April 21, 2021

The Mexican Leagues are Here!

October 11, 2019 by · 2 Comments 

From its inception in 1924, thru the 1939 season, the Mexican League was basically a league of native Mexican semi-pro players, playing for their local teams. There were a few foreign imports that played in the league during those seasons, most notably Martin Dihigo, who left the New York Cubans after the 1936 season to spend his summers in Mexico. Not surprisingly, Dihigo put up some outstanding batting and pitching statistics when he joined the league. In 1938, fellow Cubans Ramon Bragna, Lazaro Salazar, Silvio Garcia and Julio Rojo joined Dihigo, and in 1939 Negro Leaguers Quincy Trouppe, Roosevelt Davis, Barney Brown, Barney Morris, Andy Porter and Eugene Smith all played on Mexican League teams.

But things really changed in 1940, when Veracruz team owner Jorge Pasquel took control of the league. Pasquel, along with his brothers, are famous for trying to sign Major League Baseball players in 1946 to play in Mexico. However, before that, Pasquel made a very successful effort to sign Negro League players prior to the 1940 season. Negro League players were not bound by a reserve clause, at least one that was enforced, and they could be enticed to leave the US leagues for much less money than players in Organized Baseball. A total of 67 players that either had or would later play in the Negro Leagues played in the 1940 Mexican League, which was almost 1/3 of all the league players. That number included Baseball HOFers Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Willard Brown, Willie Wells, Ray Dandridge, Leon Day, Hilton Smith and Dihigo. The level of play in the Mexican League jumped exponentially overnight, perhaps going from something equivalent to a “Class D” league at the time to a league similar in quality to the Eastern League, a “Class A” league, which would be equivalent to AA in today’s Organized Baseball classification. The NNL and NAL had 318 total players participating in 1940, so of course the Negro Leagues would have suffered a decline in quality of play with so many players leaving their leagues.

As Gary Ashwill mentioned the 1940 Mexican League Season add is part of an update to the Seamheads Negro League database, which includes the 1929 NNL season. Although he only played about 1/4th of the season, Josh Gibson was the best player in the league, posting a .467/.546/.989 AVE/OBP/SLG with 11 HR in only 109 Plate Appearances. Cool Papa Bell hit .437/.496/.686 with 28 Stolen Bases. Wild Bill Wright slashed .360/.437/.571 in 398 PAs. On the pitching side, Willie Jefferson was 22-9 with 2.65 ERA, Cuban HOFer Ramon Bragana went 16-8 with a 2.58 ERA, Andy Porter had 21-14 W/L with a 3.34 ERA, including 232 strikeouts, and Leroy Matlock went 15-10 with a 3.27 ERA. Pascual’s own Veracruz team, fortified by his transfer of Bell and Gibson to the team during the season, added to an already strong roster with Dihigo, Wells, Dandridge, Day, Bragna, Barney Brown, and Ted Radcliffe, finished first with a 61-30 record.

The 1940 Mexican League is the first league on seamheads.com where the data has not been built ‘from the ground up’ using box scores. The data comes primarily from Pedro Cisneros’ “Mexican League Encyclopedia”, compiled into electronic form by Frank Hamilton. I, Juan Rivera, Eric Chalek, and Gary Ashwill all reviewed, edited, modified and added to the data, particularly in areas of team information, player identification and biographical material. Using this already compiled data meant we had to address a few issues. The first issue is some players, particularly the Negro Leaguers, played on multiple teams, but the Encyclopedia has all their playing data combined. We address this by listing the player on the roster for all the teams he played for but placing the stats on the team we think he played with the most, based on what we know. The second issue is there is obviously some missing data, particularly for the Tampico team, but likely also for the other teams who were opponents in the Tampico games that may not have had statistics compiled. Possibly related to this second issue, the third issue is not all stats ‘balance’, like we normally require for our database. For example, all pitcher wins total to 282, but all pitcher losses total only to 272. Another example is that only selected pitchers have batting data, so batter hits add to lower totals than pitcher hits allowed. The fourth issue is the lack of any fielding data. Fielding positions have been assigned based on a combination of the few box scores we have, positions if listed in the Mexican League Encyclopedia, known positions played in other league/seasons by players, and what would make sense for the team (so we don’t end up with 3 SS and no 2B, for example.)

We believe we have been able to logically and to the greatest extent possible remediate these issues. The data isn’t perfect, but without this Mexican League data, many of the Negro Leaguer’s careers would be incomplete. In 1940 the Mexican League, like some of the Cuban Leagues, had almost become another Negro League – although ironically an INTEGRATED one, just like the Cuban Leagues. We plan on continuing to add Mexican League seasons from 1941 thru 1954, which are the years the league was an independent international league and outside of Organized Baseball, and years in which there were still a substantial number of Negro League players.

Finally, note also in our grouping of leagues, we have created a new category, “LATIN LEAGUES”, which will group the Cuban and Mexican international leagues together, so you can easily filter this playing data out or in to any queries, as you desire.


2 Responses to “The Mexican Leagues are Here!”
  1. Cliff Blau says:

    I’ve been working on inputting Mexican League statistics for later years. One of these days Baseball-Reference.com will have Hector Espino’s full career.

  2. Kevin says:

    Ah, I thought B-R had all the post-1954 Mexican Leagues already. I see that is not true.

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