Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA are interested in doing business in Mexico
American sports owners now view Mexico as a market, a friendly market. But more than 70 years ago, it was doubtful that baseball owners were too happy with the market. Mexico almost brought the American and National League owners to their collective knees in the years after World War II. Jorge Pasquel ended up with Club Azules de Vera Cruz. Pasquel signed Satchel Paige in 1938. Pasquel also added three players who would eventually be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Josh Gibson, Ray Dandridge and Monte Irvin.
Pasquel took many of the Negro Leagues best players and by 1946; he was raiding Major League Baseball.
When Bob Feller came to the major leagues in 1936 as an 18 year old pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, players had no freedom. Maybe a Babe Ruth could command a huge salary, but the Babe was bigger than the game. Feller had a choice of 16 teams when he signed, but once the signature went on the contract, he was an Indians employee for life or until a General Manager decided he could not use his services anymore.
“Before the war, the Reserve Clause kept the players on the same ball club. Unless you had clout maybe like Hank Greenberg, Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig and many other players of consequences on teams. They had some leverage in their salaries and it made a big difference at that time,” said Feller. “After the war we started the pension plan.”
The Mexican signings of major league players included Junior Stephens, Sal Maglie, Hal Lanier, Mickey Owen and others. Pasquel brothers made a run at Phil Rizzuto, Ted Williams, Feller and Stan Musial but their plan ultimately collapsed.
“They wanted to get the players who jumped to Mexico back here,” Feller said. “Pasquel down there. He was a dictator. He and his four brothers ran the country. George Pasquel, I knew him quite well. I played ball for him in 1947 in October against teams in Mexico. So Happy Chandler and Larry Mc Phail figured out they had to give the players a pension plan and get the players back. They gave them (the players who jumped to Mexico) amnesty.”
MLB is now looking at Mexico City as a possible expansion market.