Héctor Espino González, Baseball Superstar and Icon from Mexico (Part II)

Part I highlighted Héctor Espino’s summer seasons,  1960-1984. It included career comparisons between him and Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Joshua (Josh) Gibson, Babe Ruth, and Sadaharu Oh. Part II transitions to Espino’s Mexican Pacific League (LMP)  career and his career hits comparisons with Pete Rose. Part II emphasizes Espino’s 24 winter seasons with Hermosillo Naranjeros (Orange Growers). Part III will focus on his seven Caribbean Series events. Espino was born in the municipality of Chihuahua, Mexico, on June 6, 1939. His nicknames were “El Niño,” “The Mexican Babe Ruth,” “El Supermán de Chihuahua,” among others. He was 5’10” with a playing weight of 192 pounds.

We begin with a special interview with Daniel “Dany” Espino, Gerente Deportivo (GM), Bravos de León, Liga Mexicana de Béisbol (LMB). Born in Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo, January 30, 1971, he is one of seven children born to Espino and Carmen Vázquez, aka Doña Carmelita, married, 1963-to-1997. Six surviving children are Alejandro, Moisés, Gabriel, Daniel, Héctor, and Omar. The author spoke with Dany, Wednesday evening, April 21, 2021—the first anniversary of his mother’s passing.

Dany Espino Remembers his Beloved Father, Héctor Espino González

Héctor Espino with his family. (Courtesy of Dany Espino)

Dany (.295 career AVG in 12 LMB summer seasons as a 1B/OF) indicated that his father—who passed away from a heart attack at age 58, September 6, 1997—was a “better father, husband, brother than he was a player.” Héctor Espino helped siblings, aunts, and uncles financially. He was more interested in instilling a work ethic in his children and encouraging them to get an education than he was focusing on material items. “Off the field, dad was soft-spoken, down-to-earth, without any pretension,” said Dany. “On the field, after fans handed him cash for hitting an HR, he gave the money to batboys.” Dany recalled one Monterrey Sultanes batboy came to the ballpark “better dressed than the team’s players!” When his dad played winter ball with Hermosillo, Dany noted his family bonded with Jerry Hairston Sr., who played with Hermosillo eight winter seasons, through the early 1980s. Jerry Sr. was an import (refuerzo) with Hermosillo, who married a lady from Mexico (Esperanza). Dany interacted with future major leaguers, Scott Hairston and Jerry Jr., sons of Jerry Sr. and Esperanza.

Héctor Espino’s favorite Stateside singer was Frank Sinatra (1915-1998). Armando Manzanero (1935-2020) was his all-time favorite from Mexico. Manzanero, from Yucatán, was inducted in various Music and Songwriters Hall of Fames. Espino enjoyed comedy, too. Eulalio González (1921-2003), aka “Piporro,” was his favorite comedian. Mario Moreno (1911-1993), aka Cantinflas, made Espino, and many others, throughout the world, laugh. Cantinflas was an avid baseball fan of Mexico City Tigers, who played home games at “Deportivo del Seguro Social” Stadium. https://www.milb.com/news/gcs-23108840 Espino’s favorite sport, outside of baseball, was boxing. He met Julio César Chavez (107-6-2, with 86 knockouts), from Ciudad Obregón. 

Mickey Mantle—Espino’s Favorite Big Leaguer; Espino’s Forearms and Natural Ability

Héctor Espino (courtesy Dany Espino)

Espino admired Mantle. They shared a common blue-collar work ethic since Mantle’s dad was a zinc miner in northeast Oklahoma. Espino’s father owned two dump trucks. Héctor, per Dany, helped his father (Dany’s grandfather) out as a mechanic from age 10-12 through his teen years.  He changed tires; worked on rims; inserted lug nuts; unloaded material… “Mom said dad (Héctor) had “forearms and hands like a gorilla,” affirmed Dany. “His forearms and triceps were key to his [later] hitting prowess.” The dump trucks were Espino’s “Gymnasium.”

Maximino León, a big-league pitcher from Mexico, opined that Espino “could have had a solid 15-year MLB career,” per Dany. “Dad felt he had the talent to play in the major leagues but was not sure for how long,” according to Dany, who mentioned icons in other sports: Michael Jordan (basketball), Lionel Messi (soccer or fútbol), Joe Montana (football) and Wayne Gretzky (ice hockey), who were simply phenomenal with God-given ability and instincts. Dany noted that Hank Aaron (baseball) fit this mold as a baseball icon, much like his father.

