Somber Ozzie Guillen apologizes for remarks about Fidel Castro
BY STEVEN WINE April 10, 2012 11:20PM
Updated: May 12, 2012 8:19AM
MIAMI — Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen sat in the heart of Little Havana on Tuesday, seeking forgiveness for what he called the biggest mistake of his life — saying he admired Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
This wasn’t the type of thing that got the outspoken Guillen in trouble during his eight seasons managing the White Sox. This was personal to a fan base the Marlins rely on so much that they built their new stadium in the middle of a Cuban-American neighborhood. Castro is the sworn enemy of those fans.
So after being suspended for five games by the Marlins, Guillen tried to quell the tempest.
‘‘I’m here on my knees to apologize,’’ said Guillen, who will be replaced by bench coach Joey Cora during his suspension. ‘‘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 making
polarizing comments, 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 Castro, remarks he said he didn’t mean.
Guillen, who is Venezuelan, told Time magazine he loves Castro and respects him 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 during his news conference.
Marlins president David Samson said the team didn’t consider firing Guillen or asking him to resign five games into his tenure.
‘‘We believe in him,’’ Samson said. ‘‘We believe in his apology. We believe everybody deserves a second chance.’’
Guillen was hired to help usher in a new era for the Marlins, who have been 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, there was little evidence of Guillen’s roguish charm or quick wit. 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.
Guillen said the uproar he created has left him sad,
embarrassed and feeling stupid. He said he accepted the Marlins’ 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.’’