In 1954, Bobby Avila became the first Latin player to win a batting title in the major leagues when he batted .341 for the Cleveland Indians and finished third in American League Most Valuable Player voting behind Yogi Berra and teammate Larry Doby.
Avila was one of the first stars from Mexico to make it big in the United States. He jumped from the Mexican League prior to the 1948 season to ink a deal with Bill Veeck’s Indians and spent one year in the minors before making it to Cleveland for good in 1949. With quick feet and fine instincts, Avila was an excellent defensive second baseman, and though he often made a few more errors than other middle infielders, it was because he got to so many more groundballs than other players.
Avila never hit .300 again after his batting title season, but he played until he was 35, finishing his career with the Milwaukee Braves in 1959. He returned to his native Mexico in 1960 and played a few seasons in the Mexican League, still playing at a high level. He went on to become an owner of a Mexican League team and eventually president of the circuit. Extremely popular in his native land, Avila was elected mayor of Veracruz and is a member of the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame.
Loved to Face: Washington righty Bob Porterfield. Avila was 25-for-63 (.397) against the 20-game winner, with eight RBI over eight seasons of battles.
Most Games at Second Base, Cleveland
1. Napolean Lajoie … 1,299
2. Bobby Avila … 1,098
3. Bill Wambsganss … 936
4. Duane Kuiper … 774
5. Ray Mack … 767
6. Carlos Baerga … 735
7. Joe Gordon … 549
8. Tony Bernazard … 507
9. Odell Hale … 488
10. Roberto Alomar … 468