Connie Marrero, the diminutive Cuban right-hander who pitched for the Washington Senators in the 1950s and in 2011 became the oldest living former Major League Baseball player, died in Havana on Wednesday. He was 102, two days short of his 103rd birthday.
Marrero was renowned for his control and for his presence on the mound despite standing just 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 158 pounds.
What Marrero lacked in heat he made up for with a tricky repertoire of breaking balls, knucklers and other off-speed pitches. He also had a quirky windup that Felipe Alou once likened to "a cross between a windmill gone berserk and a mallard duck trying to fly backwards."
In interviews in recent years, Marrero recounted the highlights of a career facing off against Hall of Famers such as Mickey Mantle and Larry Doby. He also recalled struggling against left-handed batters in general, and southpaw slugger Ted Williams in particular, a frustration shared by plenty of his contemporaries.
Conrado Marrero was born April 25, 1911, in the town of Sagua la Grande and grew up on a farm. He pitched for many years in Cuba and starred on Cuba's national team before making his Major League debut in 1950 at age 39. In five seasons with the Senators, he compiled a 39-40 record with an earned-run average of 3.67 and 297 strikeouts. He was named an All-Star in 1951.
Cut by the Senators in 1955, he returned to Cuba to play for the Havana Sugar Kings and retired after the 1957 season. He continued to work as a coach and instructor into his 80s.
In recent years, Marrero received $30,000 from Major League Baseball under a payout program for players who were active between 1947 and 1979. The funds had been delayed by complications related to the U.S. economic and financial embargo on Cuba.
Baseball Hall of Fame librarian Jim Gates said the distinction of oldest living Major League Baseball player now goes to Mike Sandlock, a 98-year-old former catcher who played 195 games with the Braves, Dodgers and Pirates. Sandlock was born Oct. 17, 1915.