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01/19/2007 Archived Entry: "MAESTROS OF MEXICO #3: Mel Almada"

by Bruce Baskin

Baldomero “Mel” Almada, OF (1932-41)

The first Mexican-born player to reach major league baseball, Mel Almada roamed American League outfields in the 1930’s and gained a reputation as a speedy fielder and good contact hitter for the Boston Red Sox, Washington Senators and St. Louis Browns before spending part of his final season in the National League with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The 6’0” 170-pound left-handed Baldomero Melo “Mel” Almada Quiroz was born February 7, 1913 in the small coastal town of Huatabampo, Sonora (near the current Mexican Pacific League city of Navojoa), but grew up in Los Angeles and spoke perfect English. Almada broke into pro ball as a 19-year-old with Seattle of the Pacific Coast League, batting .311 with six homers for the Indians. Almada would never hit more than five homers in a season again, but after batting .323 with 204 hits for Seattle in 1933, the Red Sox called him up for a 20-game stint, where he hit .341. Almada struggled for Boston in 1934, hitting just .233 in 23 games and spending most of the season in Kansas City and batting .328 for the Blues. He came back for good in 1935, landing a starting job in the Red Sox outfield and collecting 176 en route to a .290 year at the plate, finishing third in the AL with 20 stolen bases.

Almada played with Boston until June 10, 1937, when he was swapped to Washington along with brothers Rick and Wes Ferrell for Bobo Newsom and Ben Chapman. After batting just .236 for the Bosox in 32 games, Almada came alive with the Senators and hit .309 over his remaining 100 games to finish at .295 for the season. However, after another slow start in 1938, he was sent to the Browns for Sam West. Again, the deal woke up Mel’s bat as he batted .342 for St. Louis the rest of the way to end at .311 and a career-best 197 hits (topping the circuit with 158 singles).

Even that 1938 campaign wasn’t enough to keep Almada in St. Louis for long, and after yet another slow start (.239 over 42 games), he was dealt away once again. This time, the money-starved Browns sold him to Brooklyn for cash. Unlike years past, though, Almada did not rebound after the deal, hitting just .214 for the Dodgers in 1939 prior to his release. He landed back in the PCL with Sacramento in 1940, but only hit .233 in limited duty. Just 28 years old, Almada wrapped up his career in 1941 with Union Laguna in the Mexican League, the only year he ever played in his native country. Almada played just 28 games for the Torreon club, but did well with a .343 average.

In his seven-year major league career, Almada batted .284 with 706 hits and 15 homers. He was an effective top-of-the-order batter who rarely struck out while his on-base percentage topped .300 seven times. Almada was a good baserunner, too, swiping 47 bases between 1935 and 1938 in an era where base-stealing was not often employed. Although his career in Mexico was limited to his one campaign with Union Laguna in the Liga and some managerial experience in the old winter Pacific Coast League (the forerunner to the modern-day MexPac), Almada was voted into the Salon de la Fama in 1971. His status as the first major leaguer from Mexico earned his enshrinement, but he should also be remembered as a quality player who spent most of his big league career as a starter. Mel Almada passed away at age 75 in Caborca, Sonora in 1988.

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