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The Great Mexican War of 1946
Frank Graham Jr.
September 19, 1966
Baseball still shudders when it recalls the year that big-league stars, seduced by money, fled to the turmoil and excitement, the fights and riots of the Mexican League. The fiery Jorge Pasquel lost his battle with the majors—but, oh, how he fought them
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September 19, 1966

The Great Mexican War Of 1946

Baseball still shudders when it recalls the year that big-league stars, seduced by money, fled to the turmoil and excitement, the fights and riots of the Mexican League. The fiery Jorge Pasquel lost his battle with the majors—but, oh, how he fought them

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A friend of Danny's explained the settlement. "Danny sued for damages, but he would have been awarded very little in court. He was only a wartime ballplayer, and he made more money in Mexico and Cuba than he would have playing in the minor leagues those years. So baseball paid him off with $60,000, and it was a good deal all around."

Danny's comment is more succinct. "I was merely an ant on baseball's behind," he says solemnly.

What did it profit the renegades? In most cases they did more good for the colleagues they had left behind than for themselves. The owners, having had the wits scared out of them, began to make concessions to the players. They agreed to the formation of a player-management committee. Each team was permitted to elect its own player representatives to the committee. Each player was guaranteed both a minimum salary and, in the event of a poor season, a salary cut of no more than 25%. A pension fund for the players was established.

The consequences of the Mexican Odyssey for those involved were varied. Vern Stephens, who barely got his feet wet, not only escaped punishment but extracted from the Browns a pay raise and a promise to trade him. The trade brought him to the greener fields of Boston's Fenway Park, where he starred with the Red Sox for several years.

Maglie perfected his skills in Mexico. Throwing in Mexico's rare air, he developed a curve that Roy Campanella was later to describe as "just different from anybody else's." Using the curve ball and the savvy that he had acquired under Puebla Manager Dolf Luque, Maglie jumped back to almost instant stardom with the Giants.

Both Lanier and Owen had passed their peaks when they returned to the big leagues. Owen, like most of the others, admits the escapade was a great mistake and the punishment, though harsh, not completely out of line. His one complaint is that baseball has not responded to his request for all the pension money due him.

"Chandler promised me I would get credit toward my pension for every year I played in the majors, before and after my suspension," Owen says. "But now the commissioner's office is stalling me off. They're willing to give me credit for my time in baseball after my reinstatement, but they're not making good on the promise Chandler gave me when I promised not to sue. There's about $175 a month involved."

About half of Gardella's $60,000 settlement apparently went for lawyers' fees. Danny's comeback was not a success (he got into only one game), and he dropped out of baseball late in 1950. Since then he has had trouble finding work, and he insists that in several cases prominent breweries have refused to hire him as a salesman because of pressure from baseball, whose games they sponsor. He has loose ties to a building company in Yonkers, N.Y., and occasionally picks up a weekend engagement to sing at a local nightspot.

The luncheon crowd had left Shot's by the time Danny finished talking about Mexico. "Memories," Danny sighed. "That's about all that's left. I don't even have any press clippings. They've all been taken by agents who were going to promote my singing career."

Then something else came back to him. "I was married in Mexico, you know. My girl friend flew down from New York, and we decided not to wait. Her maiden name was Bonaventura. A melodious name. It means happy adventure."

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