Monday, January 11, 2010

Willie Mays and Ruben Gomez slugged it out 55 years ago in Puerto Rico

Willie Mays and Ruben Gomez were not only teammates on the New York Giants from 1954-58, but were teammates on arguably the greatest winter team ever assembled, the 1954-55 Santurce Crabbers. Both were integral players on a team that would run away with the 1955 Carribbean Series championship. Mays anchored an outfield which included Roberto Clemente and Bob Thurman.

Gomez chiefed a staff which included "Sad" Sam Jones, Luis Arroyo and Bill Greason. With their infield including George Crowe, Ron Samford, Don Zimmer and Bus Clarkson, many experts have said that this team could hang with any of the great teams in baseball history.

Willie Mays and Ruben Gomez in Santurce
As wonderful as the team played, things were not harmonious between two of it's biggest stars, Gomez and Mays. Before a January exhibition game. Gomez and Mays engaged in a scuffle over a turn in batting practice. According to an Associated Press report, Santurce club president Pedrin Zorilla described the events as followed.

"Gomez started kidding Roberto Clemente, his teammates who was having  his swings," Zorillia recalled. "Gomez said he wanted to get in a couple of swings but batting practice pitcher Milton Ralat said Clemente wasn't through yet. Gomez still kidding, sat on home plate. Mays was behind the cage, watching the horseplay, and stepped out to ask Ralat to pitch to him while the other two decided their argument. ... Finally, Ralat threw some slow ones to Mays. He hit one directly at Ralat, knocking off his glove. Ralat got mad and said something like, 'What are you trying to do, kill me?'

"That led to arguing between Ralat and Mays and finally got to blows. Gomez tried to intervene to halt it. Mays apparently mistook Gomez' intentions and gave him a shove. Gomez, unexpecting it, went down."

Many other reports have Gomez going down as a result of one of Mays punches. Damage control quickly ensued and the two squashed their beef. The Associated Press reported that Gomez said, "There's nothing to it. We both consider the case closed and are good friends."

Mays went on to deny the fight.

"We want to make clear there was no fight and you can say without reservation that there is no difficulty between Gomez and myself."

Days after the incident, the Victoria Advocate reported that Mays left the Santurce team as a result of the fight. Mays told the International News Service that he was leaving Puerto Rico because, "it was just too much." He cited the 154 games he played with the Giants and the additional 62 games with Santurce as, "taking too much" and "not being fair to the Giants."

Mays left Puerto Rico and returned two weeks later for the playoffs. Mays went hitless in his first 13 at-bats in the series, until he hit a two-out, two-run walk-off homer in the 11th inning of Game Six. He then went 11-for-13 in the next three games to finish with a .462 average (12-for-26) and leading the series in RBIs.

1 comment:

  1. I remember the incident and discussing it with my father when he came home from work. I recently came across the article in one of my files. Mays, Gomez and Giants management all insisted it was nothing. The further stated that Mays coming back to New York was preplanned as he had some appearances to make,in New York. Mays returned for the Caribbean playoffs and after a slow start helped his team along with Don Zimmer to win the championship.

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