By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
When Angel Macias and Jose Maiz faced their old opponents once again after more than 50 years, instead of looking at each other defiantly, they hugged and, smiling, shook hands.
Macias and Maiz were part of the 1957 Little League Champion team from Monterrey, Mexico. The men they met here in San Diego County last week were from the Northern La Mesa team that they beat back in 1957 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, but instead of hard looks, everything was smiles and hugs.
Macias and Maiz were in El Cajon last Sunday where they, along with their former rivals from La Mesa, were Grand Marshalls in the Mother Goose Parade, which marks the beginning of the Holiday season in San Diego.
“It is a great honor to be here to receive this recognition more than 50 years after we beat these guys,” said Maiz, jokingly. “We’re now visiting their hometown and we are all being treated like heroes. We’re all very proud; we’re on the same team now.”
For Macias, being in San Diego means that the achievement the Mexican team had as children still is remembered by many in the county.
“We’re very glad to be here as guests,” said Macias, who was the pitcher who pitched the first perfect game in a Little League championship.
In El Cajon, Macias and Maiz reencountered with some of their old rivals, including Dick Gowins, a La Mesa player who served as contact among his teammates and the Mexican players. Gowins collects memorabilia about the 1957 Little League World Series.
He said he’s been in very close contact with Macias and Maiz for the past four years.
“There are men that when they were children many considered them losers, and they won it all,” Gowins said. “They won the heart and soul of two countries. They’ve gone on to achieve many other accomplishments, but they are still very humble.”
When Macias and Maiz reencountered with former rivals Joe McKirahan and Jerry Wilson the night before the Mother Goose Parade, they hugged and shook hands.
“You guys are national heroes!” McKirahan said. Then the former rivals shared anecdotes and talked baseball, before heading out to dinner where they were joined by more former Northern La Mesa players.
The story of the Monterrey team caused a sensation in 1957, when the Mexican team, which was considered the David of Little Leagues, beat Northern La Mesa. The team became a celebrity in Mexico and the United States. Maiz is now owner of professional baseball team Sultanes de Monterrey and Macias has held many important roles in the development of Mexican baseball.
The film “The Perfect Game” was based in their story.
“Our story caught everybody’s attention because we were shorter, weaker kids, yet we were able to win,” Macias said.