KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Mexican American Fast Pitch Softball League is a piece of Kansas City’s legacy.
The league did more than just connect communities across state lines. It gave way for rich traditions and culture that still carries out at many fields.
“Getting out on that field, hearing the crack of the bat, the sound of the slam of the ball into the glove, it’s just an exciting thing,” said Dr. Gene T. Chavez, Kansas City Museum curator. “What’s important to me is documenting the history of Mexicans and other Latinos in Kansas City because it’s under reported.”
The Eagles, Locos, Aztecas, Amigos, Bravos, and Angels are all Kansas City metro and other big-league teams. They had their hay days back in the 1940-1960’s.
Chavez said every game was a true fiesta, but only because they were forced to make it that way.
He explained the local Argentine neighborhood history “it was an area inhabited with Hispanic people looking for work on the railroad.”
“They brought with them the love of baseball,” he said.
But says many were met with segregation.
“The [American Legion] Post Commander said, ‘No we don’t allow Mexican’s and Black’s, we’re sorry,’” Chavez said. “So, the guys walked out and later formed their own charter. Rather than tucking their tails between their legs and saying, ‘poor us’ they said, ‘hey we will do our own thing.’ So they did, they started leagues of their own.”
Many men KSHB 41 spoke too were a memorable part of the league.
Tony Moreno who played on the Azteca’s remembers the discrimination.
“I had to fight prejudice in the ball field because they didn’t want somebody from the east side of the town to penetrate the west side of town,” Moreno said.
But through adversity, their Mexican American Fast Pitch Softball League grew and grew.
“Playing softball really brought us together,” said Mario Escobar who played on the Amigos. “We were able to show we loved the game and that’s where the respect came from.”
Former players said the league was truly a family affair, a place to get competitive, celebrate, a chance to travel, and make lifelong friends.
For some it was an opportunity to go from the barrios to the big leagues.
John Torrez said his younger brother Mike Torrez, signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“He played 18 years in the majors,” Torrez said, who played on the Livingston’s. “He’s the last pitcher to pitch two complete games in the world series. Nobody has done that since 1977. How many Hispanics do you see doing that? So you got to be proud.”
Chavez said out of pride in the 1940s came to be Eagles Nest field, their American Legion Post in Argentine, (now incorporated Kansas City, Kansas.)
“I’ve seen a lot of balls go out this ballpark right here,” Torrez said.
The former players would tell you it’s no secret the league has died out, but this group, and mother others around Kansas and Missouri will continue to tell their legacies, memories and laughs to young people.
“But now it’s coming back,” Chavez said. “The young people are saying ‘Grandpa you used to play ball, teach me how to do a fast pitch.’”
Chavez says that’s the traditions they want passed down, so their kids don’t have to be met with the discrimination they did.
“It’s very important,” Moreno said. “Because when I grew up, I needed to tell everybody who I was and that I was Mexican.”
To learn more about the Mexican American Fast Pitch Softball League you can find a recent exhibit at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.