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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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"When he went in the men's room door," Stephens says, "I went out the front door. In 10 minutes we were on our way. It's about a three-and-a-half-hour drive to the border, and we knew that if Pasquel realized what was going on he had the power to have us stopped. They checked cars, anyway, at the border, and if there were more people in one than the permit listed, you might be in trouble."

Two blocks from the border Fournier stopped the car and Stephens got out. He put on Fournier's hat and his father's coat and walked gingerly across the bridge to Laredo, in Texas.

"That ended Mexican ball for me," he says. "All I had were the clothes on my back. The rest of my things were still in the hotel. Even my spikes and glove."

Though Stephens returned the check for $25,000, Pasquel was furious. That players he had befriended and paid generously were betraying him was bad enough. He was even more affronted by American baseball officials who called him an "outlaw." He complained that it was he, and not they, who was being harassed. As evidence, he cited the fact that he was not able to buy American-made bats and balls because the manufacturers feared a retaliatory boycott by Organized Baseball.

"When our league was struggling to get started," Pasquel said, "major league scouts came down here and stole our players. Why? Because they offered them more money. We're giving those people a dose of their own medicine."

Pasquel stepped up his raids on the major leagues. Bob Feller rejected his offer. Ted Williams ignored the blank contract Pasquel sent him. But other American stars wavered in the face of temptation. Bernardo Pasquel entertained Yankee Shortstop Phil Rizzuto and his wife at dinner in the Waldorf-Astoria, offering him a long-term contract at 512,500 a year and a 515,000 bonus. Rizzuto promised to think it over. Before Pasquel received an answer, the Yankees brought suit to keep him from tampering with their players.

Later Alfonso Pasquel visited Stan Musial in his hotel room. While Musial, who was making $13,500 a year with the Cardinals, watched in astonishment, Pasquel spread five cashier's checks, each for $10,000, on his bed. This, Pasquel told him, was merely a bonus. While Musial turned the offer over in his mind, Cardinal Manager Eddie Dyer (an old Rickey man) effectively intervened.

"Stan, you've got two children," Dyer said. "Do you want them to hear someone say, 'There are the kids of a guy who broke a contract'?"

Musial declined to go to Mexico, but the Pasquels scored their most dramatic coup by hijacking three other Cardinals, Pitchers Max Lanier and Fred Martin and Second Baseman Lou Klein. Lanier was the prize. Considered by some baseball men to be the best pitcher in the National League, he had a 6-0 record with St. Louis when he left for Mexico in June.

The uproar took on special overtones. In Washington, a State Department official wished Organized Baseball would show a desire to clean up its differences with the Mexicans. "Baseball is making it tough for us," the anonymous official said. "We try to build up good will, and this sort of thing tears it down." In Cincinnati, Baseball Commissioner A. B. (Happy) Chandler replied that "the State Department has enough to do without meddling in baseball."

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