"[Jacobs] was a guy I've known for many years from when I was a young man in Cuba," Taylor said. "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."
Minoso cited Jacobs as his reason for attending the event. A friendship made over 50 years ago lured the Cuban great to the reunion.
"It's beautiful to be here," Minoso said. "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," Naranjo said. "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."
"I was very happy they could come up from Florida and Chicago for me," Jacobs said. "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 relished his recent encounter in Miami with Jacobs for the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame induction. They spent many hours reminiscing on their playing days and their lives after baseball.
"We met again in Miami for the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame Banquet," Minoso said. "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|