"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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.