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Salon de la Fama Writer Tommy Morales Dead at 85

by Bruce Baskin
March 5, 2018 - Mexican League (ML)

I'm going to step out of my usual third-person mode to mark the passing of a Mexican baseball writer who can only be described as "legendary," Tomas Morales, on Tuesday at age 85 following bouts with various illnesses in recent years. Morales produced his "Tommy al Bat" column for five decades and has been a full member of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame since 1990 as a writer and TV/radio commentator. He covered many World Series and Caribbean Series since breaking in during the early 1950's en route to being considered the Dean of Mexican baseball cronistas, sharing his lifelong love of the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and New York Yankees along with the game itself. Even in declining health, the passion was always there and while there are many more honors that he picked up along the way, they by no means paint a full picture of the man.

I first became aware of Tommy Morales in 1972 at age 12 when my vacationing family took a day trip from San Diego to Tijuana, where I bought a copy of the SuperHit magazine he edited from a street newsstand. It was my first real exposure to Mexican baseball and people like Andres Ayon, Angel Macias and, of course, Hector Espino. Even though I couldn't read a word of the Spanish text, that magazine (which I still have) represented my first window into that world and Tommy's name was on top of a LOT of the articles. Several years later on a one-day stay in Nogales, I picked up a copy of Hit magazine, another Tommy Morales-led production. The names had changed but there again was that open window. I gave no thought at the time that I would someday be writing about Mexican baseball myself, let alone that Tommy Morales would be a subscriber to both my Viva Beisbol and Baseball Mexico newsletters. I still have a lot to learn about the game south of the border, but always realized what an honor it was to have THAT name on my list of subscribers.

Tommy reflected top American sportswriters Shirley Povich and Roger Angell in that he kept on being productive well into his eighties. Unlike Povich or Angell, who cut back noticeably in their later years, Tommy remained productive through the Mexican League's 2017 season until his "Tommy al Bat" blog went silent. I wondered on occasion whether he was in ill health or just mostly taking the winter off (his last entry was on January 20) up until Carlos Fragoso, a mutual friend in Mexico City who deserves huge credit himself for BBM's existence, emailed my Tuesday to let me know Tommy had passed on. Life is funny sometimes. As a Christian, I've been a huge Billy Graham fan for decades and always expected to cry when he passed on, but that strangely did not happen when the day arrived last week. After Carlos' email, however, I did. At any rate, it's tough to lose two heroes within a week of each other and neither of these men can or will be replaced.

I guess a constructive way to end this extra is to mention that while Tommy Morales is gone, there are several other excellent writers to follow Mexican baseball by. Tommy's crown, to me, is now passed to Enrique Kerlegand (pictured left), who, like Tommy, has been chronicling the game for decades. The two were colleagues as writers of the Mexican League's 90th anniversary book a few years ago and, also like Tommy, Enrique's passion and knowledge of baseball shines through in his own "Tiempo de Beisbol" on the Puro Beisbol website.

Kerlegand is one of a stable of excellent scribes at Puro Beisbol. Editor Fernando Ballesteros has impressed me as perhaps the best scoop-getter in the game down there and his "Zona del Contacto" column is must reading for anyone wanting to stay current on Mexican baseball. That's where you often will hear something first." Kudos also to Hector Bencomo, whose "Imparable" has become one of my favorite reads, both for his sense of humor and passion for his subject. Another very good columnist is David Braverman, whose "Out 27" is a little harder for me to access via Google Translate (my Spanish being still pretty shaky fifty-six years after picking up that copy of SuperHit), but the extra effort is almost always rewarded by insightful and thoughtful observations. The Solo Beisbol site has some very good scribes, too, such as Gilberto Ruiz Razo ("Septima Entrada"), Jose Zazueta ("Chepe On Deck") and Dr. Tomas Lopez ("Desde La Butaca"), among others, and there's no way I could salute the leading escribars de beisbol without mentioning Beatriz Pereyra at Proceso, who doesn't write nearly as often about baseball as I wish she would but produces some of the best-researched and sourced stories you'll find anywhere when she does. I've been really impressed with her work.

You'll find links to those websites in their original Spanish in the right-hand column of this site but if you're like me and struggle to comprende, punching in their names for a Google search and then downloading the translated text is how I've been doing it for years. Anyone familiar with going that route knows that you usually have to translate the translation and even then, you're not always sure. Still, when you do it long enough, even though we may never fully understand and appreciate a Tommy Morales, Fernando Ballesteros or Beatriz Pereya in their native tongue, it's possible to pick up on a writer's overall style and vision with enough exposure. In other words, sometimes you can just TELL.

And as for "Tommy al Bat" and its presence in BBM's right-hand column now that Tommy himself is gone? I thought about that. For about five seconds. As long as his site and archives are online and available, there will always be a place for Tomas Morales on this site.

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