Rough Diamond

A Cuban embezzler built it, anti-Batista guerrillas trained in it, Nicaraguan refugees lived in it, and Frank Robinson played baseball in it. Now somebody has to step to the plate and save Bobby Maduro Miami Stadium.

He takes a swig of his soda.
"If they ever tear down Miami Stadium, for me it would be a catastrophe."
Schweizer isn't the only one. University of Miami architecture professor Rolando Llanes has spent much of the past three years compiling a history of the stadium for a book he's working on. The ballpark's unique architecture is what first caught his eye, but as he learned more of the story behind the stadium, he found himself inching into a leadership role in the movement to save it. "I never really wanted to get involved in the preservation thing, you know, to go out there and stand in front of a bulldozer," says Llanes. "But the city was going to tear it down and then wait around and see what they were going to do with the piece of property. That's not right. That's dumb."

In one furious April weekend at the university, Llanes and some of his students brainstormed possible uses that would keep the stadium intact. In 48 hours, they came up with three proposals. One plan was to convert the dozens of rooms inside the stadium into a community center with a police substation and satellite city offices. Another sketch incorporated a municipal pool. All the ideas included new affordable housing. When Llanes showed the proposals to Jack Luft, the city planner described the possibilities as "exciting."

Armed with their proposals, Llanes and his supporters that same month helped persuade the Miami City Commission to grant a community-development group a year to finish what Llanes had started: draft a working plan to build affordable housing and save the stadium. "We have very little of our history," Father Menendez said, adding his approval after the commission voted. "If there's a way to save Bobby Maduro Stadium and put in housing, that's good."

Still, there's no guarantee the stadium will be preserved. Six months after the commission gave the go-ahead, the community group has not even hired a consultant to study different alternatives. "All the commission vote means is that everything is on hold right now," explains Llanes, who intends to incorporate the stadium issue into his courses this fall. "The only victory we were able to receive was twofold: We were able to shed light on the potential of the building; and if there was a plan to demolish the stadium, it ain't going to happen for at least nine months. Those are not major things, but they are not insignificant things either."

Jose Aleman, Jr.'s love of Castro faded with the revolution. The new president seized all of Aleman's Cuban assets, including the cattle ranches. The last of the young owner's resources, his Miami Beach hotels, were filled with homeless Cuban exiles as often as they were with paying customers. With the exception of The Unkillables, a 1965 Hollywood film in which he was an extra, Aleman toiled anonymously in executive positions at the Gulf and Mobil oil companies.

Things began to unravel in 1978. In testimony before the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations, Aleman claimed that in 1963, mobster Santo Trafficante had bragged to him that Pres. John F. Kennedy was "going to be hit." Trafficante denied the charge the next day; but from then on, Aleman's friends say, Aleman feared Trafficante or some other mobster would murder him.

The fear played a role in the breakup of his second marriage about a year later. He lost his job at Mobil and refused to take a new position as a traveling salesman; the more he traveled, he felt, the easier he was to kill. "He trusted very few people. He was convinced the Mafia was after him," pardoned Watergate burglar and close friend Eugenio Martinez later told the Herald. "He trusted very few people."

In 1983 Martinez helped the 50-year-old Aleman land a job as a leasing agent at Anthony Abraham Chevrolet, but the former baseball magnate quit after less than three weeks. When he lost most of his possessions in a robbery of his Miami Springs apartment, he reluctantly moved into his birth mother's crowded bungalow in a working-class section of Miami. "He spent the days nervously pacing in his room, smoking cigarettes and drinking black coffee," according to one published report.

Shortly after 7:00 a.m. on July 31, 1983, Aleman found a Browning 9mm semiautomatic handgun his mother had tried to hide from him, and threatened to kill her. Shouting invectives against Castro and communists, he began shooting his family members. Maria Gonzalez, a 36-year-old cousin, was shot in the neck. Cousin Sofia Ampudia, 74 years old, took a bullet in the hand. Maria's daughter, six-year-old Carina, was shot in the head. (All survived.)

Fifteen police cars, a SWAT team, and two canine units surrounded the bungalow, where Aleman had taken hostage his 69-year-old aunt, Maria Candarez. For two hours, as police tried to coax him outside, he fired bullets and hurled glass out a front window and across a tiny porch.

At 9:07 a.m., fearing for Candarez's safety, two SWAT members entered the house through the back door and found her lifeless body on the dining-room floor. Upon seeing the officers, Aleman fired a single errant shot before running into a bedroom. A split-second before an officer shot him in the stomach, Aleman pointed his gun at the right side of his own temple and pulled the trigger. "He died almost instantly," Dr. Charles Wetli, Dade's acting medical examiner at the time, told the press.

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