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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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"I'm not so sure I want him to drive," Mrs. Owen said of her shaky husband as they got into the car to head back to Brooklyn.

Owen hadn't driven very far before he learned that the fold to which he was returning was simply a shipping pen. That evening's newspapers contained an interview with Rickey, who said that Owen did not fit into the Dodgers' plans and would be traded. The old man had neglected to mention this detail to Mickey on the phone. Owen turned his car around again and crossed the border. In Mexico City a relieved Pasquel explained by saying it had all been "a ruse to throw the agents of Organized Baseball off the track."

On the West Coast an even weightier drama had been played out. Vernon (Junior) Stephens, a shortstop with the St. Louis Browns and the reigning home-run champion of the American League, fretted about his contract. The $1,500 raise he had asked from the Browns had been denied him. At breakfast one morning he received a long-distance phone call from Mario Pasquel, another brother.

"Would you be interested in coming down to Mexico and talking to us?" Mario asked.

Stephens considered for a moment, and then made his decision. "Since my wife and I had been talking about holding out, why not listen to Pasquel?" says Stephens, now sales manager of a Los Angeles trucking firm. "What did I have to lose? I told Pasquel O.K., and he said there'd be a $500 money order waiting for me at the local Western Union office to cover my expenses."

Stephens, too, stopped in San Antonio, where he was met by Mario Pasquel and two burly, unidentified men, whose suitcoats bulged at precisely the spot where .45s traditionally nestle in the shoulder holsters of bodyguards. The quartet flew to Mexico City. When the plane set down, Stephens stepped out. There, at the bottom of the ramp, his chauffeured limousine only a few feet away on the airstrip, another brace of bodyguards behind him, waited the smiling, mustachioed, ruggedly handsome Jorge Pasquel.

Pasquel was 39 years old in 1946, when he and his dashing brothers (Bernardo, Mario and the twins, Gerardo and Alfonso) discovered the ramshackle Mexican League. His family had owned a prosperous cigar factory, but he made his own opportunities as a young man by marrying the daughter of Plutarco El�as Calles, President of Mexico, and having himself appointed a customs broker for the Mexican government. His career was tempestuous. He left his wife, killed a man with the pistol he always carried and made enemies as well as a fortune.

"Pasquel liked baseball," Mickey Owen says, "and he liked being in the limelight. The league gave him a lot of publicity, and it was closely tied in with his pal Aleman's presidential campaign that spring. Raiding the big leagues was a way of showing up the yanquis."

Pasquel became the league's president and its chief scout, and he held a strong financial interest in at least two of the teams—Mexico City and Veracruz. Puebla, Tampico, Monterrey, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Laredo and Torreon completed the eight-team league. Fifty-five percent of all receipts were thrown into the pot and distributed evenly among the eight teams at the end of the season.

There is a type of executive who prefers to rule behind the scenes, laying down a broad program within which his subordinates keep the operation going, putting on pressure subtly but firmly when he wants to change course and seldom baring the iron under the velvet glove. Jorge Pasquel bore not the slightest resemblance to this type. Once, when a no-hitter was broken up in the sixth inning, Jorge summarily restored the prize to the pitcher by overruling the official scorer and calling the play an error. The crowd was as overcome by this gallant gesture as if Pasquel had redeemed a lady's chastity. It accorded him a standing ovation, while Jorge beamed in his private box.

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