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The American players marveled at the things they saw. Each team played four games a week, from Thursday through Sunday. Parque Delta, the stadium in Mexico City where both the local team and, for some reason, Veracruz (the city of Veracruz is 200 miles to the east) played their home games, was a reasonably modern one, ornamented across the outfield with advertisements for soft drinks and whiskey. But in the other cities the players found skinned and bumpy infields enclosed by rickety wooden stands. Dust storms frequently halted the games. In Tampico a spur of the local railroad ran across the outfield.
The crowds were noisy and colorful. Shouting vendors sold tortillas and enchiladas. Gamblers roamed through the aisles placing bets, and cops, armed with tear-gas guns, stood watchfully by. One American reported that the wealthy Mexicans in the stands "wore guns like we wear key chains or jewelry."
The fans were ardent if unsophisticated. They cheered a jit, accused the enemy pitcher of throwing an ensalivada and never referred to the man who called balls and strikes as anything but an idiota. A sacrifice delighted them as much as a home run, and they were so enchanted by dazzling catches that it was suspected some of the players show-boated for their benefit.
The players' lives were not without hazards. Loco Torres, a Tampico pitcher who apparently merited his nickname, refused to leave the mound one day when his manager thought he had lost his stuff. The manager, whose name was Marsans, shrugged and returned to the dugout. When Torres walked the next batter, Marsans trotted back out to the mound. Torres insisted on staying. Marsans ranted, and the crowd shrieked for a new pitcher. But Torres stayed.
When Marsans made his third appearance on the field, he carried a fungo bat with him. Waving it at Torres, he drove him off the field. Each time Torres stopped to argue, Marsans whacked him across the buttocks, driving him finally into the waiting arms of the local police, who dragged him off to jail.
Gardella and Owen seemed to possess similar properties for attracting trouble. Danny, finding himself alone in Pasquel's office shortly after his arrival, picked up a pistol he saw lying on a filing cabinet. "I wanted to see if it worked," Danny says. He pointed it out the window and pulled the trigger. It worked.
As soon as he arrived, Owen was named manager of the Veracruz Blues. His tenure was brief and stormy. One day Babe Ruth, who had been fishing in Mexico, agreed to put on a batting demonstration before a game. Ram�n Braga�a, a Veracruz pitcher, was assigned to serve them up to the Babe. The great slugger, 10 years out of the majors and badly out of shape, huffed and puffed but could not get a piece of the ball. On the sidelines the manager of the Mexico City Reds began to heckle the sweating Braga�a, who was doing the best he could to let the Babe hit one.
When the Red manager went to the mound to tell Braga�a that he wanted to bring in a pitcher of his own, Braga�a shoved him away. The manager, angered because he had lost face in front of the crowd, came to blows with Braga�a in the dressing room after the game. Owen broke up the fight by pushing the Mexico City manager out of the clubhouse. But in a moment there came a loud banging on the door.
"Somebody wanted in pretty bad," Owen recalls. "The hasp went flying off and in ran this character with an old-fashioned six-shooter. He turned out to be the manager's brother. He forced Braga�a to get down on his knees and told him to apologize. I guess he got the apology. I didn't wait around to see."
Trouble lurked everywhere. Once when Owen believed the umpire, who was a Cuban, had missed a close play at the plate, he rushed toward him to complain. "Don't go too close, Mickey!" yelled outfielder Bobby Estalella, another former major leaguer. "He'll crack you over the head with his mask."