However, two things saved pro baseball in Mexico: Most important was the infusion of new ownership of teams in the Mexican League, bringing new capital and ideas. The reformed Liga then made peace with the Major Leagues and Organized Baseball, who had severed relations with the “outlaw” league after Pasquel’s concerted player raids in 1946 raised salaries across the border when American teams were forced to pay better to keep their players. The “new” Mexican League officially became a Class AA minor league, ending the ten-year war.
Among the new owners, the most notable was Alejo Peralta, who began the Mexico City Tigres in 1955. Peralta was similar to Pasquel in that he was a very wealthy man, but there was a vast difference between the two men in the kinds of teams they built. Where Pasquel tried to recruit top players from America to Veracruz, Peralta insisted that the Tigres’ roster consist entirely of Mexican players. Pasquel wanted to build a dynasty, period, but Peralta wanted to prove Mexicans could be great ballplayers without foreign help. Peralta’s Tigres went on to win six Liga pennants through 1997 (the year he died at age 80), he personally started two minor leagues and supported another, and served as LMB commissioner for many years. He is arguably the most important man in Mexican baseball history.
The solidified Mexican League then entered a period of relative stability for several years, although (as now) a number of teams came and went. Mexico City was shared for decades by the Tigres and Diablos Rojos until the Tigres finally left town and began an odyssey that has seen them end up in Cancun, former home of the Langosteros franchise which was displaced after severe hurricanes in 2006 caused severe damage to the ballpark there. Other long-standing teams over the years have been the Veracruz Aguilas, Monterrey Sultanes, Yucatan Leones, Campeche Piratas and the Saltillo Saraperos.
Ironically, before Saltillo won the pennant in 2009, the only other time the Saraperos claimed the flag in their 40-year history was in the strike-interrupted season of 1980. That year, the Liga season began as normal in March amid growing calls among Mexican players for higher wages and allegations of preferential treatment for imported players from the United States. Finally, the domestic players walked off the job in July and eventually formed their own league of striking players in various Mexican cities. Although the Liga tried to fill with void with strikebreaking players, the remainder of the 1980 was a disaster, with no playoffs held. Although Saltillo was awarded the Mexican League “pennant because the Saraperos had the best record when play halted, many historians do not recognize the championship as legitimate.
Although the Mexican League is now considered Class AAA by Minor League Baseball, it is unlike any other circuit in that all Liga teams are independent. It perhaps bears the closest resemblance to the old-time minor leagues among all current members of Organized Baseball.
At present, the Mexican League has 16 teams in two divisions, with a 110-game regular season running between March and July, followed by playoffs throughout August.
NEXT WEEK: MEXICAN BASEBALL HISTORY 3: The Mexican Pacific League