Photo credit: @AguilasDeMxli
By: Lewis Rubman
November 11, 2018
Charros de Jalisco: 0 | 5 | 2
Aguilas de Mexicali: 7 | 11 | 0
MEXICALI, Baja California — The Caribbean Series is the culmination of the Winter Leagues’ season and, very likely, the most important event in the world of Spanish-speaking baseball. It began in 1949 and continued through 1960, as a result of Cuba’s ban on professional sports. Cuba, the Dominican Republic (then known as Santo Domingo), Puerto Rico, Panama, and Venezuela competed during the dozen years of this stage in Caribbean Series history. Each of these except Venezuela won at least one championship, with Cuba leading the pack with seven, followed by Puerto Rico with four, and Panama with one.
The Series was revived in 1970, without Cuban participation. The Liga Mexicana del Pacífico was added in 1971. The tournament has been celebrated every February since then with the exception of a one-year hiatus in 1981. Cuba returned to competition as a guest, but not a member, of the sponsoring Caribbean Baseball Federation, in 2015 and promptly won the tournament. Puerto Rico’s Caguas Criollos has brought the crown home to that island for the last two years. The totals for championships since 1949 is nineteen for the Dominican, sixteen for Puerto Rico, nine for Mexico, eight for the Cubans, seven for Venezuela, and one for Panama.
In its current format, the five participating teams play 13 games in seven days. In the first round, which lasts five days, each team plays two games against each of the others and enjoys one day of rest. At the end of this round, the team with the lowest won-lost percentage is eliminated.
Today, we won’t go into the complex tie breaking procedures. The surviving squads play a one-and-done four team double header, with the first and fourth place finishers facing each other, as do the second and third place teams. The winners of those games duke it out in the final game. In both the semi-finals and the final contest, the team with the higher winning percentage in the opening round gets to bat last. Jalisco has never competed as Mexico’s representative to the Series, while the closest Mexicali has come to winning since its 1968 championship was in 2017 when it lost the final game–played in Culiacán–to Puerto Rico’s Caguas Criollos by the score of 1-0.
I suffer from gout, so I can’t enjoy eating the tempting food for sale in the Estadio B’Air, aka the El Nido de los Aguilas, The Eagles’ Nest.But, just as General Sternwood indulged his vices by proxy while watching Phillip Marlowe down brandy and smoke a cigar at the beginning of The Big Sleep, I get great pleasure from watching people at the Nido enjoy the culinary delights that are denied to me. I mentioned one of them, Bubba Smith’s hotdogs, in yesterday’s report. They’re similar to the ones you can buy fresh off the griddle on the bridge between BART and the Oakland Coliseum and, judging by their smell, delicious. Another delicacy are the pig tails, fried and sold by Chel Vásquez and his family at the stadium. You might want something to wash down all your Bubbas and pig tails. Try a clamato, a juice invented in Mexicali. You can get it straight or mixed with olives. Cerveza Sol offers its beer mixed with clamato and sold in cans but served in plastic bottles at the ballpark. They were giving away shot glass sized samples at todays game. My wife says it was delicious. Tecate is another beer prominent on the premises. Or maybe you’d prefer a few tequilas with lime and salt. Indeed, lime and hot sauce are available with practically every bit of food or drink you want at the ball park.
Mexicali swept its three-game series with Jalisco by whipping them 7-0 in this afternoon’s contest, repeating many elements of last night and the night before’s story. Once again, neither team’s batter provided a home run. And the Aguilas starter again went deep into the game with an extremely strong performance. Javier Solano held the Charros scoreless over seven innings, in which he yielded five hits, struck out seven, and walked two. Michael Devine and Randel Lazo each pitched a perfect frame to preserve the win for Solano and Mexicali.
Agustin Murillo, the Charros’ usually sure handed third baseman contributed twice to Mexicali’s scoring. Jason Bourgeois opened the bottom of the third with a hard hit bouncer than skipped between his legs, leading to starting and losing pitcher Elián Leyva being yanked after two and two-thirds innings, even though none of the three runs he had alllowed was earning and he had given up only one hit. Still, it was clear that Leyva had no command over the situation. Felipe González, Jared Lakind, and Linder Castro held Mexicali at bay until things fell apart for the Charros in Mexicali’s bottom of the seventh, when they pushed four runs across the plate, aided by Murillo’s inability to handle Ramón Ríos’ hard shot to third. It was a tough play, and Ríos deserved the hit with which he was credited, but it opened the door for the four runs that put the game out of reach for the Jalisco nine.
Mexicali finished the weekend in third place, at 13-12. Jalisco, with a 12-14 record, slipped to seventh place in the eight-team league.
We were sorry to leave Mexicali, especially because after an hour and a half’s waiting in line to cross the border (it could be worse; a fellow press box denizen told us of a relative who had spent seven hours in line one day), we were randomly selected to wait another half an hour while our rental car received a secondary inspection. I’ve had a lot of good things to say about Mexicali, and I hope they will encourage some of you to enjoy the pleasures the city, its people, and its peloteros can provide. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn you about the unpleasant nature of a northbound border crossing.