Cuban Clout

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Roman Mejias

A native of Cuba, outfielder Roman Mejias was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953. He hit over .300 in his first two seasons in the Pirates’ farm system, and made his debut in Pittsburgh in 1955, batting .216 in 71 games with three home runs and 21 RBIs.

Roman Mejias showed flashes of power in the minor leagues (21 home runs in AAA in 1961), but couldn’t win a spot in the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup.

Mejias spent the next six seasons up and down from Pittsburgh to the minors, batting a combined .253 and showing flashes of power, especially during his minor league tours at Columbus in the International League.

But there was no place for Mejias in the Pirates outfield of the early 1960s. In October of 1961, he became the eleventh pick of the Houston Colt .45s in the 1961 expansion draft.

In Houston, Mejias (now age 31) finally had the opportunity to show what kind of full-time player he could be at the major league level. In 1962, he batted .286 with 24 home runs and 76 RBIs, leading the team in all three hitting categories.

His career in Houston (and as an everyday player) was short-lived. In November of 1962, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for first baseman and reigning American League batting champion Pete Runnels. In Boston, Mejias was relegated to a back-up role in the outfield, playing behind Gary Geiger and Lou Clinton (as well as future Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski).

In his nine-year career, Roman Mejias was an everyday player only in 1962, batting .286, hitting 24 home runs, and driving in 76 runs for the Houston Colt .45s.

He batted .227 for the Red Sox as a part-timer in 1963, with only 11 home runs and 39 RBIs. In 1964 he appeared in only 62 games for the Red Sox, batting .238 with two home runs and four RBIs. It was his last season in the major leagues (though he did spend one year playing in Japan).

In nine major league seasons, Mejias batted .254 for his career with 54 home runs and 202 RBIs.

 

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Colts Unbeatable?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 10, 1962) At Colt Stadium in Houston, the Colt .45s, in their first ever major league game, today defeated the Chicago Cubs, 11-2.

Left-hander Bobby Shantz throws the first pitch in the first game for the Houston Colt .45s. Shantz pitched a five-hit complete game as the Colts beat the Chicago Cubs 11-2.

 

Right fielder Roman Mejias was the hitting star for the Colts. Mejias got three hits, including a pair of three-run home runs. Catcher Hal Smith doubled and hit a solo home run.

Third baseman Bob Aspromonte recorded the first hit in the Houston franchise’s history with a single to left field to lead off the game. Aspromonte scored the Colts’ first run on Al Spangler’s triple.

Aspromonte also had three hits. He recorded another franchise first when he stole second base in the eighth inning.

Former Yankee hurler Bobby Shantz (1-0) got the win. Shantz pitched a five-hit complete games, striking out four and walking one. The Cubs scored on Ernie Banks’ solo home run in the seventh inning and added another run in the eighth inning on a Lou Brock sacrifice fly.

Outfielder Roman Mejias hit a pair of three-run home runs for the Colts

The losing pitcher was Cubs starter Don Cardwell (0-1).

The Colts would sweep their three-game season-opening series with the Cubs. They would finish their inaugural month in fifth place at 7-8. The Colts would finish the 1962 season at 64-96, in eighth place ahead of the Cubs and the New York Mets.

The Anonymous Batting Champion

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Pete Runnels

Pete Runnels may well be the least-known batting champion from the 1960s. Yet he was the 1960s’ first two-time batting champion, and the first player ever to win two batting titles while playing two different positions.

Pete Runnels won two batting championships as a member of the Boston Red Sox in the 1960s, hitting .320 in 1960 and .326 in 1962.

Pete Runnels won two batting championships as a member of the Boston Red Sox in the 1960s, hitting .320 in 1960 and .326 in 1962.

Runnels broke into the big leagues as a shortstop for the Washington Senators in 1951. Over the next seven years, splitting his time between shortstop and second base, Runnels hit .274 for Washington, with a high mark of .310 in 1956. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox before the 1958 season, when he hit .322, the second highest average in the league. He also registered a career high 183 hits in his first year with Boston, fourth best in the league.

As Boston’s starting second baseman, Runnels won his first batting championship in 1960 with a .320 average. Runnels moved over to first base in 1961, hitting .317 that year. As the Red Sox first baseman in 1962, Runnels claimed his second batting title with a .326 average. In his five seasons with Boston, Runnels was one of the league’s most consistent hitters, with a combined average of .320 over that period.

Pete Runnels was the first major league hitter to win batting titles while playing different positions.

Pete Runnels was the first major league hitter to win batting titles while playing different positions.

His batting title in 1962 wasn’t enough to keep Runnels in a Red Sox uniform, as he was traded in the off season to the Houston Colt .45s for outfielder Roman Mejias. Runnels never hit for power. Mejias did.

Runnels batted only .253 in 1963, his only full season with Houston. He was released 22 games into the 1964 season, and never played again in the majors. Runnels finished his 14-year major league career batting .291 with 1,854 hits. He was an All-Star three times.