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Marcelo Maseda, baseball player, politico, honorary mayor of Ybor City, dies at 92

Marcelo Maseda, who played for the Tampa Smokers and the St. Pete Saints, was seldom seen without a cigar.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times (2005)

Marcelo Maseda, who played for the Tampa Smokers and the St. Pete Saints, was seldom seen without a cigar.

TAMPA — Marcelo Maseda was nothing if not consistent.

Everyone remembers him wearing his large hat, chomping on his Arturo Fuente cigar and loving baseball.

The former semipro baseball player, honorary mayor of Ybor City, coach and politico died Saturday after battling heart disease for nearly two decades, said his only child, Marlene Lee, 54. He was 92.

On Friday, Mr. Maseda leaned over to his daughter and said, "I had a great life," she recalled Saturday. "It gives me peace to know that he was at peace."

Mr. Maseda was born in Tampa on June 2, 1919, in a house on N Gomez Avenue and W Chestnut Street that still belongs to the family, Lee said.

His parents were of Spanish descent and imported tobacco from their farm in Belize to be made into cigars in Tampa.

Until his quadruple bypass in 1995, Mr. Maseda was mostly interested in smoking cigars, Lee laughed.

"He would always chew on them," she said. "He asked to be buried with three cigars in his pocket."

During his baseball career, Mr. Maseda got to serve as batboy to the Cincinnati Reds for two seasons that ended in World Series appearances. He was there when they swept Detroit to take the title in 1939.

In the book Baseball Was My Life: The Stories of West Tampa by Mary Jo Melone and Art Keeble, Mr. Maseda said he was "too skinny" to be the kind of player he wanted to be.

He left Jefferson High School to play for the Atlanta Crackers and the Portsmouth (Va.) Cubs before returning to Tampa to play for local semipro teams the Tampa Smokers and the St. Pete Saints. During World War II, he played baseball at Drew Field, now Tampa International Airport.

After baseball and the war, Mr. Maseda went to the University of Tampa, where he served as the student body president and graduated at age 32.

He coached UT baseball for a time and moved on to American Legion and Pony League teams, where he taught Tony La Russa and Lou Pinella, two of the city's baseball greats.

"It was amazing because we had people stopping by all the time these last few weeks, people he coached, people he helped," Lee said. "It's a tribute to my father to know that he helped so many people."

His years of travel and working with a team parlayed itself into a second career in public service. Lee said her father worked for Florida Public Service Commission as a supervisor. Later, he worked for U.S. Sen. William Smathers, D-New Jersey, Lee said.

Richard Stone, a former Democratic U.S. senator from Florida and Florida secretary of state, once hired Mr. Maseda as an aide.

But he was active at all levels.

"My father was always promoting West Tampa and Ybor City," Lee said.

Twice in the 1960s, Ybor City named him its honorary mayor.

Just before his surgery in 1995, Mr. Maseda was campaigning for Charlie Miranda, who currently serves as a Tampa City Council member.

In retirement, Mr. Maseda enjoyed the pleasures in life.

Lee said he watched baseball at every level and attended Tony Saladino's Old Timer's luncheon 12 out of 14 years.

"He was just so full of life," said Saladino, 76. "He was always reminiscing and jolly with his big hat and a cigar in his mouth. He loved the game and loved the city."

Mr. Maseda's wife, Marina, passed away in 2002. In addition to his daughter, Marlene Lee, he is survived by two granddaughters, Tia Marie, 30, and Jennica, 25.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Marcelo Maseda, baseball player, politico, honorary mayor of Ybor City, dies at 92 02/25/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 25, 2012 9:50pm]
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