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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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Rumors reached Ott that Pasquel's agents were in touch with several of his players. He called a clubhouse meeting and asked Maglie if he was involved. Sal replied that he had made up his mind to go to Mexico. Ott was furious. While the tension mounted, Bill Voiselle, a pitcher who was hard of hearing, remained blissfully in the washroom, shaving. He had not heard the summons to a meeting. Suddenly the strained silence in the clubhouse was broken by Voiselle, cheerily whistling a popular song of the day, "South of the border, down Mexico way."

The meeting broke up in a roar of laughter, but Giant President Horace Stoneham called Hausmann and Zimmerman to his office. The two players admitted they would go to Mexico "if the price is right." "Then you're through with the Giants," Stoneham growled.

Maglie telephoned Pasquel and told him the three Giant players were on their way. "He sent us $1,000 so we could fly there," Maglie says. "But we couldn't get plane reservations, so we went to Mexico City by train. And when we got there we had to pay the expense money back."

Pasquel, meanwhile, had other irons in the fire. Despite his fatal error in the 1941 World Series, Mickey Owen was considered one of the best catchers in baseball. In the early spring of 1946 he was at the Sampson, N.Y. Naval Training Station, awaiting his discharge. Like most sailors, Mickey whiled away the long hours on the base by writing letters. These letters tended to have a financial tone. One, to his friend Luis Olmo, asked the former Dodger outfielder if all those rumors he had heard about high Mexican salaries were true. Another, to Dodger President Branch Rickey, asked if the contract he had signed for $14,500 a year before entering the Navy could be adjusted.

Olmo proved to be the more faithful correspondent. He answered promptly, advising Owen to contact Pasquel directly. The response from Brooklyn was vague.

"The idea of going to Mexico appealed to me," says Owen, who is now the sheriff of Greene County, Mo. "Now and then a man wants to go somewhere else and do something new. Especially if he can get paid for it."

Owen entered into a detailed correspondence with Pasquel. Pasquel's final offer was very attractive to a Rickey employee: a bonus of $12,500 to sign a five-year contract at $15,000 a year, the payment for the fifth year to be made in advance. Pasquel also agreed to pay Owen's income taxes in both countries and provide him with an apartment.

In early April, with his discharge in his pocket and his wife in the car beside him, Mickey headed for Mexico. In San Antonio, there occurred one of those frantic and confusing incidents that undermined the illusion of stability upon which Pasquel hoped to build his league. Waiting there for Owen were Jorge's brother, Alfonso, and a message to call Branch Rickey.

Pasquel was anxious to hustle his prize across the border. Owen insisted on returning Rickey's call first. The Pasquels, threatening, charming, or writing checks, were never a match for Rickey's stern but fatherly moral lectures. Owen, tempted by Pasquel yet yearning for the moral fragrance symbolized by that marvelous voice on the telephone, was reduced to a nervous wreck.

"The Pasquels even offered to bring my mother down," a distraught Owen told reporters at the time. "But I started out with the old man, and I wouldn't like to go back on our friendship."

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