U.S. sports channel ESPN has produced a documentary on Cuban-born Livan Hernandez and Orlando Hernandez, the half-brothers who risked their lives to get out of Cuba and play professional baseball in America.
The documentary titled “Brothers in Exile” was broadcast last week on ESPN and becomes the latest installment in the award-winning “30 for 30” series.
Orlando retired seven years ago and Livan said goodbye to national baseball in March this year, but their story is remembered as one of the most incredible tales in recent baseball history. It began in 1995 when Livan gave up his US$6 a month job as an official Cuban athlete and defected to Mexico. There he signed a $4.5 million deal with the Florida Marlins, with whom he won the World Series and was named World Series MVP in 1997.
Livan’s choice to work for Florida Marlins was the result of his desire to live in Miami, which is home to a large Cuban exile population. His half-brother and their families would follow him to the United States.
Following Livan’s defection, the Cuban authorities put Orlando under surveillance. On suspicion of having helped his half-brother, the government banned him from baseball.
But in 1997, he got on a rickety boat and set sail for America. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued him from an isolated island off the coast of Miami and he went on to win the World Series with the New York Yankees the next three years in a row.
A two-time All-Star, Livan Hernandez is regarded as a great defensive pitcher, having made just fifteen errors in his career. According to the U.S. press, he never pitched fewer than 199 innings in any given season between 1998 and 2007. In 2005, he once threw 150 pitches in nine innings, although the game went into extra innings after he departed.