Marlins' Ozzie Guillen apologizes over Castro flap

Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) — A contrite Ozzie Guillen sat in the heart of Little Havana seeking forgiveness for what the Miami Marlins manager called the biggest mistake of his life — saying he admired Fidel Castro.

This wasn't some offhanded insult about a sports writer, the type of thing that got the outspoken Guillen in trouble in Chicago. This was personal to the fan base that the Marlins rely on so much that they built their new stadium in the middle of the city's Cuban-American neighborhood.

Castro is the sworn enemy of those fans.

So after being suspended for five games Tuesday, the Marlins manager tried to quell the tempest.

"I'm here on my knees to apologize," Guillen said.

"I'm very sorry about the problem, what happened. I will do everything in my power to make it better. ... When you make a mistake like this, you can't sleep."

A chastened Guillen, who has a history of polarizing comments about gays and immigrants, among others, spoke without a script and made no disclaimers. He said he'll do whatever he can to repair relations with Cuban-Americans angered by his praise of the Cuban dictator, remarks he said he didn't mean.

Guillen, who is Venezuelan, told Time magazine he loves Castro and respects the retired Cuban leader for staying in power so long. In response, at least two Miami politicians said Guillen should lose his job. Callers on Spanish-language radio in Miami agreed and 100 demonstrators picketed Marlins Park toting signs like "NO APOLOGIES FIRE HIM NOW."

"He is full with hypocrisy," said Luis Martinez, who has lived in Miami since the late 1950s. "I don't accept any kind of pardon from him. They should get him out."


The team didn't consider firing Guillen or asking him to resign five games into his tenure, Marlins president David Samson said.

Guillen was hired to help usher in a new baseball era for the Marlins, saddled in recent years with mediocre teams and worse attendance. The team was to rely on South Florida's large Cuban-American population to help rebuild its fan base with the $634 million ballpark that opened last week.

At the hourlong news conference Tuesday morning, there was little evidence of Guillen's roguish charm or quick wit, which have made him a favorite with fans and reporters since he became a major league manager in 2004. Speaking somberly, he took full responsibility for his comments, but said they were misinterpreted by Time's reporter.

"It was a personal mistake of the thing I had in my mind and what I said," Guillen said in Spanish. "What I wanted to say in Spanish, I said in English in a wrong way."

Guillen said he doesn't love or admire Castro.

"I was saying I cannot believe somebody who hurt so many people over the years is still alive," he said.

Time said Tuesday it stands by its story.

Guillen said the uproar he created has left him sad, embarrassed and feeling stupid. He said he accepted the team's punishment.

"When you're a sportsman, you shouldn't be involved with politics," he said.

"I'm going to be a Miami guy for the rest of my life. I want to walk in the street with my head up and feel not this bad, the way I feel now."

Cuban-born Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, a former manager of the Marlins, said he watched some of the news conference and could tell it was difficult for Guillen.

"He came out and faced the music," Gonzalez said. "It's going to take awhile, but hopefully he can win those people back somehow."

Guillen has gotten in trouble before on issues ranging from sexual orientation to illegal immigration. Just last week, he boasted about getting drunk after games.

Those episodes quickly faded. But on South Florida's scale of political incorrectness, praise for Castro is a home run, and it was unclear how long it would take for anger toward Guillen to subside.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said the remarks "have no place in our game" and were "offensive to an important part of the Miami community and others throughout the world."

"As I have often said, baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities," Selig added in a statement. "All of our 30 clubs play significant roles within their local communities, and I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game's many cultures deserve."

Marlins officials said Guillen still had the support of the organization.

"We believe in him," said Samson, the team president. "We believe in his apology. We believe everybody deserves a second chance." He said he expected no further punishment from MLB.

Guillen apologized over the weekend after his remarks were published in Time, then left his team in Philadelphia, where the Marlins were playing the Phillies, and flew to Miami.

The teams resume their three-game series Wednesday in Philadelphia. Guillen said he'll be there to apologize to his players, but he won't be in the dugout. Bench coach Joey Cora will be the interim manager.

"The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen," read a statement from the team. "The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship."

The suspension, which takes effect immediately, recalled the punishment given to Marge Schott, the late owner of the Cincinnati Reds. Schott so embarrassed baseball in the 1990s with her inflammatory racial remarks and fond recollections of Adolf Hitler that she was suspended from ownership duties for a season.

"After spending years of my life with Ozzie Guillen, I can honestly say he has never been this apologetic," tweeted former slugger Frank Thomas, who played for Guillen with the Chicago White Sox. "I know he is really hurting inside for what he said. If you really know him this was not his intentions at all."

In Cuba, the evening newscast aired an interview by Venezuela-based Telesur with Emilio Garcia, a Cuban journalist in Miami.

"It is another sad page in the history of this community (Miami) that more and more is transforming into a banana republic," Garcia said. "It was pathetic this morning to see this sportsman humiliate himself, humiliate himself to the core to try to keep his job."

"How does the much-ballyhooed 'yankee' freedom of expression look now," Cuban anchor Julita Osendi said in summary before moving on to the next item.

About 100 reporters, photographers and cameramen attended Guillen's news conference, a turnout to rival some late-season Marlins crowds in years gone by.

Guillen sat alone at the podium and began in Spanish, speaking without notes for several minutes before taking questions. Shortly after he started, his voice wavered mid-sentence. He paused to take a sip of water and clear his throat.

"This is the biggest mistake I've made so far in my life," Guillen said.

