A lonso de Ojeda, one of the first conquistadors to rush to the Caribbean in the wake of Columbus, was a man of great physical strength and skill. Lore has it that one of his favorite feats was to stand at the base of the Giralda Tower in Seville, which is a full 250 feet high, and hurl an orange clear over the statue on top of it. Almost 500 years later, in 1965, Pedro Ramos, a Cuban pitcher with the Yankees at the time, tried to reach the ceiling of the Houston Astrodome (208 feet) with a baseball before the first game ever played there. Ojeda's stunt uncannily anticipated that throwing a round object would become a passion of the variegated progeny he and others were to leave in the Caribbean. It is among the first things a boy learns in the region.
In the provinces of Cuba I grew up throwing stones at cans, bottles, trees, fruits, and animals. Some of my friends routinely killed birds by picking them off trees with stones. Their accuracy or punteriía was, as I recall it now, truly remarkable. A good deal of worth was attached to how well one could throw, and how far. We often engaged in battles using the entire cornucopia of tropical fruits or mudballs, which when laced with a stone caused real damage. We could throw even before a baseball entered our lives. And it did early. Middle- and upper-class boys could expect baseball equipment as Christmas gifts, particularly because the professional baseball