Common Name:
Hector Gonzalez
Born:

June 6, 1939 in
Chihuahua, Mexico

Bats:
Right
Full Name:
Hector Espino Gonzalez
Throws:
Right
Primary Uniform:
17
Nick Names:
The Babe Ruth of Mexico
Positions Played:
C, OF, 3B, 1B
Primary Position:
Catcher

Teams Played For:

Jacksonville Suns (St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A team) Monterrey (Mexican league), Tampico (Mexican league)

Primary Team:

Homestead Grays

Post Season:

Espino led the Mexican team to its first Caribbean Series win (1976) and he played in 6 Caribbean Series. He would make the Caribbean Hall of Fame and won 13 batting titles in 24 years in winter ball

Awards:
  • All-time leading minor league Home Run king (484)
  • Mexican League Rookie of the Year (1962)
  • Mexican League Batting Title (1964, 1967, 1968, 1972)
  • Selected to the Mexican Baseball Salon de la Fama (1988)
Biography:

Hector Espino is considered the greatest player in the history of the Mexican League. With 484 home runs, he is the all-time minor league home run king; 481 of those homers came in Mexico and 453 in the Mexican League.

Espino debuted in the Mexican League in 1962 with Monterrey. He hit 23 homers, 12 triples, drove in 105 (tying for the league lead) and scored 106 while batting .358/.459/.613. He was named Rookie of the Year.

In 1964 Espino won his first Mexican League batting title, with a .371/.479/.741; he hit 46 home runs, scored 115 and drove in 117. His run total was the third highest in Mexican League history (behind only Bobby Avila and Cool Papa Bell). He set a new home run record (the old mark had been 39 by Ronnie Camacho), as well as a record with 30 intentional walks, and his 332 total bases were second-best in league history. His play drew the attention of the St. Louis Cardinals, who signed Espino late in the year and sent him to their AAA club, the Jacksonville Suns. Espino did just fine there, hitting .300 with 3 homers in 32 games, but would never play outside the Mexican League again.

In 1965, the St. Louis Cardinals invited Espino to spring training, but he did not report. Jamie Marshall writes that it was because Espino wanted a "fair share of the sale price." He hit .335 with 17 HR in just 67 games in the Mexican League that year. In '66, back in full time duty, he hit .369/.495/.667 - leading the league in all 3 stats (beating out Minnie Minoso by 21 points for the average title); he was second in the league with 31 homers and 3rd with 91 walks.

In 1967 and 1968 Espino repeated as batting champ with marks of .379 and .365. He hit 34 homers, slugged .706 and scored 106 in '67; in '68 he won his second home run title with 27.

In '69, his run of 3 straight batting titles ended with a .304 season. HE repeated as the home run champ, with 37, and scored 101 runs. He also drew 125 walks, breaking Avila's record; his mark would stand just one season though. In the late '60s, the California Angels had tried to sign Espino several times without success.

1970 was one of Espino's least productive seasons - .319/.431/.493 with 18 HR. He moved to Tampico in '71 and hit about the same (.311 with 20 HR). 1972 saw him bounce back - .356/.481/.670 - he had his 4th and final home run title (37), 101 runs, 101 RBI and a league-high 94 walks. A year later his average kept rising at the expense of power and walks as he hit .377/.459/.590; he won his fifth and final Mexican League batting championship and drove in 107 runs. He hit 22 homers; while it was 15 fewer than his previous season, the 34-year old slugger would never again hit as many.

He died of a heart attack on September 7, 1997 in Monterrey, Nuevo León Mexico

No one has yet broken Espino’s minor league home run record.