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Oldest living ex-MLB player, Conrado Marrero, dies in Cuba at age 102

HAVANA--Conrado Marrero, the diminutive Cuban right-hander who pitched for the Washington Senators in the 1950s and in 2011 became the oldest living former Major League Baseball player, died in Havana on Wednesday. He was 102, just two days short of his 103rd birthday.

Marrero's grandson said he died in the early afternoon.

“He woke up in the morning and it was like he wasn't there. He wasn't reacting,” Rogelio Marrero told The Associated Press.

“Connie” Marrero, as he was known in the States, was renowned for his control and for his presence on the mound despite standing just 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 158 pounds.

What Marrero lacked in heat he made up for with a tricky repertoire of breaking balls, knucklers and other off-speed pitches. He also had a quirky windup that Felipe Alou once likened to “a cross between a windmill gone berserk and a mallard duck trying to fly backwards.”

In interviews with the AP in recent years, Marrero recounted the highlights of a career facing off against Hall of Famers such as Mickey Mantle and Larry Doby. Beating the New York Yankees was especially gratifying, he said. He also recalled struggling against left-handed batters in general, and southpaw slugger Ted Williams in particular, a frustration shared by plenty of his contemporaries.

“One day Williams got two home runs off me, and afterward he came up to me and said, 'Sorry, it was my day today,'” Marrero said in 2012. “I responded, 'Ted, every day is your day.'”

Born April 25, 1911, in the town of Sagua la Grande, about 220 miles (350 kilometers) east of Havana, Marrero's nickname on the island was “The Peasant from Laberinto,” after the farm where he grew up.

He began his career playing third base, shortstop and in the outfield, and his debut on the mound came by accident one day in 1935 when his Sagua club didn't have a regular pitcher available. Marrero won the game, and the team asked him to remain at the position.

He went on to play at Cienfuegos, Almendares, Marianao and Havana, and briefly in the Mexican league in 1945 for the Indios of Juarez. He also starred on Cuba's national team.

Marrero was already near the end of his career when he made his U.S. debut in 1950 at the age of 39. In five seasons with the Senators, he compiled a 39-40 record with an ERA of 3.96 and 297 strikeouts. He was named an All-Star in 1951.

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