Friday, November 26, 2010

1918: De Oro versus Otis in Havana

Otis and De Oro step off the steamer, docked at Havana.
Alfredo De Oro, perhaps the greatest cue sports player of all time, met Brooklyn native Charles Otis during a world championship match in Havana in 1918. I've reproduced just above a front page news article that chronicles his arrival in Havana. It appeared in El Mundo, then the principal newspaper in Cuba.  I love the old bowler hats.

It was said that the old lion was ecstatic about his return. Living then in New York City, De Oro had not set foot in Havana for 25 years. A local newspaper man accompaning De Oro on a quick tour of Havana reported that he was  struck speechless by the startling transformations then underway in the Capitol city.

The venue for his match with Otis was the Payret Theater, a regal stone structure built in 1877. That's a picture of it just below. Raised seats were set in the orchestra pit, and more were placed on the stage. Audience members also took seats in the front sections of the theater, as well as in the balconies. The president himself, Mario Garcia Menocal, was among the 2,000 in attendance. It was Menocal who would pin the championship medal, pictured above at right, on the the chest of the eventual victor.

Look for upcoming Untold Stories column about the dramatic contest in Billiards Digest.

The Payret Theater, the venue for the championship match, was built in 1877.

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