civic leader, baseball and cigar legend Marcelo Maseda dies
He was 92.
Maseda was a civic leader in Ybor City and Tampa, belonging to more than 15 clubs and associations at one point, said daughter Marlene Lee, 54, his only child.
Maseda played minor league baseball for the Atlanta Crackers, Tampa Smokers and St. Pete Saints. He was a pitcher for Jefferson High School and the University of Tampa and later coached for both teams.
"Baseball and cigars were his life," Lee said. "He still watched when he was sick. He was a wonderful man, wonderful father and wonderful friend."
Born to a father who had owned tobacco fields in Belize, Maseda was destined to become part of Ybor's cigar culture.
His brother, one of eight siblings, owned a cigar factory behind the family's West Tampa home.
When President John F. Kennedy came to Tampa in 1963, just four days before he was assassinated, Maseda handed him a box of cigars from the Tampa Cigar Association.
"He always had a cigar in his hand," Lee said of her father. "That's how I gauged when he was sick – because he wasn't chewing a cigar."
Masena stopped smoking about 20 years ago after quadruple bypass surgery but still chewed the Arturo Fuente brand cigars he loved, she said.
"The last couple weeks, he was chewing less and less cigars, so I knew he was not feeling well," Lee said. "He wanted to be buried with three cigars in his suit pocket."
Fuente was a family friend and Maseda was still involved with the Fuente family even recently, Lee said.
Maseda was born on June 2, 1919 in a home that is still standing on North Gomez Avenue and West Chestnut Street.
He went to Jefferson High and graduated from the University of Tampa where he was the student body president.
He worked for the Florida Public Service Commission and for two senators, his daughter said.
While coaching at Jefferson, one of his players was soon-to-be baseball legend Tony La Russa.
He recently told The Tampa Tribune that in 1962 he persuaded the Reds to send a scout to watch La Russa and Lou Piniella, who played at Jesuit High.
A week later, that scout's report was relayed to Maseda: Piniella didn't display the potential to hit at the big-league level. As for La Russa, the scout determined Jefferson's middle infielder didn't have the smarts to play pro ball.
"They told me La Russa was too dumb to be a ballplayer," Maseda said. "When they told me that, I said to myself what a mistake they made. He turned out to be one of the best (major-league) managers we ever saw."
Maseda is survived by his daughter, two granddaughters Tia Marie, 30 and Jennica, 25, and several nieces and nephews. Maseda's wife of 60 years, Marina died ten years ago.
Funeral arrangements have yet to be determined.