The Mexican Baseball League is a professional baseball league based in Mexico and the oldest running professional league in the country. It is a class Triple-A league in organized Minor League Baseball, one grade below Major League Baseball. Unlike the other two Triple-A circuits, the International League and the Pacific Coast League, Mexican League teams are not affiliated with major league teams.
The league has a total of 16 teams organized in two divisions, North and South, with the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos splitting games between the United States and Mexico. Teams play 114 games each season. Five teams in each division advance to a four-round postseason tournament that culminates in the Serie del Rey, a best-of-seven championship series between the two division champions. The Mexican League has two minor leagues of its own, the Liga Norte de México and Mexican Academy League.
Though founded in 1925, the league did not join the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues until the 1950s, when it was designated a Double-A league. Some member teams entered player development contracts with teams in the National League at that time. Triple-A classification was granted in 1967. Shortly before the start of World War II, the Mexican League attracted various players from the Negro Leagues including Satchel Paige and Roy Campanella, as well as defected Cuban ballplayers who wanted to avoid the draft.
League organizationFrom 1925 to the 1960s, the league consisted of about six teams each season. The league expanded to eight teams in the 1960s. In 1970, after the circuit had grown to 10 teams, the league was split geographically for the first time. In 1979, the Mexican Central League was absorbed into the expanded Liga Mexicana de Beisbol. The newly expanded league featured a 20-team circuit with four divisions. However, after a series of team bankruptcies, the Mexican League was reduced to 14 teams in two divisions.
Although there is a stable core of teams in the league, it is not unusual for clubs to relocate. Often, new incarnations of the teams come about through new owners. Teams also cease after unsatisfactory results or bankruptcy. Since its foundation in 1925, more than 90 teams have passed through the Mexican League, and the only organizations that have remained since their inception are the Sultanes de Monterrey, Diablos Rojos del Mexico, Tigres de Quintana Roo, Saraperos de Saltillo, and Piratas de Campeche. The Acereros del Norte have played uninterrupted since 1982, the Olmecas de Tabasco since 1977, and the Leones de Yucatán since 1979.
|North||Acereros de Monclova||Monclova, Coahuila||Monclova||8,500||1974|
|North||Algodoneros de Unión Laguna||Torreón, Coahuila||Revolución||9,500||1940|
|North||Generales de Durango||Durango, Durango||Francisco Villa||4,983||2016|
|North||Rieleros de Aguascalientes||Aguascalientes City, Aguascalientes||Alberto Romo Chávez||6,494||1975|
|North||Saraperos de Saltillo||Saltillo, Coahuila||Francisco I. Madero||16,000||1970|
|North||Sultanes de Monterrey||Monterrey, Nuevo León||Mobil Super||22,061||1939|
|North||Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos||Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas|
|Parque la Junta|
|North||Toros de Tijuana||Tijuana, Baja California||Chevron||17,000||2004|
|South||Bravos de León||León, Guanajuato||Domingo Santana||6,500||1978|
|South||Diablos Rojos del México||Iztacalco, Mexico City||Alfredo Harp Helú||20,576||1940|
|South||Guerreros de Oaxaca||Oaxaca City, Oaxaca||Eduardo Vasconcelos||7,200||1996|
|South||Leones de Yucatán||Mérida, Yucatán||Kukulcán Alamo||14,917||1954|
|South||Olmecas de Tabasco||Villahermosa, Tabasco||Centenario 27 de Febrero||8,500||1975|
|South||Pericos de Puebla||Puebla City, Puebla||Hermanos Serdán||12,112||1938|
|South||Piratas de Campeche||Campeche City, Campeche||Nelson Barrera||6,000||1980|
|South||Tigres de Quintana Roo||Cancún, Quintana Roo||Beto Ávila||9,500||1955|
Beginnings of Mexican baseballSome sources claim that baseball reached Mexican soil because of the US military forces that participated in the US-Mexico War between 1846 and 1848. The last decades of the nineteenth century have been beneficial to the baseball boom, while American companies were investing in various sectors of the Mexican economy and their employees were broadcasting the game. The origin of baseball in Mexico City, the capital dates back to 1887 with the birth of the "Mexican Club", which is undoubtedly the oldest team of the republic. Already in professional baseball, Mexico is part of the Mexican league to date. With the arrival of the 20th century, baseball has become one of the favorite sports of all of Mexico. Several clubs on tour came from the Yucatán Peninsula and many of the baseball players even stayed to live in the republic.
