Top 100 Teams
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
Serving in part as a refuge for former major league players not willing to retire, the Mexican League has seen many players continue their careers with distinction. Such was the case in 1986, when an ex-big leaguer, who had fallen in disgrace, had one of the finest seasons in minor league history.
Organized Mexican baseball started in 1937, when a league featuring teams from Mexico City, Veracruz and Tampico played a modest 25 game schedule. Gradually increasing the amount of games, the independent Mexican League was playing nearly a 100-game schedule by the end of World War II.
In the early years, teams in the Mexican League, which played in the winter, included on their rosters the stars of the Negro National League of the United States. Prohibited from playing in Organized Baseball, African-Americans were welcomed and excelled in the Mexican League. For instance, Martin Dihigo won the Mexican League batting title in 1938 with a .387 mark. Two years later, Cool Papa Bell won the triple crown, batting .437 with 12 home runs and 79 RBI.
In 1946, the Mexican League joined the ranks of Organized Baseball as a Class B circuit. It was to be a short-lived experiment. In late May, the league disbanded because of competition from an independent Mexican League. This operation, bankrolled by Jorge Pasquel, placed franchises in two of the same cities, Mexico City and Torreon, forcing the Class B competion to fold.
Pasquel’s Mexican League was an ambitious venture. In short, he was trying to create another major league by enticing several major leaguers south of the border with the promise of large salaries. Players like Sal Maglie and Max Lanier jumped at the bait only to find sub-standard conditions awaiting them in Mexico. Furthermore, on trying to return, the defecting major leaguers found themselves blackballed - unable to rejoin Organized Baseball.
The city of Puebla, Mexico, located east of Mexico City, first placed a team in the Mexican League in 1942. For three years, the Angeles played in the circuit before jumping ship to Pasquel’s independent operation in 1946. Here, they remained until 1948, when the league disbanded.
In 1955, another Mexican League joined the National Association, this time as a Class AA circuit. This entry proved much more stable and remains part of Organized Baseball until this day.
Five years later, the city of Puebla joined the Mexican League, entering a team named the Pericos. During the following decade, the team won the flag in 1963 before leaving the league after the 1969 season. In 1972, the team rejoined the circuit. Three years later, the club began a run of three division titles in a row (1975-77) the latter two as the renamed Angeles (Angels). Following another pair of crowns in 1979-80, the team once again dropped out of the league.
In 1985, the Angeles returned, going 70-54. The next year, the club improved markedly, finishing the season 88-41, ten games ahead of the Mexico City Tigers. In the playoffs, the team defeated the Mexico City Diablos, four games to two; the Mexico City Tigers, four games to one and Monterrey, four games to one to win the championship.
Collectively, the team hit an astonishing .347 in 1986, scoring over seven runs a game. The reason for the hit barrage, enjoyed league-wide, was the circuit’s use of the Comando brand baseball. This “lively” ball enabled the league as a whole to bat over .300.
Individually, the greatest beneficiary of the Comando baseball was an ex-major leaguer attempting a comeback in the Mexican League. Willie Mays Aikens, named after the Giants’ Hall of Famer, had ended a seven-year major stint in 1985. In a career marred by a drug conviction, Aikens had nevertheless enjoyed several solid seasons, including a 23 home run campaign in for Kansas City 1983. In 1986, in his first year for Puebla, playing as a designated hitter, he exploded for a .454 average. In addition, Aikens slugged 46 home runs and drove in a league high 154 runs. His magnificent season earned him another shot in the big leagues. Late in the 1986 season, Aikens joined the Mets’ affiliate in Tidewater, batting .133 in four games. Back in Mexico the following season, Aikens batted .354, .352, .395 and .358 for three different teams during the next four years. Following the 1991 season, he retired for good. In 1994, Aikens suffered a relapse as he was found guilty in federal court of selling crack cocaine to an undercover police officer and one count of using a gun in a drug transaction. He is still in a federal penitentiary.
Other ’86 Angeles enjoying good seasons were catcher Orlando Sanchez who batted .402 with 24 HR, Dave Stockstill, who hit .358 with 30 HR and Don Carter, who batted .355 with a league-topping 95 stolen bases. From the rubber, Puebla was paced by German Jiminez (17-6, 3.37) who was the only starter on the staff to finish with an ERA lower than 4.00.
The Angeles continued in the Mexican League one more year before dropping out. In 1993, the team returned for a three year stint, finishing last twice. After the 1995 season, the team and league parted ways for good.
The Mexican League, in addition to providing quality baseball enjoyment to many, has extended many a career. This certainly was the case in 1986 for the Puebla Angeles. Here, the talented but troubled Willie Aikens, enjoyed the best full-season campaign of any minor leaguer in the 20th century. In doing so, he also led the 1986 Angeles to a record season, helping the team post the highest batting average of any 20th century club.
|1986 Mexican League Standings|
|MONTERREY||72||56||.558||4.5||MEXICO CITY (T)||75||48||.610||10.0|
|DOS LAREDOS||67||57||.540||7.5||MEXICO CITY (R)||68||60||.531||19.5|
|SAN LUIS POTOSI||66||63||.512||11.0||YUCATAN||61||68||.473||27.0|
|1986 Puebla Angeles batting statistics|
|Victor Quintero (Agua.)||SS,3B||122||449||65||153||70||26||4||3||27||27||2||.341|
|Porfirio Mendoza (Cam.-Ver.)||117||382||67||110||49||20||4||9||48||51||11||.288|
|Norberto Burke (Agua.)||3B||116||363||36||88||35||18||0||5||52||59||2||.242|
|Humberto Robles (Mont.)||OF,1B,3B||32||63||14||13||6||3||0||0||17||19||0||.206|
|1986 Puebla Angeles pitching statistics|
|Juan Rincon (Ver.)||6||7||.462||21||20||6||1||0||122||136||37||54||4.73|
|Pablo Sanchez (Mon.-Leon)||4||7||.364||28||9||0||0||3||76||102||40||53||8.02|
|Juan Ontiveros (San Luis)||1||2||.333||25||4||0||0||1||69||98||32||19||6.78|
|Ricardo Villareal (M.C. Reds)||1||2||.333||12||2||0||0||1||21||37||18||11||9.70|
|Aurelio Castaneda (Agua.)||1||3||.250||15||6||0||0||0||55||65||32||27||4.39|