Román Mejias Gomez
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 175 lb.
Outfielder Roman Mejias was signed by Hall of Fame first baseman George Sisler for the Pittsburgh Pirates out of the sugarcane fields of Cuba in 1953. The Pirates shipped the 22-year-old to the Batavia Clippers of the Pony League, where he hit .322 with 8 homers in 117 games. The young man looked to be a very promising prospect when he hit .354 for the Waco Pirates of the Big State League in 1954, where the outfielder's 55-game hitting streak in which he hit .435 (97 for 223) remains the third longest in minor league history (as of 2016).
Roman made the long jump from class B to the majors with the Pirates in 1955 but hit only .216. He spent 1956 and part of 1957 back in the minors before establishing himself as the Pirates' fourth outfielder. He demonstrated his power potential on May 4, 1958 by hitting 3 home runs in a game. But with Bob Skinner, Bill Virdon and Roberto Clemente ahead of him, playing time was limited. However, Clemente missed 50 games in 1959 with an elbow injury, which led to extensive playing time for Mejias. In 276 at-bats, Mejias hit 7 home runs and drove in 28 but batted just .236. He was the starting right fielder on May 26th when Harvey Haddix pitched a perfect game into the 13th inning before giving up a hit, and Mejias made a shoestring catch during the game to preserve the perfect game at that time.
However, after Mejias batted just .236 in extended playing time in 1959, the Pirates acquired Gino Cimoli in December of that year to assume the role of fourth outfielder in 1960. At that time, major league rules allowed teams to begin the season with 28 players and had 30 days to reduce the roster to 25. Mejias began the 1960 season with the Pirates but was returned to their AAA affiliate, Columbus Jets, after only one month in which he barely played. When rosters expanded in September, the Pirates announced that Mejias would rejoin the team upon completion of the Jets's season. But Mejias suffered a broken arm with Columbus when hit by a pitch and was not able to rejoin the Pirates for the stretch drive. He also began the 1961 season with the Pirates but was returned to Columbus again after one month.
After being selected in the 1962 expansion draft by the Houston Colt 45s, he provided the first-year team with some offense. On April 10, 1962, in the first big league game played in the state of Texas, he hit a pair of home runs in an 11-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs. He finished the season as the Colt 45s' leader in hitting at .286, in home runs with 24, and RBIs with 76.
The Boston Red Sox traded Pete Runnels, who had won the American League batting titles in both 1960 and 1962, to Houston to acquire Mejias in hopes he could take aim at the Green Monster in Fenway Park, but he hit just .227 with 11 home runs in 1963 and was gone from Boston and the majors after the 1964 season, with a .254 career average and 54 home runs in his nine seasons in the big leagues. Roman finished his seven-season minor league career with a .299 average and 88 homers.
At last report Roman was known to be living in Los Angeles, CA.
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1962)
Sources and Further Reading
- Baseball Players of the 1950s
- Ron Briley, Rory Costello and Bill Nowlin: "Román Mejías", in Clifton Blue Parker and Bill Nowlin, ed.: Sweet '60: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2013, pp. 145-151. ISBN 978-1-93359-948-9
- Sam Zygner: "Remembering the 1954 Waco Pirates and the Mejias Streak", The Baseball Research Journal, Vol. 43, number 2, Fall 2014, pp. 46-54.