Ávila with the Cleveland Indians in 1953
|Second baseman / Third baseman|
April 2, 1924|
Veracruz City, Mexico
|Died: October 26, 2004
Veracruz City, Mexico
|April 30, 1949, for the Cleveland Indians|
|September 29, 1959, for the Milwaukee Braves|
|Runs batted in||467|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
Roberto Francisco Ávila González (April 2, 1924 – October 26, 2004) was a Mexican professional baseball second baseman and third baseman, who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, and Milwaukee Braves. Born in Veracruz City to Maria Gonzalez and Jorge Avila, he was better known in his homeland and other Latin American countries as "Beto" and in the majors as "Bobby".
Major league career
In 1954 Ávila won the American League Batting Championship, edging out Ted Williams and Minnie Miñoso with a .341 batting average, while playing almost the entire season with a broken thumb. By today's standards, Williams (with.345) would have been the champion, but he had so many walks (136) he didn't have enough official at bats to qualify. To keep this from happening again, the rule was changed shortly thereafter to plate appearances rather than official at bats to qualify as batting champion. Avila also registered career highs in home runs (15), runs (112) and runs batted in (67).
In that same season, the Indians faced the New York Giants in the 1954 World Series, which matched the two leagues' champion bats, Ávila and Willie Mays; it was the third time that top batters in the majors played each other in the Series. Other matchups were Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb in 1909; Al Simmons and Chick Hafey in 1931. The next time the two batting champions faced off in the Series would be 2012, when the Giants' Buster Posey and Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers met.
Ávila was selected an All-Star in 1952, 1954 and 1955; he was the American League's starting shortstop for the 1952 game. Avila led the league in triples in 1952, and led American League second basemen in fielding percentage in 1953. He also appeared in the MVP Award ballot in 1951 and 1954.
An adept bunter and daring baserunner, his soccer training paid off several times when he intentionally kicked the ball out of defenders' mitts while sliding.
In an 11-season career, Ávila hit .281 with 80 homers, 467 RBI, 1296 hits, 725 runs, 185 doubles, 35 triples, and 78 stolen bases in 1300 games. Dealt three times in the last season of his career, he returned to Mexico in 1960 for one more season, batting .333 for the Tigres del México over 127 games before retiring as a player.
After retiring he had a brief stint as a politician and served as mayor of his home city of Veracruz. When his tenure as mayor ended, he was elected president of the Mexican Baseball League. In an article in a 1976 issue of Esquire magazine, sportswriter Harry Stein published an "All Time All-Star Argument Starter", consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Ávila, a Mexican, was the second baseman on Stein's Latin team.
Beto Ávila is still widely recognized as the player who catalyzed the development of Mexican baseball, as Mexico's three previous MLB players had all grown up in Southern California. He died in his homeland of complications from diabetes at the age of 80.
- List of Major League Baseball batting champions
- List of Major League Baseball annual triples leaders
- Goldstein, Richard (October 28, 2004). "Bobby Ávila, 78, One of the First Prominent Latin Major Leaguers". The New York Times.
- John Shea (October 24, 2012). "Overheard at World Series Game 1". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 25, 2012.
- "Bobby Ávila". Baseball Library.