Cuban pitcher Conrado Marrero celebrated his 102nd birthday Thursday at his modest Havana apartment, surrounded by family and friends.

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HAVANA — Put another candle on the very crowded birthday cake of Conrado Marrero, the oldest living former major-league player.

The Cuban pitcher celebrated his 102nd birthday Thursday at his modest Havana apartment, surrounded by family and friends, an unlit Cuban cigar in his mouth and a baseball cap on his head.

He was given an enormous blue and white cake, and savored a glass of wine and a sip of Bucanero, Cuba’s domestic beer. Marrero smiled as his family applauded and smothered him in hugs.

In addition to his longevity, the former Washington Senator has much to celebrate this year. After a long wait, he finally received a $20,000 payout from Major League Baseball, granted to old-timers who played between 1947 and 1979.

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The money had been held up since 2011 because of issues surrounding the 51-year-old U.S. embargo on Cuba, which prohibits most bank transfers to the Communist-run island.

Marrero’s family has used some of the money to buy him a new ventilator and bed, as well as wine, ham, cigars, juice and other delicacies that would be outside his budget, said Marrero’s grandson, Rogelio. Like most Cuban pensioners, Marrero receives less than $20 from the state each month.

“Thanks to this,” Rogelio said, “we can buy him peach juice, which is his favorite.”

Marrero is hard of hearing, blind and has trouble speaking. He spends much of the day sleeping or listening to Cuban ballgames on the radio.

At 5 feet 5 and 158 pounds, Marrero relied on guile to get batters out, compiling a 39-40 record and a 3.67 earned-run average in five seasons with the Senators from 1950 to 1954.

Perhaps his finest game came 62 years ago today, when he pitched a one-hit, 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Athletics. The A’s hit was a home run by Barney McCosky.

“Connie Marrero had a windup that looked like a cross between a windmill gone berserk and a mallard duck trying to fly backwards,” former big-league star Felipe Alou once said of the diminutive Cuban.

By the time he reached the big leagues, Marrero was already 39. But he made the most of his opportunity, even being named to the 1951 All-Star team.


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