Francisco Salazar Encinas highlighted the following, in his April 8, 2020 blog https://cuartobat.com/primera-base-hector-espino/ 

Other blogs of interest include:

https://www.septimaentrada.com/liga-mexicana-del-pacifico/lmp-sultanes-naranjeros-semifinal-hector-espino .

https://elfildeo.com/lmb/hector-espino-bigrafia-records-superman-chihuahua-jugadores-historicos-liga-mexicana-beisbol-liga-mexicana-pacifico-lmp-noticias/95927/2020/
https://www.milb.com/mexican/news/el-recuerdo-de-hector-espino

Almost all (298) of 299 regular season HR in LMP were for Hermosillo. His first was with 1960-61 Ciudad Obregón Yaquis. The 299 HR eclipsed Eduardo Jiménez’s total by 100. “Tin-Tan” Jiménez had a better AB per HR ratio than Espino: 16.5 to 18.5. So did Luis Alfonso García (17.2). Some sources state Espino hit 310 HR in winter ball, assuming 11 in post-season league games.

Table I: Top 10 Career Home Run  Hitters, LMP, AB/HR

PlayerSeasonsABHRAB/HR
Héctor Espino245,54429918.5
Eduardo Jiménez213,28419916.5
Matías Carrillo275,16215932.5
Saúl Soto223,75915025.1
Luis Alfonso García192,54514817.2
Andrés Mora183,94114826.6
Ronnie Camacho132,96413921.0
Nelson Barrera163,31413125.3
Raymundo Torres173,55312428.7
Ramón Orantes213,60812429.1

Source: https://www.newera.mx/blog/los-10-maximos-jonroneros-de-la-liga-mexicana-del-pacifico/

Espino’s 24 LMP seasons, 1960-61-to-1984-85

Espino was a 13x batting champ, 7x HR king, 8x RBI and 8x LMP runs leader. A six-time MVP, he won the Triple Crown 3x: 1964-65, 1971-72 and 1972-73. (Ronnie Camacho won it, 1958-59: only other LMP player to do so.) Espino surpassed .400 AVG twice: 1962-63 (.402) and 1972-73 (.415). Other LMP highlights:

  • October 23,1960—first HR in LMP, with Obregón, off Cliserio Trujillo, Ostioneros de Guaymas, Game Two, twin-bill; he went to Hermosillo, the next week.
  • Batting champ and HR leader, 1960-61 rookie, but Rookie of the Year Award went to Sonora native Héctor Rodríguez, Rieleros de Empalme, due to guidelines.
  • Most career AB (5,544), Runs (947), Hits (1,824), Doubles (260), HR (299), RBI (1,097), AVG (.329), OBP (.431), SLG (.542), OPS (.973), Intentional Walks (250), HBP (107).
  • Three HR at Navojoa, December 10, 1972.
  • 83 RBI in 1972-73, all-time single season LMP record.
  • 26 HR in 1972-73, second, all-time, to Ronnie Camacho (27) with Empalme, 1963-64; and Hermosillo’s Bobby Darwin (27), 1971-72
  • Record 24 seasons with same club—Naranjeros de Hermosillo—who were 1,011-793-15 overall, a .560 PCT, those seasons, excluding post-season contests.

Sources: https://beisboldelosbarrios.com/index.php/hector-espino-gonzalez/  https://www.espn.com.mx/nota?id=396525

Table II: Héctor Espino LMP (winter ball) Regular Season Stats, 1960-61 to 1984-85