As early as 1925, Mexicans' interest in baseball was such that sports journalist Alejandro Aguilar Reyes and his friend baseball player Ernesto Carmona founded the Mexican League. They had to overcome many difficult obstacles, especially when, on 26 May, the Mexican Association prepared a "coup" against them. They managed to smother it, but it remained a powerful enemy: the Schismatic League, which then disappeared. Many of these competing leagues were then absorbed by the LMB, the most famous being Central League in 1979.
When the LMB was founded, baseball increased its popularity in Mexico and the first foundations began on February 24, 1925 with the unification of Mexicans and DF Associations, leaving a single body that led baseball at that time. Directors Ernesto Carmona and Eduardo R. Rodríguez have pushed baseball on the right track, even in their first, second, third, fourth, youth and even child categories. But the vision, the knowledge and, above all, the respect of the rules of the organized baseball, Alejandro Aguilar Reyes and Ernesto Carmona, and after several meetings with the owners of the club, began to build the circuit.
Reyes and Carmona continued their efforts for the founding of the League and, once the rules were established, "Fray Nano" Reyes remained as president. In addition to owning the famous Franco-English baseball stadium, he also owned the Referees Association, a journalist, and sometimes used harnesses to call bullets and strikes, or to help at bases. Four days before the first official game of the Mexican League and after a long meeting that ended around midnight on Wednesday, June 24, the basics of the season were laid:
"Eduardo Ampudia, Ernesto Carmona, General Andrés Zarzoza, Agustín Verde, Jesús García
and Jorge Bixler are the owners of Mexican league clubs.
The league was made up of 6 teams with a 14-game role per club and started on June 28 and ended on October 18, 1925. Each team could have up to 20 players and matches could be played in the stadium.
In 1925, Mexican Alejandro Aguilar Reyes and his friend baseball player Ernesto Carmona founded the Mexican League, arousing a keen interest in baseball. They had to overcome many difficult obstacles, especially when a "coup d'etat" was prepared against them by the Mexican association on 26 May, but they managed to smother him, but he remained a powerful enemy: the Cisática Liga, which then disappeared. Many of these competing leagues were later absorbed by the LMB, including the Central League in 1979.
Popularity and growthThe sport's popularity rose immediately and culminated with the first Mexican-born major leaguers.
During the so-called "first stage of the Mexican League" the league attracted several well renowned players from Cuba and the Negro Leagues. Cuban ballplayers Martín Di higo, Lázaro Salazar, Brujo Rossell, Agustín Bejerano all played in Mexico at some point. The era was mostly dominated by the teams in the central areas of the country, in and around Mexico City. The first champions were Regimiento 74, a team from Puebla. After that for a solid decade the Championship was only won by teams from the capital city, with Agrario de Mexico and Tigres de Comintra dominating with two titles each. In the late 30s, when the first wave of Cuban players arrived, teams from the Gulf coast started dominating the league; they were more attractive to Cuban players given their proximity to their home island, with the Cafeteros de Cordoba and the Rojos del Águila de Veracruz winning titles.
Because of the late foundation of the league, there never was a "dead-ball" era, which helped enhance the sport's popularity quickly. This along with the fact that it was only played on weekends, which allowed for easy following on a game to game basis, helped the sport grow a lot.
1949: Landmark ruling of ''Gardella v. Chandler''The U.S. Supreme Court case Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs held that the baseball leagues and their commissioner are not violating antitrust laws when they ban, trade, or otherwise change the playing eligibility of players.
The ruling went untested until the Mexican League was formed. Players who went to play in the Mexican League were blacklisted from Major League Baseball. One such player, Danny Gardella, was blacklisted because he had specifically violated his contract by going to play professional baseball in Mexico.
During 1948, Gardella brought a claim against Commissioner of Baseball Happy Chandler, the National League and American League, as well as their presidents. Gardella charged that they were engaged in interstate commerce because the defendants had made contracts with radio broadcasting and television companies that sent narratives or moving pictures of the games across state lines. MLB then settled with Gardella and offered all Mexican League jumpers amnesty, protecting the ambiguity of the antitrust protection.
In 1949, Gardella won a major appeal against baseball's reserve clause in the federal courts. This successful appeal is recognized as the first major early step towards baseball free agency.
Expansion and MiLBFor most of its existence, the league consisted of six to eight teams. During its first few decades most of the league's teams played around Mexico City and the Gulf Coast. The southernmost team being Veracruz, while the northernmost team being Tampico. Most of Mexico City's teams disappeared in the late '30s, and were replaced by teams all around the country. It wasn't until the 1940s, that the League first reached the northern part of the country with the introduction of the Sultanes de Monterrey. Teams in Nuevo Laredo and Torreon soon followed. The tricky west coast first had a team in 1949 with the emergence of the Charros de Jalisco. It still was a tricky region given the presence of the Mexican Pacific League an important winter league in the North West.
