11/12/2007 11:06 AM -
National Baseball Hall of Famer Monte Irvin joined Jorge Pasquel Jr., Jim Riley and John Virtue to discuss the relationship of the Negro Leagues and the Mexican League on Saturday, November 10th, at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
The panel and discussion coincided with the release of Virtue’s new book, South Of The Color Barrier, which details the history of the Mexican League in the 1930s and 40s. The Mexican League was created by Jorge Pasquel in the 1930s and featured many African-American players who were not allowed to play Major League Baseball. Pasquel’s vision was to create a league where the talent of the players was paramount to race. Pasquel recruited over 130 Negro League players to come play in his league, most of the time at a higher salary and the promise of a higher quality of life – one without the presence of racism.
“Here in Mexico I can live like a king,” Negro Leaguer Willie Wells was quoted as saying of the Mexican League. “People are more considerate here. Here in Mexico I am a man.”
Hall-of-Famer Monte Irvin, who was present at the discussion, concurred.
“1942, I can safely say, was my best year in professional baseball. Mr. Pasquel was a Mexican George Steinbrenner.”
Many feel Pasquel’s goal of improving the quality of Mexican League players to that of Major League Baseball is largely responsible for the hastening of the breaking of the color barrier in MLB in 1947. Pasquel’s son, Jorge Jr., was also present on Saturday.
“We’re honored to be here today. My father passed 50 years ago and ever since, we’ve been waiting for someone to write a book that captured the Mexican League. This book has done that.”
Author John Virtue said he was surprised when he started researching the book.
“I hadn’t realized Jorge Pasquel’s influence on baseball. The very presence of latino and African-American players in Major League Baseball today is largely due to Negro League players coming down to play in Mexico.”
South of the Color Barrier: How Jorge Pasquel and the Mexican League Pushed Baseball Toward Racial Integration is now available at the Negro League Baseball Museum gift shop.