Conrado Marrero, the oldest living professional baseball player, has died in his native Cuba at age 102.
Marrero's grandson on Wednesday confirmed the death, which came just two days before the centenarian's 103rd birthday.
Known as "Connie" Marrero in the United States, the diminutive [1.65 meter, 72 kilogram] pitcher was renowned for his control and presence, in a long and storied career that began in Sagua la Grande, 350 kilometers east of Havana.
He went on to pitch for a string of Cuban and Mexican teams, including Cuba's national team, before making his U.S. Major League debut in 1950 at 39 -- an age when most players have retired or plan to leave the game.
In recent interviews with The Associated Press, the cigar-chomping Marrero was fond of recounting career highlights that included pitching against Major League Hall of Famers, such as Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Larry Doby.
In five years with the Washington [D.C.] Senators, Marrero compiled a 39-40 record, with 297 strikeouts. He was named to the American League All Star team in 1951.
Cut by the Senators four years later, he returned to Cuba to play for the Havana Sugar Kings and retired in 1957. He was honored by the Cuban government as a Hero of the Republic of Cuba in 1999.
Past age 100, Marrero was blind and confined to a wheelchair, with hearing and speech difficulties. Reporters say he spent much of that time listening to Cuban baseball on the radio -- often chewing on a cigar and always ready to reminisce about his Major League career.