The emergence of teams in the North was key in expanding the league's popularity. The North followed baseball closely, because of various aspects that all helped its teams thrive and has been the home of the most consistent teams in the League, with the Saraperos, Sultanes and Acereros not having stopped play in over 40 years. For the Sultanes it even resulted in a Minor League partnership with the Dodgers, and played a major role in the league achieving AAA status with the Minor Leagues. This achievement should be attributed mainly to Anuar Canavati, who is considered one of the greatest Mexican baseball executives along Peralta and Harp. His relationship with NAPBL was key in the growth of Mexican baseball.
Southern Mexico has also been a bastion of baseball, with both the Tabasco and Campeche teams enjoying consistent attendance due to the sport's popularity. The league first expanded southward with the introduction of the Olmecas de Tabasco in 1975, which was followed by the Piratas de Campeche in 1980, and the Leones de Yucatán in 1979. The newly expanded league featured a 20-team circuit with four divisions. However, after a series of team bankruptcies, the Mexican League was reduced to 14 teams in two divisions.
Rule changes and the introduction of playoffsAfter a failed experiment in the 1937 season, before the 1970 season teams were divided into zones, by their geographic position. This was done to lower travel costs, and make baseball operations cheaper. It took the League three years to take advantage of the new zone rules, and create a playoff system for the first time. In 1973 the first Serie Final LMB occurred. Although through the introduction of new teams, the members of each zone change every year each zone has maintained a core of the northernmost and southernmost teams. In 1974 the League introduced the designated hitter rule.
The 21st century and future expansionThe league has found the stability it lacked in the 90s, and has managed to sustain 16 teams for almost two decades. Although mismanagement and various causes inconsistent teams, the loss of franchises is always replaced. Even though attendances have decreased there's been a surge in popularity in the last two years, with the inauguration of new ballparks in Mexico City, events celebrating the leagues 90th season, and the recent visits of MLB teams to Mexico.
It was unanimously approved that there should be an expansion in the LMB from 16 to 18 clubs, with previous analysis of applications for membership, based on the chronological order in which they were made, the possible places would be:
- Chiapas: Expressed interest in 2014.
- Chetumal: After his only participation on the circuit in the season 1998, he expressed interest in 2014.
- Mazatlán: Expressed interest in 2014.
- Culiacán: City in the state of Sinaloa that expressed interest in 2014.
- Dorados de Chihuahua: After his disappearance in season 2011, he expressed interest in 2016.
UniformsA baseball uniform is a type of uniform worn by baseball players, and by some non-playing personnel, such as field managers and coaches. It is worn to indicate the person's role in the game and—through the use of logos, colors, and numbers—to identify the teams and their players, managers, and coaches.
Traditionally, home uniforms display the team name on the front, while away uniforms display the team's home location. In modern times, however, exceptions to this pattern have become common, with teams using their team name on both uniforms. Most teams also have one or more alternate uniforms, usually consisting of the primary or secondary team color on the vest instead of the usual white or gray. In the past few decades throwback uniforms have become popular.
In contrast to the Major Leagues in which teams commonly wear a white uniform at home, and a grey one for away games, Mexican League teams go for a coloured option when out of town. This has been long attributed to the league being younger, but is in fact a technique used in the 1970s to attract larger crowds and make teams more recognizable.
PreseasonPreseason is a series of practices and exhibition games preceding the start of the regular season. Teams hold training camps usually in their home states, but in smaller towns, or in one of their Minor Leagues, where they are able to connect to fans that do not have the possibility of watching their teams play regularly. Spring training allows new players to audition for roster and position spots, and gives existing team players practice time prior to competitive play. Spring training has always attracted fan attention, because of the fact that teams visit towns not accustomed to receiving professional baseball. Autograph seekers also find greater access to players during spring training.
Spring training typically lasts about a month and a half, starting in mid-February and running until just before the season opening day, traditionally in late March or early April. As pitchers benefit from a longer training period, pitchers and catchers begin spring training several days before the rest of the team.
Regular seasonThe current LMB regular season, consisting of 120 games per team, typically begins in late March or early April. Each team's schedule is typically organized into three-game series. Postponed games or continuations of suspended games can result in an ad hoc one-game or five-game series. A team's series are organized into homestands and road trips that group multiple series together. Teams generally play games five to six days per week, commonly having Monday or Sunday as an off day. Frequently, games are scheduled at night. Sunday games are generally played during the afternoon. In addition, teams will play day games frequently on Opening Day, holidays, and getaway days.
Each team plays either six or nine games against each opponent.
