found Jorge Pasquel, who had rushed out onto the field, arguing at his side.
The umpire threatened to bring down his mask on Jorge's head, and the
omnipresent bodyguard pulled a knife. The umpire left the field and, that
evening, the country.
If the umpire
thought Cuba looked better than Mexico City, Vern Stephens made a similar
comparison between the St. Louis Browns and Mexico. His short happy Mexican
life began when Pasquel whisked him from the airport to the ball park, where he
introduced his latest acquisition to the cheering crowd. After the game,
Pasquel asked Stephens to be his house guest. The "house" proved to be
a palace five stories high, one of which was a gymnasium and another a gigantic
closet containing Jorge's wardrobe. Stephens was quartered in a room above the
seven-car garage, which also housed Pasquel's bodyguards.
under velvet sheets," Stephens says. "The rugs were so thick you
couldn't see your toes when you walked around barefoot. It was like out of the
Pasquel took Stephens and Gardella to dinner at a luxury hotel. The inevitable
bodyguards tagged along. "When we walked in, the head waiter literally ran
toward the door," Vern recalls. "Some people hadn't quite finished
their dinner at the best table, but the waiters hustled them right out of
there. We sat down, and the bodyguards eased the .45s out of their holsters and
plunked them down on the table alongside the silverware."
The next morning
Stephens agreed verbally to a five-year contract that he claims totaled
$250,000. Pasquel mailed a certified check for $25,000 to Vern's wife in Long
Beach and put the rest in escrow in a Mexico City bank. In his first game
Stephens singled to win the game in the ninth inning. The spectators carried
him off the field triumphantly.
"But I could
see that the thing wasn't going to work out financially," he says. "It
was a wonderful dream but the people Pasquel was appealing to couldn't afford
it, no way. I knew that when I wanted the $250,000 it wouldn't be there—or I
couldn't get it."
treated as something special. He did not travel with his team but flew around
the circuit in a private plane with one of the Pasquel brothers. His special
treatment included a bodyguard, who went everywhere with him and who apparently
opened his letters before they were passed on to him.
"I knew after
three days I wanted to go home," Stephens says. "But the question was
On the other side
of the border there were interested parties who asked themselves the same
question. One morning when Stephens arrived in Monterrey, near the American
border, he was met in the hotel lobby by an American friend. "The Browns
say they'll give you what you're asking for," he told Stephens. Vern could
not help looking over his shoulder. "Now listen to this. Your dad and Jack
Fournier [a scout for the Browns] are in a bar close by. Go two blocks down the
street to your left and two bars on the right."
In a few minutes
Stephens was joined for breakfast, as usual, by his bodyguard. Fortunately, the
bodyguard was nursing a hangover and abruptly asked to be excused.