Luis Tiant is probably best known for his time in Boston, but Tiant of course started his career in Cleveland, playing for the Tribe from 1964 to 1969. He also had what was arguably the best season of his career as a Wahoo in 1968, going 21-9, with a 1.60 ERA, a 186 ERA+, a minuscule 0.871 WHIP, 9 shutouts, and 264 strikeouts. He came in fifth in the MVP voting and lost the Cy Young to Denny McLain (who also won the MVP in 1968 for his ridiculous year.)
Anyway, this is all by way of introducing The Lost Son of Havana, a documentary on Luis Tiant that premiered at Tribeca last week, has received gloriously shining reviews, and which was bought by ESPN. The doc will screen on ESPN and ESPN Deportes in August, so make sure you catch it.
The Lost Son of Havana details Tiant's first trip back to Cuba in 46 years to see his family and friends. NPR has a short excerpt of the film on video, and here's just a portion of the review from Newsday, which brings into focus the intertwined realities of U.S/Cuba relations, politics, baseball, and family:
In the film, Tiant listens to long-ago acquaintances and relatives speak of their dead-end existence, of how proud they are of him, of recollections of his parents. Tiant recalls the story of how a friend in Cuba had rigged up a television illegally to a huge antenna early in Tiant's major-league career, and how Tiant's mother watched the fuzzy image "and would go to the TV and try to touch me. She cry."
Not until 1975, as "Lost Son" documents, did then-Senator George McGovern, on a diplomatic trip to Havana, take advantage of Fidel Castro's love of baseball to ask that Tiant's parents be allowed to travel to Boston to see their son. Castro agreed, leading to "Lefty" Tiant's ceremonial first pitch prior to a Red Sox game and to the parents' attendance at the '75 World Series. They remained with Tiant, his wife and three children until both died 15 months later — 15 months that Tiant cherished.
Sounds absolutely riveting. Can't wait to watch it.
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