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South of the Border
Leo W. Banks
August 30, 1982
Minor league ball in Mexico is beer-induced sleep on 20-hour bus trips. It's also a wild kind of fun, a last chance for the unvanquished
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August 30, 1982

South Of The Border

Minor league ball in Mexico is beer-induced sleep on 20-hour bus trips. It's also a wild kind of fun, a last chance for the unvanquished

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One of the first things you notice about Garcia is that he isn't comfortable talking about himself. He was born in Los Angeles, attended the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and speaks English and Spanish equally well. But he gives short answers, fiddles with his cigarette between questions, averts his eyes.

"You were 20-5 last year, right?"

"That's right."

"And pitcher of the year?"

He nods.

"You finished 24 of 26 games and had an ERA of 1.83?"

Another nod.

If you check his stats and ask around you learn that Garcia has won more than 100 games and struck out more than 1,000 batters in his seven-year Mexican League career. Batters who hit against him talk with reverence about his hard slider. "The best in this league," says Andrés Mora. Mike Kekich believes he's the best pitcher in the league. "I would say 30 to 40 percent of the pitchers I saw in my years in the majors didn't have his strength and his stuff," says Kekich.

The major league record book has a few lines under Garcia's name. In 1972 and again in 1974 he pitched briefly for the San Diego Padres. His last pitch in the majors was to Dave Concepcion—a grand slam. "It was a fastball. I knew it was gone," he says.

There have been other flirtations with the major leagues. He went to spring training with the White Sox in 1978, but never pitched in a game. The Twins invited him to camp in 1981, but the Indios wanted $20,000 to let him go. That chased the Twins off. This past spring the California Angels inquired about having him try out, but that's as far as it went. Just another busted opportunity.

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