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Nelson Barrera Romellon (The Admiral)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 180 lb.
- Born October 17, 1957 in Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche Mexico
- Died July 14, 2002 in Campeche, Campeche Mexico
Nelson Barrera spent three years in the Mexican Center League, homering 22 times, before making his Mexican League debut in 1977 - as a rookie, he hit just .235 with 2 home runs, not giving indication of the great career that was to follow. It wasn't until 1982 that he hit double-digit homers in a season and at age 26 Barrera finally topped 20 in 1984. A .354 average and 101 RBI that year earned Barrera his only look at a non-Mexican-based league. The Chicago White Sox placed Barrera on their AAA Buffalo Bisons team. The third baseman was no match for American Association pitching, batting .176 with 2 HR in 74 AB. Barrera was returned to the Mexico City Red Devils (where he spent most of his career, '77 to '79, '83 to '91 and '95) and he helped lead the team to a Mexican League pennant that season. He hit .304 with 15 HR and 68 RBI for the Tomateros de Culiacan in 1984-1985 to win MVP honors; he tied Derek Bryant and James Peters for the Mexican Pacific League home run crown and led in RBI.
Barrera's stats exploded along with those of everybody else in the Liga in 1986. He hit .350/.397/.654 in '86, .349/.410/.705 the next year and .372/.438/.630 in '88 to complete his best three-year run. In '86, he hit 37 HR, 14 more than he had ever hit before, but was 17 behind the league leader. In '87, he won his only home run title with 42 and he hit 31 more in '88. In '86, he had his only 100-run season (who didn't that year in Mexico?) and in '87 and '88 he led the league in RBI (134 and 124 respectively).
Barrera faded under .300 after that but became a reliable 20-HR threat, topping 30 once more (36 in 1991, one behind Roy E. Johnson for the league lead). In 1995 the 38-year old hitter fell under 20 HR but his average bounced back in '96, going over .300 for the following 3 seasons. Sub-.300 averages after that put his career mark under .300 once again though. On April 22, 1997, Barrera drove in his 1,574th run, breaking Hector Espino's record only a few months before Espino died. In 1998 he was player-manager for the Oaxaca Warriors when they won their only pennant - he chipped in with a .321/.403/.522 line and 110 RBI; it was his best in years and his 6th time over 100 RBI, the first player in Mexican League history to do that.
In 2000 the 43-year old clobbered 23 homers, his first time to 20 in six seasons. The next year age was taking its toll. He fell into a single-digit home run total for the first time in 20 years, but topped Espino's Mexican League HR record, 455 to 453. The achievement was largely ignored by both the American and Mexican media and Barrera was fired as manager during the season, around a month after breaking the record and replaced as Oaxaca's manager by Enrique Aguilar. He then went on the disabled list for the latter part of the season.
In 2002, still an active player-manager with his hometown Campeche Pirates, he failed to homer. His season and life came to an end that July when he was electrocuted while trying to repair his roof when he touched a high-voltage electrical cable with a piece of metal.
While Barrera was one of the greatest talents in Mexican League history, he invariably is to be compared to Espino and comes up short on many fronts - 1) Espino routinely led the league in offensive stats (average, OBP, slugging, homers, RBI, walks); Barrera once led in homers and twice in RBI. 2) Barrera benefited from playing in a much more offensive-friendly era. 3) Espino played very well in his cup of coffee in an American AAA league; Barrera was a bust. 4) Espino was one of the greatest winter league players ever; Barrera hit .254 with good power and one MVP in the Mexican Pacific League. 5) Espino hit more total minor league homers even if Barrera broke his Mexican League record. 6) Espino is Mexico's all-time walk king; Barrera didn't walk particularly often. Barrera recognized as much and said that he was not the best when he tied Espino's home run record.
Still, let's look at what Barrera accomplished - the second most games in league history, 3rd in runs (behind only Espino and Daniel Fernandez), 2nd in hits (2,938, 2nd to Jesus Sommers), 2nd in doubles (over 450, trailing Sommers), 1st in RBI (1,927, over 350 ahead of Espino), 1st in homers, 1st in total bases and either 1st or 2nd in sacrifice flies. Only one player in the history of minor league baseball hit more home runs - and no one drove in more than his 2,045 RBI in the minors (Nick Cullop is second with 1,857). Barrera was accused in 1988 of using a corked bat by the Mexico City Tigers. The umpires disagreed and the Mexican League fined the Tigers 1 million pesos for defaming Barrera.
The Campeche stadium, Parque Nelson Barrera, is named after him.
Sources and External Links
Salon de la Fama page for Barrera, "The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics" by Pedro Treto Cisneros, Baseball America, Viva Beisbol! newsletter by Bruce Baskin, Pat Doyle's Professional Baseball Player Database, 1989 Baseball Almanac, Nelson Barrera at Wikipedia