba many years there. I remember watching him and I used to say, 'Someday I wish I could play baseball like that man.' I remember him playing in Cuba as a good hitter, a good second baseman with a lot of speed. One thing I liked about him, he hustled. He played baseball how you're supposed to play baseball. I enjoyed watching him play. When I signed into professional baseball, I was a reserve in Havana. I got traded to the same team where he played second base, and I finally got to practice with him to learn how to play second base."
Minnie Minoso

Another guest who cited Jacobs as his reason for attending the event was Minoso. "It's beautiful to be here. I didn't come here for money, not for anything. [I came for] a good friend, Spook Jacobs, the second baseman. I remember him very well, because I used to hate the way he hit us! He used to be a crazy hitter in Cuba. I used to hit 260, 280, he used to hit 300 easy! [It amazed me] he wasn't in the big leagues. I used to say, 'Geez this guy is a hell of a hitter. How does nobody take him in the big leagues?' Finally he made it. He's a good person. That's the reason I am here."

Naranjo had the opportunity to host Jacobs while he was in Florida for the recent Cuban Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Naranjo recounted how he reunited with Jacobs. "I had a call from some time back that Spook Jacobs was coming to Miami because he was being nominated into the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame. Bobby Bragan called me and let me know he was coming to Florida, for me to give him a call. Bob, Spook and I met for the first time 1952. Spook went to play second base for us, Bobby was our manger and it was my first year in winter ball in Cuba. I told Spook he was welcome to stay with me for this occasion. Spook was kind enough to visit. In response to that, Spook called to invite me to come to Philadelphia, and here I am."

Cholly Naranjo
For these players, this event was an opportunity to reconnect with men whom they shared a special bond from playing in Cuba together over 50 years ago. Jacobs was delighted to spend precious time the other three players over the reunion weekend. "I was very happy they could come up from Florida and Chicago for me. I was excited to see Minnie. We played against each other in Havana for six winters. We battled back and forth, good naturedly of course. Being in Havana, most of the American players stayed with each other and didn't associate with the Cuban players, not because we didn't want to, but that is where we were supposed to stay. The only time we got to talk with the Cuban players was either during the ballgame or at the ballpark. I thought it was a shame that we didn't associate with the Cuban players while we were there. It was very nice to be able to spend time with the Cuban players here today."

Minoso spoke further on his recent encounter in Miami with Jacobs for the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame induction. "We met again in Miami for the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame Banquet. It was the first time through all of those years that we were together. We ate dinner together with Naranjo. We played dominoes and I cooked chicken and rice. It was great to have the opportunity to talk so long with Jacobs. He has a great family, his wife and his son."

The event, which was sponsored by the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society served to not only celebrate the merits of their efforts in Cuba over a half-century ago, but to raise funds for the volunteer organization. The Historical Society is a tremendous resource for the fan and researcher alike, with a wonderful museum in Hatboro that showcases the history of the Philadelphia Athletics as well as baseball from that time period. The members of the society went through great efforts to organize the event and should be commended for a job well done. The atmosphere was friendly and inviting. One could gain a sense that they were surrounded by many others who shared the same love for the national pastime. Naranjo summed up his feelings for the event, which were also shared by the other three former Major Leaguers in attendance. "I've been away so long, it's like coming back again to the old times when people really know about you, and you find out that you are still welcome."


Bobby Shantz, Minnie Minoso, Tony Taylor

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