|I always wanted to play baseball but I never got the opportunity to play Little League. About the middle of fourth grade we moved back to my old neighborhood in Mexico. There was no Little League, at least not where we lived, but there was plenty of kids and baseball everywhere. It was called “beisbol” or “El beis” (pronounced: base). This was the time when the “Astros” were still the “Colt 45’s”, the Mexican Little Leaguers (Little Giants) won the LL World Series, and Sandy Koufax pitched his first no-hitter.
We played Beis in an empty lot just down the street passed the post office and the fire station. It was relatively flat and full of rocks, which tended to make for good fielders. Our equipment was whatever the individuals brought to the game. There were no uniforms. I don’t know where our baseballs came from but they were pretty ragged and sometimes we would have to re-stitch them. Several individuals had wooden bats.....we would use dirt to get a good grip. There were no catchers equipment or helmets; every one had scars and bruises from the catcher rotation.
I remember I got my glove from another older kid in the barrio; I think I traded something and gave him a little money for it. The glove was tinted red, well worn, and faded from years of use; the leather was soft and with a nice pouch……… I was quite attached to it. Years later in the U.S., I gave it to my little brother…who had joined “Little League”. He showed it to his coach and the coach told him it was too old and worn so he threw it away; I was shattered!!!!!! It was an exceptionally good glove; Little League coaches don’t know nothing 'bout El Beis.
Some of the kids:
There was Juan Jose Treviño known as JuanJo. He became my best friend and our friendship continued through Highschool although he went to prep school in Saltillo, Mexico. He was a year older and went to school downtown with me at “El Colegio Mexico”. He was a dark-skinned kid and wore a flattop haircut with the sides combed back with a lot of grease, he was kind-of the neighborhood leader. He lived across the street, one house to the right. He was a good shortstop and moved like-a-cat.
There was Hugo;he was a year-or-so younger than me, fair skinned and hazel eyes. He was a little "chunky" and the sensitive type; he used to cry at the sad part of movies. His house was the neighborhood gathering place, cause his mother was very nice and loved to have us at her house; His mother was a wonderful Woman…I remember her very fondly. He had a great arm and could chase the ball and relay it back before a player could make it all around the bases. There were no fences so there sere no homeruns over-the-fence...it was all a matter of base running, field running, and relays.
There was Ramiro Gonzalez; He was of short stature (chaparo) a large forehead and fair skinned. He used to stutter when he got excited. His Dad eventually became a very wealthy businessman but they were just getting started back then. Ramiro went to the Catholic boy’s elementary school with the city rich kids who were affectionately known as "Los Niños Popies". So we always made fun of him about that and he would stutter trying to answer back. He would get excited & angry; it was a lot of fun. He would do pretty well at first base but would let grounders (rolitas) pass between his legs.
There was another kid who lived around the corner; He also went to Colegio Mexico. He was known as "Manzanita" ...because… welllll... he looked like an apple. He was almost completely round with a chubby face and ruddy checks. He was also a pretty nice guy and didn't seem to mind the nickname. Often played third base cause he was good at getting those baseline drives.
There was Barbies; I don’t remember his real name but he got his nickname, por.... “hacerle la barba” a Ramiro. Hacer la barba means to “Brown Nose”. Ramiro had gotten a new bicycle and this kid wanted to ride it... so Ramiro would send him to do errands in order to ride his bike; so we nicknamed him “Barbies”. He was a stocky individual fairly strong. He had just come into town from living at a ranch in the countryside. He was a nice guy but he liked to get in fights. We were glad he was on our team. He often settled disputed calls with the other teams since we didn’t have umpires.
I can't remember these guys’ names but several of them lived next door. There were three or four of them and they were all cousins. They were kind of "pachuco" types. One of the guys’ father had a barbershop on the corner, the other boys parents had a little store two doors down. These guys were a little older and were frequently the pitchers since they were past puberty and a little stronger. They had a mean curveball and fastball.... it would challenge the catchers, especially without protective gear...I have a chipped tooth and a broken left-hand finger to prove it.
Needless to say there were enough to make a baseball team of nine. There were several other similar neighborhoods that also could field a team so we played against them in an informal kid’s league. We played every day throughout spring and summer….it was quite wonderful.
I finally got to play with the little league kids from the U.S. side of the river and show those guys about El Beis. My parents had moved to the Mexican side of the river and I stayed behind in the US to finish the fourth grade. I would go home on weekends and started to play Beis during the spring. At the end of the school year...we had a day off from classes so the teacher had us play softball. She designated a girl and a boy as team captains and they started to pick sides. The boy picked all the boys and the girl picked all girls............. I was the odd-man-out and the last picked........the girl had to pick me!!!!!!. I was kind of “put out” about it…I guess the kid thought I was a wimp cause I never played “Little League”…..…but I surprised him.
One play I remember: I was at shortstop and the bases were loaded…the batter hits a high-high-high pop fly…the base runners were sure I would drop it so they ran the bases laughing and snickering....... I caught the ball.....touched second then third..... A TRIPLE PLAY!!!!!…the girls were happy..........WE WON THE GAME.
Goes to show...What do U.S. Little League boys know about “El Beis”????????
We played baseball from March through August every year that I was living in Mexico till we moved back to the U.S. in ‘63...just in time for the Colt 45’s to change their name, Sandy Koufax to burn out his arm, and the world to change….FOREVER.