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01/12/2007 Archived Entry: "MAESTROS of MEXICO #2: Teolindo "Teo" Acosta"

by Bruce Baskin

Teo Acosta was one of the top batters in the Mexican League for nine seasons between 1968 and 1976, winning three LMB batting titles in a six-year span. Never a power hitter, the 5’6” 158-pound outfielder was a contact hitter who rarely struck out and sprayed the ball all over the field, similar in fashion to Rod Carew.

Teolindo Antonio Acosta Lazaro was born July 23, 1937 in Maracaibo, Venezuela. He broke into minor league baseball with Dothan of the Class D Alabama-Florida League in 1958, batting .313 with 76 RBI’s and a league-leading 36 stolen bases in 124 games. For whatever reason, the parent Cincinnati Reds assigned him to Dothan for a second season in 1959, and he responded by bopping out a .337 average and led the circuit with 46 steals. Sufficiently impressed, the Reds moved Acosta up to Billings of the Class C Pioneer League the next season, where he topped the loop with a .369 average (the first of his five pro batting crowns) and 45 swipes. He leapfrogged over B ball in 1961 to play for Class A Columbia of the Sally League, and once more was best in the league in batting (.343) and steals (40), marking his fourth consecutive stolen base titles.

He cooled off a bit over the next few seasons, batting between .269 and 294 from 1962 through 1966, and after only hitting .238 for Buffalo of the International League over 49 games in 1967, he moved south to Mexico for the 1968 campaign with Puebla.

Acosta found his footing in the Mexican League, bettering .320 his first eight seasons. He hit .325 for the Pericos in 1968, followed by a Liga batting crown with a .354 average in 1969. Despite that, he moved on to Yucatan in 1970. After hitting .337 that season (including one game in which he went 6-for-6 with six runs), he was the top hitter in Mexico in 1971 with a career-high .392 BA and followed up with a solid .346 season in 1972. Acosta returned to Puebla during his .375 campaign in 1973, and won his fifth and final batting championship in 1974 with a .366 showing. After hitting .320 for Villahermoso in 1975, he wrapped up his career as a 39-year-old with Nuevo Laredo in 1976 by batting .276, his only sub-.300 season in nine Mexican League campaigns.

The left-handed Acosta carried a lifetime .328 average in 19 seasons of professional baseball, collecting 2,724 hits with 64 homers and 389 stolen bases. He did even better in Mexico, knocking out a .345 batting average (sixth-best lifetime in the Liga) with 132 stolen bases. He led all of professional baseball in batting in 1971 and 1974. Despite these figures, he is not a member of Mexican baseball’s Salon de la Fama.

Acosta returned home to Venezeula to play ball during the winter for 23 seasons, and is number two on the Venezuelan League career hit list with 1,289 safeties in 1,239 games. He won two batting titles and finished with a career winter average of .298.

After retiring from winter ball in 1979, Acosta settled down in Valencia. Known in Venezuela as “El Inventor de Hit,” he died from heart problems on August 2, 2004 at 67.

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