Manuel Salvatierra (Popeye)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 175 lb.
Manuel Salvatierra was a top Mexican outfielder of the 1940s who fell one step shy of the majors.
Salvatierra debuted in 1937 with the Tigres de Comintra, hitting .320/.358/.495 with 5 triples, two shy of the Mexican League lead. At age 19, he hit .320/.387/.471 for his hometown Veracruz Eagle; he played for his only pennant-winner that season. He split 1939 between the Cafeteros de Cordoba (14 for 48, 10 BB) and the St. Joseph Angels (.263/?/.422). His 11 homers for St. Joseph tied Goldie Holt for second on St. Joseph behind Peanuts Lowrey. Back in Mexicoi for all of 1940, he hit .286/.390/.491. He stole 26 bases, six shy of leader Sammy Bankhead and his 28 doubles were two behind co-leaders Wild Bill Wright and Willie Wells. Manuel was one of only a handful of native Mexicans who played regularly in the 1940 Mexican League, which saw a huge influx of Negro League and Cuban stars.
Popeye spent the winter of 1940-1941 in the Cuban Winter League, one of the first Mexicans to appear in that circuit. He was the fourth outfielder behind Rogelio Linares, Alejandro Oms and Cool Papa Bell and did not hold his own, hitting only .186 with a .248 slugging percentage. He bounced around in the summer of '41, appearing with the Mexico City Red Devils (.333/.424/.596 in 31 G), Tucson Cowboys (14 for 82, 5 2B, 3 3B) and the Gloversville-Johnstown Glovers (.296/?/.448 in 56 G).
Back in Mexico for all of 1942, the young flyhawk hit .277/.399/.443 and stole 22 bases. In '43, he produced at a .265/.371/.431 rate and cracked 12 home runs, one shy of league-leader Wright; he tied Roy Campanella, Jacinto Roque and Quincy Trouppe for second. He split 1944 between Mexico City (17 for 39, 2 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 13 BB, 2 SB), the Nashville Volunteers (.303/.395/.397 in 93 G) and the Los Angeles Angels (.246/.348/.336 in 45 G). Los Angeles was a AA team, then the highest classification in the minors, one tier below the major leagues.
Salvatierra spent 1945 as a bench player with Los Angeles, hitting .275/.324/.319 in 19 games. Returning to Mexico in '46, he looked like a shadow of his former self, batting only .207/.323/.299; one positive was that (as in 1940) he was one of the few Mexicans to play regularly as Americans and Cubans once again flooded the league. Manuel wasn't much better in 1947, hitting .246/.343/.339 between Mexico City and the Tuneros de San Luis Potosi. He concluded his Mexican League career in 1948, batting .238/.368/.429 and swiping 15 bases.
Returning to Organized Baseball, the veteran showed he wasn't washed up yet, hitting .312 and slugging .575 for the Juarez Indios; he had 32 doubles, 12 triples and 27 home runs. He finished third in the Arizona-Texas League in slugging, third in home runs (behind Gene Clough and Gene Lillard) and 5th in RBI (129).
Salvatierra split 1950 between the San Antonio Missions (0 for 2), Austin Pioneers (.272/.385/.398 in 32 G) and Laredo Apaches (.357/.507/.806, 49 HR in 102 G). He was fourth in the high-flying Rio Grande Valley League in average, led outfielders in errors (23, fielding only .897), ranked 4th in walks (112), was third in RBI (138, behind Jesse McClain and Lloyd Pearson), stole 33 bases (third-most) and scored 126 runs. Considering that he spent over a month in other leagues, he could easily have led the league in homers and walks had he been there all year long. Salvatierra did finish the season with 50 minor league homers, as he went deep once with Austin. He also managed Laredo after June 4, the club's third manager that year; he guided them to a second-place finish in the regular season before an upset loss in round one of the playoffs.
With the 1951 Corpus Christi Aces, Manny batted .272/?/.521 with 33 doubles, 7 triples and 27 home runs to give himself 104 homers in a three-year span in the minors. He was 4th in the Gulf Coast League in circuit clouts and third with 127 RBI, behind Robert Moyer and Stan Goletz. In '52, he hit .266/.379/.415 for Corpus Christi and the Brownsville Charros. His .928 fielding was last among the GCL's starting outfielders. He ended his career with two games for the 1954 Tampa Smokers.
Overall, Salvatiera had hit .271/.378/.441 with 409 runs, 371 RBI, 99 steals and 366 walks in 621 games in the Mexican League. He hit 136 home runs and slugged around .497 in 911 minor league games as well.