Barefoot on a dirt diamond cleared of rocks and glass, fourteen kids had one month to perfect their game if they wanted to play in the Little League World Series. The year was 1957 and the kids were from the industrial slums of Monterrey, Mexico.
There was a slight problem, though—none of them had ever seen a game. Padre Esteban’s 20-year-old Silverstone radio had been broadcasting the Brooklyn Dodgers for a year. The boys had tried to recreate what they’d heard by playing with a stick and a sock stuffed with dirt and straw. One day, they demanded that their priest help them make a team to play in “Las Ligas Pequeñas”—just like the Mexico City Team they’d seen at the local hotel the day before. Most of the boys were twelve-years-old, the following year they would turn thirteen and wouldn’t qualify.
Ángel Macías liked to imagine he was the famous left-handed pitcher, Sandy Koufax. He badgered a disillusioned factory worker, who had trained with the St. Louis Browns, to coach them. Coach Faz then convinced some of the factory guys to demonstrate how to play. One mother sewed their gloves from donated leather. Little by little it all came together. After a five hour bus ride, each uniformed kid braved the 98° heat as they crossed the border at Reynosa, Tamaulipas to begin a 12-mile hike in cleats to McAllen, Texas.
Expecting to lose their first game to the Mexico City team, consisting mostly of the sons of American business men, “Los Industriales de Monterrey” won 9-2. Monterrey, whose players’ average height and weight was 4’11” and 88 lbs., went on to beat each and every Texas team whose players averaged 5’4” and 127 lbs. Ángel Macías could pitch with pinpoint accuracy—with either arm. Each of his teammates played their hearts out and their winning scores flabbergasted a nation: 7-1; 14-1; 13-1; 6-1; 5-0; 6-0; 6-4; and 11-2.
The team that had to pass a hat after each game in order to eat took the Southern Regional Championship in Louisville, Kentucky 13-0 and 3-0, and went on to win a place in the finals by beating Bridgeport, Connecticut 2-1.
The people of Monterrey, Mexico heard the games broadcasted via relay as their plucky team, that hadn’t even qualified as an underdog only two months before, mesmerized the world. At the top of the last inning, Monterrey was leading the La Mesa, California team 4-0. With two outs and three balls, Ángel threw a curveball into history.
From the fourteen kids who crossed the border in cleats because they had no other shoes, to the winning team who met President Eisenhower and Mexico’s President Cortines, this journey of grit and perseverance was something not even Hollywood could have dreamt up. Exactly 60 years later, the amazing feat has never been repeated and Ángel Macías’ record stands—the Little League’s first and only perfect game in the finals.
The 2017 Little League World Series begins July 29th.
All information for this article was taken from the book The Perfect Game by W. William Winokur. New York: Kissena Park Press, 2008.