Yorkers would recognize Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez’s high leg kick anywhere.
His half-brother Livan did not do so badly for the Florida Marlins either. For
the Cuban pitchers, winning World Series championships was the easy part.
Escaping Castro’s police state was much more difficult. Their journeys to
freedom and a better life are chronicled in Mario Diaz’s Brothers in Exile (trailer here), which airs this coming Tuesday as part of
ESPN’s 30 for 30 film series.
half-brothers, Orlando and Livan Hernandez did not grow up together, but
baseball clearly ran in their mutual father’s side of the family. Orlando
quickly made a name for himself, first as the ace of the Havana Industriales
and then with the Cuban national team. That name would be “El Duque.” From time
to time, he would visit his younger half-brother, giving him tips. They clearly
panned out. Unfortunately, when the state athletic commissars and minders
finally pushed Livan past his breaking point with their controls and
humiliations, his defection caused profound problems for El Duque. The Party
security apparatus and their plain clothes thugs just automatically assumed El
Duque was in on his plans.
from baseball, shunned by society, and frequently harassed on the streets, El Duque
feared for his safety and his family’s future. Unfortunately, thanks to the
Clinton Administration’s changes in immigration policy (never addressed in Exile), it had become much harder for
Cuban refugees to be granted asylum status, while it was still just as
treacherous navigating the Straits of Florida.
truly perilous circumstances of El Duque’s flight for freedom are perhaps not a
scoop per se, but they are certainly not well understood by the general
baseball public. Frankly, he is lucky to be alive. Likewise, the role John
Cardinal O’Connor and the New York Catholic diocese played facilitating El
Duque’s eventual reunion with his family will be eye-opening stuff for many
his credit, Garcia is pretty forthright documenting the persecution directed at
El Duque and his family by the Party and its enforcers. However, he essentially
lets Castro and his fanatical devotion to a command-and-control ideology off
the hook for the mass suffering experienced during the so-called “special
period.” Regardless, some of the best sequences explore the significance of the
Hernandezes’ successes for the Cuban-American community.
has a strong emotional kick, but it also brings back
many fond memories for Yankees and Marlins fans. In fact, some of the best
stories come from their respective glory year catchers, Jorge Posada and
Charles Johnson. Ultimately, it expresses the value of baseball and freedom,
two things that have a prized place within the Cuban-American experience. Recommended
as a solid installment in the first-rate 30 for 30 series, Brothers in Exile premieres this Tuesday (11/4) on ESPN.
Labels: Baseball, Documentary, ESPN 30 for 30, Livan Hernandez, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez