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The Inside Track

Hot Corner

June 26, 2003|Larry Stewart

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here. One exception: No products will be endorsed.

What: "Gift of a Game"

Where: Channel 58, tonight, 9

This one-hour PBS documentary tells an amazing story that involves Ernest Hemingway, baseball and a motley but likable group of American middle-aged men who ventured to Cuba to spread good will, among other things.

The saga began when Randy Wayne White, a south Florida outdoor novelist, received a letter from Lorian Hemingway, a granddaughter of Ernest. According to Lorian, in the 1940s pre-Castro Cuba, her grandfather founded a kids' baseball league and coached one of the teams, the Gigi Stars. The team was named after Hemingway's youngest son, and Lorian's father, Gregory.

White put together a gang of recreational baseball players to travel with him to Cuba to find Hemingway's legacy and also supply Cuban youngsters with bats, balls and mitts. The group included White's son and a couple of wacky former major league pitchers, silver-haired Bill Lee, known as "The Spaceman," and Jon Warden, a former Detroit Tiger known for his clownish antics.

White also convinced a Boston PBS station to film the trip. The resulting documentary has homespun charm, and offers a few beer-bellied laughs and some unforeseen twists. White managed to find some of the survivors of the Gigi Stars, but plans for a reunion game fell apart when a government official interfered. The official also confiscated some of the equipment the group had brought for the kids.

But White had wisely bribed a man to store most of the equipment in a warehouse. And instead of a game, they had a party.

-- Larry Stewart

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