Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Perfect Game – A review

William Winokur wrote a wonderful book about a seemingly impossible true story of how a little league baseball team won a world championship

Imagine yourself being a teenager in Monterrey, Mexico where the possibilities for a rewarding life appear to be remote at best.  The available jobs are in steel and glass where the work environment is excruciatingly hot, and the pay is barely enough to feed a family. 

However, children tend to have dreams that can be more powerful than the reality adults expose them to.  A few teenagers in Monterrey, Mexico in the year 1957 had dreams of being professional baseball players.  They identified with players like Sandy Koufax and Stan Musial.  But there was a problem.  They appeared to have no resources.

Preparing for the Little League

Then, they discovered Cesar Faz who once had a job cleaning locker rooms for the St Louis Cardinals.  Faz never had a chance at a coaching job in the majors because of his Mexican heritage. 

However, the young people from Monterrey wanted nothing more than Faz to be their coach.  The problem was that Cesar Faz had a grueling job in a glass factory and the young baseball players had no field to practice.  These were not insurmountable obstacles.

The young players from Monterrey cleared a field of rocks, weeds, and junk so they could practice.  Cesar Faz was inspired by the determination of these youngsters.  He agreed to coach the team and entered them in the little league championships that would take place in about four weeks. 

However, there were more obstacles.  The team would need funding in a town where workers barely had enough resources to eat.  The team would have four weeks to practice for a competition against the best teams in the little leagues. 

In order to play in their first game, the team would have to walk ten miles from the Mexican border to McAllen, Texas.  Norberto Villarreal cut his foot in Monterrey before the long walk.  He walked the entire distance with this injured foot because he didn’t want to be cut from the team.

Although Cesar Fax trained his team well, he didn’t think they had a chance to win  their first game.  He made arrangements with his girlfriend to meet her family after he expected his team to loose.  But they won that game.  The team continued to win in Texas.  The press in that state wanted their teams to get even with Mexico for the defeat of Texas in the fortress called the Alamo.

The Mexican children become champions

The little league team from Monterrey continued to surmount all the seemingly insurmountable challenges on and off the field.  They made it to the final game that they would play against the team from La Mesa, California.  La Mesa had been demolishing all their opponents by many runs.  La Mesa’s players were about five inches taller than the players from Monterrey. 

The workers of Monterrey had become inspired by the accomplishments of their little league team.  Hundreds of workers went on a candle light march to the owner of the steel mill.  They informed this owner that they would be taking an afternoon off in order to listen to the game between La Mesa and Monterrey.

La Mesa proved to be a worthy adversary and Monterrey was held scoreless for four innings.  However, Angel Macias was pitching a perfect a perfect game against the hard-hitting team from La Mesa.
Then, in the fifth inning Monterrey broke the game open and scored four runs.  On the final out Angel Macias pitched three consecutive balls.  Cesar Faz walked to the mound and had a talk with his pitcher.  He complained that this was the first time he needed to wake up from his nap during the game. 

After this talk, Macias threw three strikes and the game was over.  This was the only perfect game in the history of the little leagues.  We should also mention that Enrique Suarez was the other pitcher who contributed to this championship.

The team then had meetings with the presidents of the United States and Mexico.  However, one of their most thrilling moments after their victory was when they viewed a Brooklyn Dodgers game and met with the players.

Back in Monterrey, the team was greeted by 500,000 fans in one of the most momentous events in the history of the city.  The Mexican government gave every member of the team lifetime scholarships to continue their education.  Unfortunately many players needed to care for their families and this made it impossible for these players to take advantage of their scholarships.

This story is particularly relevant today when the United States government has a wall aimed at preventing Mexican people from immigrating to the United States.  The story of The Perfect Game demonstrates that in a fair game young people from the United States and Mexico can not only compete, but they are capable of inspiring people throughout the world.

The Perfect Game

Published by Kissena Park Press

Copyright 2008 by William Winokur

This book was made into the 2010 film The Perfect Game directed by William Dear.



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