By Daniel Trotta
HAVANA (Reuters) - Conrado Marrero, at 102 the oldest former Major League Baseball player and a patriarch of Cuban baseball known for his quick wit and goofy pitching delivery, died on Wednesday at his home in Havana, his grandson said.
Marrero, who played for the Washington Senators, was two days short of his 103rd birthday. He had been in declining health for weeks, was unresponsive for some time on Wednesday and stopped breathing in the early afternoon, said the grandson, Rogelio Marrero.
After an outstanding career in Cuba in the 1930s and 1940s, Marrero debuted in the Major Leagues with Washington in 1950, four days before his 39th birthday. He quickly became a wisecracking cult hero, with an elaborate windup, thick Cuban accent and ever-present cigar.
Smart and funny, he lacked a decent fastball and got Major League hitters out by changing speeds and hitting spots with his slider, a relatively rare pitch in those days. He was highly regarded in Cuba for choosing to stay in the country after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
Though mostly bedridden since breaking his hip in 2011, Marrero kept chewing on cigars until his final days.
"He still takes his cigars and red wine, and if I brought him women he'd take that, too," Rogelio Marrero said in March. "Those were always his great vices."
(Editing by David Adams)