Film, book, return on the “perfect” game of Little League



Long before McAllister Park played in South Williamsport, Pa., Before San Antonio TVs were tuned to the Little League Championships, another team captured the South Texans’ imaginations.

It was 1957 when a team of poor boys – underdogs from Monterrey, Mexico, with a coach from San Antonio – qualified for the Little League World Series. The first non-U.S. Team to compete, they beat a team from La Mesa, Calif., 4-0.

Nicknamed “little giants”, their opponents towered over them and weighed them 30 to 40 pounds. In the final match, they never let a ball leave the infield, and a virtuous, ambidextrous pitcher named Angel Macias pitched a perfect match – the only one in Little League World Series championship history.

Their victory took them to the White House to meet President Eisenhower, to Ebbets Field to watch their beloved Brooklyn Dodgers play, and then back to Monterrey, where half a million regiomontanos lined the streets to welcome them home. .

For about a month, they beat Little League teams starting with McAllen, going through Texas and the Kentucky regionals before landing in Pennsylvania.

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This Saturday, they will be acclaimed again.

As the McAllister Park All-Stars participate in a comeback parade here, survivors of the Monterrey Little Leaguers will be at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to reunite with their La Mesa counterparts. They will also watch the Dodgers take on San Diego.

Hollywood will also tell its story later this year. Lionsgate’s “The Perfect Game” stars a cast of young actors and veterans Cheech Marin and Louis Gossett Jr. It is based on the 2008 book of the same name by William Winokur, author of a bilingual children’s book, “The miracle of Monterrey ”, published by Raining Popcorn Media of San Antonio.

All of this might not have been a legend if the 1957 team hadn’t been such unlikely champions.

Its members had only recently learned to play. They had never even seen a game, imagining it from reruns of Dodgers games in Spanish on an old radio belonging to their parish priest. The boys practiced on a self-made diamond, wore gloves sewn by their mothers, and walked from the US-Mexico Bridge to Reynosa to their first Little League game at McAllen.

“This is one of the greatest stories I have encountered in my life,” said Winokur. “If it touched my life, I wanted to give it a chance to touch the lives of others.”

The team has several local ties: Coach Cesar Faz was born in San Antonio after the Mexican Revolution, from which his family fled, and the latest book was illustrated by Alamo City-based artist Alberto Ramirez.

For Raining Popcorn Media’s Art Avila, the story has a special meaning. It’s not just that he played Little League and that his late father was a coach, but “There is something about baseball,” he said, that bridges cultural and language differences.

“It has a wonderful history and it brings boys, fathers and families together,” he added. “There is a strong common thread in this story, and I think all boys want to prove their worth to their father,” as does Macias, the main character in the children’s book.

The story of the Monterrey Little League team made headlines in ’57, but slowly faded from American consciousness until Winokur was encouraged to pursue a book by his friend Anson Williams, which viewers will remember. as Potsie on the hit sitcom “Happy Days.”

The story boiled down to boys who weren’t looking for fame but simply fell in love with the game, whose heroes were Sandy Koufax and Duke Snider.

“When these kids went to play, originally at McAllen, they thought they would come back in three days. One day to get there, one day to play – and lose – and another to sightsee,” said Winokur. “Therefore, they didn’t bring a change of clothes. They brought their uniforms and a change of underwear in a paper bag. It’s no exaggeration.”

With the exception of player José “Pepe” Maiz Garcia, who now owns two baseball teams including the Monterrey Sultans and attempted to bring Major League Baseball to Monterrey, the players came from poor homes without running water or electricity. Their fathers worked in factories in Monterrey, which Winokur described as “Pittsburg without the glamor”.

“You would grow up to take your father’s place at the factory,” said the author.

The Little League victory was “the greatest thing that has happened to Monterrey of all time,” said Winokur, comparing it to the United States’ victory over the Soviets at the 1980 Olympics. material from which fairy tales are made. “

Devout Catholics, the boys “really believed in the Virgin of Guadalupe. All they did was honor God and the blessed virgin,” he said.

Little League changed their path and the game continues to be a part of their life. Some of them have played professionally. Enrique Suarez, the team’s other pitcher, for example, runs the senior league in Monterrey, which Maiz plays for.

The boys recruited Faz, then a factory worker, to be their trainer. Once a bat boy for the San Antonio missions and club keeper for the St. Louis Browns, Faz was the only guy around who knew the game. By the time he moved to Monterrey, however, his dreams of becoming a major league coach were canceled. Winokur described Faz as “a broken down factory worker”.

“You have these kids who have a lot of faith without a lot of baseball skills, and you have this coach with a lot of skill but lost faith,” Winokur said. “God sends them to each other.”

“It was wonderful. It helped everyone,” said Maiz, now national manager of Little League in Mexico. “Angel Macias, who pitched a perfect game, turned into a professional player. He played with the California Angels. He played Triple A with Reynosa and Monterrey.” Macias, who will also be in Los Angeles this weekend, also ran Mexico’s Professional Baseball Academy.

Maiz, who was signed by the San Francisco Giants but went to engineering school instead, describes the attention the team is getting again as “amazing. They always talk about the perfect game,” he said. -he declares.

In another example, “¡Viva Baseball!” a permanent exhibit on Latinos in baseball at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum features a commemorative bat and a photo of the 1957 Little League World Series winners. He says they “captured the imagination of the baseball world.”

Nine of his 14 team members are alive, and all of them still live in Monterrey, said Winokur, who tracked them down, as he did for the California team.

“A lot of people ask me for my favorite anecdote,” Winokur said. “It wasn’t the perfect game, that moment of victory. It wasn’t meeting the Brooklyn Dodgers or going to the White House to meet the President of the United States.”

“What still chokes me is the walk to McAllen, Texas. It’s 12 miles from the bridge to the field,” he said. “I tried to imagine walking in single file for 12 miles in the heat of a Texas summer.”

“When I think about what these kids did,” Winokur said, choking. “They were walking to lose, not to make history. For me, that’s the heart of this story. It’s one of the few times the universe has chosen to reward the right people.”

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