Monday, September 7, 2015

From the Negro Leagues to the Havana Sugar Kings - Enrique "Ricky" Maroto

Enrique “Ricky” Maroto, born on September 7, 1935, saw firsthand the societal and political changes that occurred in professional baseball during the 1950s. 

The 5’6”, 165 pound dark skinned native of Havana, Cuba was a left handed pitcher that first played for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1954.  Although small for a pitcher, Maroto was nicknamed “workhouse” because he pitched several times in both games of a doubleheader.  He pitched in both the 1954 and 1955 Negro League All Star Games.

Like other players in Negro League baseball during its demise in the 1950s due to the integration of professional baseball, Maroto's hope was to get the attention of a Major League team.  He was signed by the Washington Senators in 1957 and played in its minor league system.  Like many Negro League players signed by Major League teams in the 1950s, he helped integrate the minor leagues.  For two years he was with the Senators' Class A level team, the Charlotte Hornets, in the South Atlantic "SALLY" League and was never advance any further.

Maroto returned home to Havana in 1959 to play for the Havana Sugar Kings of the Class AAA International League.  A minor league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, the Sugar Kings that year had on its roster Mike Cuellar, Cookie Rojas, Tony Gonzalez, and Leo (Chico) Cardenas who advanced to have solid Major League careers in the 1960s and 1970s.

In Maroto's second season with the Sugar Kings, his career was disrupted by international politics.  Communist rebel Fidel Castro had overthrown the Cuba government in 1959.  With diplomatic relations between the island and the United States deteriorating, the Sugar Kings moved to New Jersey in the middle of the 1960 season.

After two seasons playing in the Mexican League,  Maroto returned to Cuba and retired from baseball.

For profiles on two former Kansas City Monarchs who are considered two of the greatest Cuban players, Jose Mendez and Cristobal Torriente, read my new book Last Train to Cooperstown:  The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era.  For more information go to or Book Launch (

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