Roberto Francisco Ávila Gonzales
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 175 lb.
- High School Vera Cruz Preparatory High School
- Debut April 30, 1949
- Final Game September 29, 1959
- Born April 2, 1924 in Veracruz, Veracruz Mexico
- Died October 26, 2004 in Veracruz, Veracruz Mexico
The greatest second baseman to emerge from Mexico, Bobby Ávila was a soccer player in his youth. His father, a wealthy lawyer, discouraged Bobby from playing sports and tried to steer him into more intellectual pursuits. Devoting more time to baseball in high school against his father's wishes, the younger Ávila was heavily influenced by Baseball: Individual Play and Team Strategy, a book by Jack Coombs. He continued to reject his father's wishes when he joined a club in the winter Vera Cruz State League.
By the age of 19, Bobby was playing regularly for the Mexican League, hitting .229/~..322/.276 for the Puebla Parrots. He played for the Mexican national team in the 1944 Amateur World Series. In 1944 Ávila's production increased significantly as he hit .334/~.419/.472 and hit 14 triples, tying for the league lead. He was 6th in the Liga in batting average. The next year Ávila (known as Beto in Mexico) batted .350/~.450/.480, stole 25 bases and hit 10 more triples. In 1946 the level of competition in the Mexican League increased significantly as many Major League Baseball players were lured south due to large contracts offered by Jorge Pasquel. Ávila remained one of the best players in the circuit - at the age of 22 he hit .359/~.417/.490 and finished third in the league in batting, five points behind Claro Duany and two points behind teammate Nap Reyes. His 27 doubles were tied for second in the Liga, one behind the lead and he was also second with 138 doubles. That winter Ávila turned down a $10,000 offer from Leo Durocher and also from legendary scout Joe Cambria. The next season Beto again hit as well as any of the major league veterans - he chipped in a .346/~.444/.463 with 11 triples and 18 steals. He won the Mexican League batting title that year, the first native Mexican to lead the Liga in that category in a decade. Bobby signed with the Cleveland Indians after Cy Slapnicka offered him $17,500.
Ávila was assigned to the Baltimore Orioles, where he struggled in 1948. He posted a .220/~.307/.269 line in 56 games before a hernia sidelined him for the remainder of the year. As a bonus baby he then spent time on the Indians' roster, riding the pine until he replaced an aging Joe Gordon in 1950. Two years later he again led his league in triples, with 11.
Beto hit .341 in 1954 and became the first Latino player to win a major league batting title. He did it despite breaking his thumb at one point.
In 1960 Ávila returned to the Liga and at age 36 he hit .333/~.486/.486 for the Mexico City Tigers and led the league in runs (125 in 127 games) and shattered the Liga walk record with 124, 29 more than Ronnie Camacho had drawn a season earlier. Ávila's walk record stood 9 years before Hector Espino broke it by one. Overall Ávila had hit .329/~.430/.451 in 6 years in his homeland.
After retiring he became an owner in the Liga, president of the Veracruz Eagle and eventually president of the Mexican League. He then went into politics and was elected mayor of Veracruz. Two Liga stadiums were later named after Avila - Estadio Beto Avila and Parque Beto Avila
- 3-time AL All-Star (1952, 1954 & 1955)
- AL Batting Average Leader (1954)
- AL Triples Leader (1952)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1952 & 1954)