Ozzie Guillen returned from a five-game ban for making comments supporting Fidel Castro and guided the Miami Marlins to a 5-2 win against the Chicago Cubs.
Guillen, a Venezuelan native who has lived in the Miami area for a decade, was quoted as saying “I love Fidel Castro” in an April 5 Time article. He then clarified his comments about the former Cuban president, according to the magazine. Guillen was banned by the Marlins, with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig publicly supporting the action.
“I learned a very tough lesson,” Guillen told reporters before last night’s game at Marlins Park, where he apologized on April 10. “You learn from mistakes. I hope this mistake makes me a better person.”
Guillen returned to the dugout on the anniversary of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, an unsuccessful attempt by a force of Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro.
While there were no demonstrations against Guillen during last night’s game, attendance was 25,544, the lowest of the season and 7,621 below the average of 33,165 for the Marlins’ prior four home games.
After three scoreless innings last night, Alfonso Soriano drove in Darwin Barney on a groundout to give Chicago the lead.
Miami responded in the fifth as Gaby Sanchez scored on a throwing error by pitcher Ryan Dempster and Emilio Bonifacio had a run-scoring single.
The Cubs tied it at 2-2 in the seventh on a run-scoring single by Bryan LaHair.
It stayed tied until the bottom of the eighth, when Hanley Ramirez hit a three-run homer to put Miami ahead 5-2. Marlins reliever Heath Bell got three outs for his first save of the season.
The Marlins (5-6) are last in the National League’s five-team East division. They went 2-3 during Guillen’s absence.
In suspending Guillen, the Marlins said “the pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”
The population of Miami-Dade County, which helped fund the Marlins’ new ballpark after a decade of negotiations, is 34 percent Cuban, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. In the city of Miami, where Marlins Park is located, there are 137,301 people of Cuban origin out of a total population of 399,457, also 34 percent. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez was among those who condemned Guillen’s remarks.
“I respect Fidel Castro,” Guillen told Time. “You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother-----r is still here.”
Castro, 85, stepped down as president of Cuba in 2008. He had been the country’s leader since 1959.
Guillen, speaking mostly in Spanish during his April 10 news conference, said that a communication gap during the interview led to his comments being taken out of context.
“What I wanted to say was that I was surprised that Fidel Castro was in power for so long,” Guillen said, while apologizing for betraying his Latin community. “A lot was missing in the translation.”
Guillen was hired in September by the Marlins, who this season opened the $515 million stadium in Miami’s Little Havana section.
Guillen, 48, was manager of the Chicago White Sox for eight years before joining the Marlins, who sent Chicago two minor-league prospects as compensation for releasing him from his contract. He led the White Sox to a 678-617 record, winning the World Series in 2005.
Guillen has gotten in trouble for previous comments. In 2006, he used profanity and a homosexual slur in describing Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti before apologizing the following day. Guillen also said on April 5 that his routine during road trips is to get drunk at the hotel bar after games, according to CBSSports.com.