YearGABRH2B3BHRRBIAVGOBPSLGOPSAB/HR
1960-61#5418437701111038.380.491.6141.10518.4
61-625921247731641147.344.475.6131.08819.3
62-635821952881331345.402.500.6671.16716.8
63-6477285611081512577.379.484.7021.18611.4
64-657224964951302562.382.509.7351.24410.0
65-66682144674501946.346.505.6361.14111.3
66-677928158951602563.338.445.6621.10711.2
19676822238761311439.342.471.5991.07015.9
69-70632134866401958.310.479.5961.07511.2
70-71782736495912262.348.460.6301.09012.4
71-7270269561001802475.372.461.7061.16711.2
72-7383301661252402683.415.505.7541.25911.6
73-74742733378110845.286.373.414.78734.1
74-75772703673100950.270.374.407.78130.0
75-76712702986131638.319.365.441.80645.0
76-7749180265640430.311.371.400.77145.0
77-78672604071611348.273.344.454.79820.0
78-79622241877110336.344.408.433.84174.7
79-80622323264130848.276.356.435.79129.0
80-81742563580120735.313.399.441.84036.6
81-8244162224230317.259.342.333.67554.0
82-83571961362130221.316.432.413.84598.0
83-8463230134750120.204.280.239.519230.0
84-852369132320214.333.372.449.82134.5
Total1,5525,5449471,824260132991,097.329.431.542.97318.5

# First week with Ciudad Obregón. Source: http://www.beisboldelacosta.com.mx/   

Espino Versus Pete Rose: Career Hit Parade

Héctor Espino, Hermosillo Naranjeros.
Photo credit: AYM Sports

Espino had three more career hits than Pete Rose (4,768 to 4,765), excluding all Espino post-season games in Mexico (winter and summer) and All-Star games but including his 46 Caribbean Series hits, courtesy of Tony Piña Campora. Rose’s hits include minors, MLB, Venezuelan Winter League regular season, final series and February 4-9, 1965 Inter American Series, hosted by Caracas. They exclude NL post-season and All-Star games.

Table III: Pete Rose Stats, Minors (1960-62), VZA (1964-65), MLB (1963-1986)

LeagueGABRH2B3BHRRBIAVGOBPSLGOPS
Minors3541,345301427595212191.317.410.465.875
VZA#441854165111519.351NA.503NA
VZA##5227102214.455NA.864NA
Inter^624NA7NANANANA.292NANANA
MLB3,56214,0532,1654,2567461351601,314.303.375.409.784
Total3,97115,6292,5144,7658181901781,528.305.378.416.794

#Venezuelan Winter League: 1964-65 Caracas Lions (regular season). ##Venezuelan League finals. ^February 4-9, 1965 Inter American Series, in Caracas. Sources: Germán J. Rivas, Historia, Deportes y Mas; https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=rose–003pet https://www.pelotabinaria.com.ve/beisbol/mostrar.php?ID=rosepet001

Table IV: Héctor Espino Stats, Center League (1960 and 1961), LMB (1962-1984), International League (1964), LMP (1960-1985) and Seven Caribbean Series

LeagueGABRH2B3BHRRBIAVGSLGAB/HR
Center80300751162442890.362.72911.5
IL#32100153060315.300.45033.3
LMB^2,3888,2051,5052,752373454531,573.335.55718.1
LMP&1,5525,5449471,824260132991,097.329.54218.5
Carib!39155214650622.297.44525.8
Total4,09114,3042,5634,768663627892,797.333.55418.1

#1964 Jacksonville Suns, International League;  ^ Liga Mexicana de Béisbol (Mexican League), the Summer League;  &Liga Mexicana del Pacífico (Mexican Pacific League)—Winter League.

!Seven Caribbean Series events, 1971-1982.

Sources: https://www.statscrew.com/minorbaseball/stats/p-d2ccf176; Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano; Editor Pedro Treto Cisneros (Undécima Edición, 2011); http://www.beisboldelacosta.com.mx/; https://beisboldelosbarrios.com/index.php/hector-espino-gonzalez/  Tony Piña Campora—EXCEL file, Espino’s seven Caribbean Series hitting stats.

Other Espino achievements are at:   https://lmb.fandom.com/es/wiki/H%C3%A9ctor_Espino

https://elfildeo.com/lmb/hector-espino-bigrafia-records-superman-chihuahua-jugadores-historicos-liga-mexicana-beisbol-liga-mexicana-pacifico-lmp-noticias/95927/2020/

The author appreciates Daniel “Dany” Espino Vázquez for insights on his father and photos. Eduardo B. Almada shared the best LMP web site: http://www.beisboldelacosta.com.mx/ and digital version of Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano. Tony Piña Campora furnished Espino’s Caribbean Series hitting stats. Germán J. Rivas—Historia, Deportes y Mas—located Pete Rose’s hits/AB, February 4-9, 1965 Inter American Series, hosted by Caracas. Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian, Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League, made editorial suggestions.

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