Over the course of a season, teams compete for the five playoff berths in their respective zones. In order to secure a berth, a team must either be in the top four of their zone, or capture a wild card spot by finishing with a record no worse than three games than the fourth place.
All-Star gameIn mid-to-late July, just after the midway point of the season, the LMB All-Star Game is held during a four-day break from the regular-season schedule. The All-Star Game features a team of players from the North Zone—led by the manager of the previous North Serie del Rey team—and a team of players from the South Zone, similarly managed, in an exhibition game. It has been held consistently since 1942 and from that year up until 1971 a team of foreign players battled it out against a team of Mexicans.
The first game of stars took place on August 29 from 1939 in the disappeared Delta Park of Mexico City, in a match between the selections of Ernesto Carmona and Manuel Oliveros, the match ended in 11 innings 1 run to 0 in favor of the Oliveros team, Apolinar Pulido Polín hit quadrangular field to the right garden to Ramon Bragaña. At the time the Juego de Estrellas defined the venue at the start of the Serie del Rey, being the temporada 2016 the last time this happened.
PostseasonWhen the regular season ends at the end of August, between eight and ten teams enter the postseason playoffs. These consist of eight teams by earning the best four regular season overall win-loss record for their respective divisions, and there is an optional extra two who are "wild-card" teams that would each be the fifth-best regular season win-loss record, and must be at a 3.0 game difference with the fourth team. Four rounds of series of games would be played to determine the champion:
- The Wild Card Game between the fourth and fifth best teams in each division.*
- The First Playoff two per zone, each is a best-of-five-game series.
- The Zona Norte and Zona Sur Championship Series each is a best-of-seven-game series between the winners of each Zone's First Playoff Matches
- The Serie del Rey a best-of-seven-game series between each zone's champion.
DopingSimilarly to the MLB the Mexican League has fallen prey to doping by several players. Between 2012 and 2016 45 players tested positive at the Mexican Baseball League's Prevention and Control of Substances program, all of whom were suspended according to the organized baseball anti-doping rule, headed by the Major Leagues. Even so, the league has been accused of "softening" its anti-doping policy to create a safe space for foreign ballplayers who wish to continue their career there.
Allegedly the league allows players to pay a fine equivalent to US$5000, without suspension to make the positive test "disappear". This has caused controversy among the fans and media who have called for the head of President Javier Salinas. As recently as August 2019, a player has tested positive, and a press release informing the media of said situation has been handed out, while protecting the player's name, without further consequence.
TelevisionLocal television stations broadcast many matches of the local team to which they are directed. Another option is pay television, which gives good coverage to baseball in general, and in the case of the "LMB", the channels Sky Sports, AYM sports, and TVC Deportes, broadcast games from the different areas of the league. Sky Sports is also the official television of the games at home of the red devils of Mexico and sultans of monterrey, making it the channel that has the greatest coverage of the league.
RadioLa Liga Mexicana de Béisbol has an agreement with Cadena RASA, through which the radio company has the rights to broadcast exclusively for the entire Mexican Republic, the Juego de Estrellas and the Final Series of the LMB, as well as any other baseball event of national relevance that is presented. To achieve this, Cadena RASA connects with all its stations throughout the Mexican territory, making it possible to listen to matches anywhere. Gustavo Torrero, a well-known baseball commentator on radio and television, is the leader of the project; at the same time he is a narrator along with Javier Figueroa and some other guest commentators.
Cadena RASA is the only radio station that broadcasts nationally, which is concerned about giving space to baseball, in addition to the agreement with the LMB, its sports program "Marcador Final" gives special importance to baseball. This program is transmitted on Sundays at 6 p.m. in the different stations of the company throughout the Republic, with comments from Gustavo Torrero, Leonardo Hernandez, Javier Figueroa, and at the time Pedro "Mago" Septien, who was known as one of the best sports chroniclers of all time, especially baseball.
In addition to this, all teams have their matches broadcast on local radio.
World Wide WebSince the 2014 season, LMB has been working hand in hand with AYM Sports, a company that transmits circuit games on the Internet through the purchase of prepaid cards. The hiring of the service can be done in the web page LMB.TV.
Likewise, Cinépolis and the Mexican Baseball League achieved a historical synergy for the diffusion of the circuit through Cinépolis KLIC, since from post season 2017 some of the matches of the LMB would be transmitted live via streaming through this platform.
On the other hand, the LMB signed a one-of-a-kind agreement with Facebook to exclusively broadcast a total of 132 regular season games and eight Playoffs during its 2018 "Alfredo Harp Helú" Season through Facebook Live. These transmissions would be free and would be available from March 22 of that year on the Facebook page of the LMB.