Guillen spoke in Spanish for about 80 percent of the news conference. Guillen said he was suspended without pay, but Samson later said the manager will be paid and will donate the money to Miami human-rights causes.

___

Associated Press writers Janie McCauley in San Francisco, Peter Orsi in Havana, Kristie Rieken in Houston and Gisela Salomon in Miami contributed to this report.

View Comments (135)

Recommended for You

  • US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said Wednesday he had found one of Japan's biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, some 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II. Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the…

    AFP
  • Central Florida man killed by police serving search warrant

    By Barbara Liston ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - A 26-year-old Central Florida man died after being shot in the face early on Wednesday morning by a sheriff’s deputy attempting to serve a search warrant in a narcotics investigation, authorities said. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office reported in a…

    Reuters
  • 175-Pound Pit Bull Hulk Shatters Misconceptions About the Breed

    This dog just may be the world's largest Pit Bull. Only 18-months-old, Hulk weighs a hefty 175 pounds. He's also best friends with a 3-year-old boy.

    ABC News
  • Chad president tells Boko Haram leader to surrender or face death

    By Madjiasra Nako N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - President Idriss Deby of Chad said on Wednesday he knew the whereabouts of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, and called on him to surrender or risk being killed. Chad's army has waged a series of battles against Boko Haram…

    Reuters
  • Australians on Indonesia death row arrive on execution island

    Two Australian drug smugglers were taken Wednesday to an Indonesian island where they will be executed despite frantic diplomatic efforts to save them, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia was "revolted" by their looming deaths. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the…

    AFP
  • U.S. may review 1959 airplane crash that killed Buddy Holly

    (Reuters) - U.S. transportation safety investigators said on Wednesday they are reviewing a request to reopen a probe into the 1959 airplane crash that killed musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson, better known as "The Big Bopper," and their pilot. The original investigation 56…

    Reuters
  • Mom convicted of killing son, 5, by poisoning him with salt

    WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A woman who blogged for years about her son's constant health woes was convicted Monday of poisoning him to death by force-feeding heavy concentrations of sodium through his stomach tube.

    Associated Press
  • Student Shot With BB Gun On Campus Shocked by University`s Reaction

    A student at Norfolk State University says she was shot with a BB gun and hit with a bottle of urine outside of a all-male dorm room on campus, but says the school offered little help to her or other students when she contacted them.

    Tribune
  • 'Thousands' of Russian troops in east Ukraine: US envoy

    The United States' senior envoy to Europe alleged Wednesday that Russia had deployed "thousands and thousands" of troops to neighboring Ukraine. Speaking to a congressional foreign affairs committee, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland also told US lawmakers that Russia was flooding…

    AFP
  • Couple plead not guilty to locking up kids 22 hours a day

    JEFFERSON, Ohio (AP) — A husband and wife accused of making three of their adopted children virtual prisoners inside their Ohio home pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a case that began after prosecutors say two girls crashed the family van while trying to make their escape.

    Associated Press
  • Pre-teen who called out Obama gets kicked off Facebook

    Pearson, under Facebook’s minimum age requirement of 13, was upset to find out that he was locked out of his account. After failing to get into his personal page, he created a new one, according to a Fox News blog post. “Due to the fact that approximately 7.5 million kids (under the age of 13) log…

    Christian Science Monitor56 mins ago
  • Killers sought in deaths of 300,000 chickens in South Carolina

    By Harriet McLeod CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Revenge may be the motive for the killings in South Carolina of more than 300,000 commercial chickens worth about $1.7 million over the past two weeks, authorities said on Monday. Birds have been found dead of unnatural causes in 16 chicken houses at…

    Reuters
  • View

    Hello kitty and kitty and lots more kitties on Japanese island where cats rule (17 photos)

    An army of feral cats rules a remote island in southern Japan, curling up in abandoned houses or strutting about in a fishing village that is overrun with felines outnumbering humans six to one. Originally introduced to the mile-long island of Aoshima to deal with mice that plagued fishermen's…

    Yahoo News
  • Georgia police officer killed in shootout

    By David Beasley ATLANTA (Reuters) - A Georgia police officer was killed in a shootout with a suspect in suburban Atlanta early on Wednesday, authorities said. Officers went to investigate reports of shots in a suburban neighborhood and came under fire about 1:30 a.m. EST, according to the Fulton…

    Reuters
  • Passengers use emergency slides after landing in Denver

    DENVER (AP) — Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, were forced to slide off the plane on emergency chutes soon after landing in Denver on Wednesday.

    Associated Press
  • Former marine reported killed in Syria

    A former Royal Marine has become the first Briton to be killed while fighting with Kurdish forces battling Islamic State jihadists in Syria, leaving his family "devastated" Wednesday. Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, died on Monday in a battle with IS militants, a source in the Kurdish People's…

    AFP
  • Americans Love K-Cups, but Their Creator Regrets Inventing Them

    Now it seems that John Sylvan, the inventor of the tiny containers, is firmly on Team #KillTheKCup too. “No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” said Sylvan.

    Takepart.com
  • Father says no proof his son is 'Jihadi John'

    The father of "Jihadi John" said in an interview published Wednesday that there was no proof that his son was the Islamic State executioner, adding there were a number of "false rumours" circulating. "There is nothing that proves what is being circulated in the media, especially through video clips…

    AFP
  • Survivor testifies about 2 friends stabbed, bound, drowned

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man who survived being beaten, bound, stabbed in the neck and kicked into the Schuylkill River took the stand in a hearing Tuesday and described the night his two friends lost their lives.

    Associated Press