Lou Brock, Walter Iooss, Baseball and Cuba: Part II

by Chris Murray on September 28, 2020

Flush with excitement after having collaborated with Fototeca de Cuba on our first exhibition in Havana, La Revolución del Rock & Roll, I thought to myself, what theme could we present for another exhibition there? The response to La Revolución del Rock and Roll exhibition was extraordinary, and working with my colleagues in Havana was a great pleasure. I had been invited to do an interview on Radio Progreso in Havana, produced by Guille Villar, and it seemed as if all of Havana heard that broadcast and had come to the exhibition.

Jimi Hendrix by Gered Mankowitz, from the exhibition La Revolución del Rock and Roll

Along with music, Cuba loves baseball. I had organized the first exhibition of the great Walter Iooss’ legendary baseball photographs, and launched his book Classic Baseball at Govinda Gallery in 2003. A year later during the spring of 2004, I brought Iooss’ baseball photographs to Fototeca de Cuba. What a hit it was! The exhibition also featured the great Cuban photographer Osvaldo Salas and his baseball photographs.

Just a few weeks ago, baseball Hall of Fame inductee Lou Brock passed on. He was a superb all-around player, and as The New York Times wrote, “He became the greatest base-stealer the major leagues had ever known.” It was Iooss’ remarkable photo of Lou Brock that I happened to use on the front panel of the invitation card for his exhibition in Cuba! Brock, in a World Series game against Boston, is flying in the air to home plate with the baseball racing alongside him. Brock won the race, and his team the St. Louis Cardinals won that World Series in 1967.

The photograph on the inside panel of the invitation card was also an amazing one. Iooss had traveled to Cuba in 1999 and had taken photographs there. This photo of children on a street corner in Old Havana playing baseball with a home-made ball shows the Cuban’s passion for the game. Iooss told me that a good photographer sees things in his photos that he could improve, but that the street baseball photo he took was perfect, and he would not change a thing.

After a few days of searching for the location of that photo, I found the corner where the photo had been taken five years earlier, and most of the kids in the photo were still in the neighborhood. I handed the Fototeca de Cuba invitation card to dozens of people there. They were delighted. Along with my friend Jose Filosa, I returned to the corner the next evening with cases of refreshments and had an impromptu street party. We went on to recreate the photo Iooss had taken with most of the same characters from the original image. Everyone had a blast!! It was the kind of experience in Cuba that stays in your heart forever.

Here are some photos from that street party, and the exhibition opening for ‘Baseball Clásico’ at Fototeca de Cuba in Plaza Vieja. All the photos are by Jose Filosa.

One last story. Across the street from my hotel in Havana was Parque Central. Every day a large group of about 40-50 people would congregate there, and they would discuss, argue, and laugh with great passion. I thought it was something akin to Hyde Park corner in London where people would speak about current events.  It turned out that the people in Parque Central were talking every day about nothing but baseball.

I approached the crowd one early afternoon with a stack of the invitations to Walter Iooss’ exhibition at the gallery. The people loved the invitation cards and I could not hand them out fast enough. They were clearly excited to have them. The cards I distributed to them were in Spanish. When the cards were all gone I spoke to one of the gentlemen and asked him if he enjoyed the card. He looked at me and replied “ We will build houses with these cards! “ That was the measure of his poetic expression for those invitation cards and Walter Iooss’ photographs. It was a privilege for me to present ‘Baseball Clásico’ to the people of Cuba.

Fototeca de Cuba by Nathalie Grenzhaeuser.

Walter Iooss‘ photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

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