Beisbol arrives in Paris (Texas)

The history of baseball in Mexico goes back almost as far as it does in the United States. The earliest contests south of the border are thought to have been played in the 1840s, but historians do know for sure that baseball was being played regularly in Mexico by the 1870s. While a century-and-a-half later players of Hispanic or Latino descent make up 30% of all professionals, it took many decades before the first Mexican players signed contracts in the United States. Even in Texas, where professional baseball has been played since 1888 and numerous leagues popped up statewide, including along the Mexico border, Mexicans were not warmly received in American baseball.  In fact, it was 1924, Paris’ 18th season of professional baseball, before Lamar County saw its first player of Mexican descent.

Nazario Faustine Gallegos, Jr., was born September 25, 1898, in New Mexico, the son of a newspaper publisher. Nazario’s grandfather was a prominent farmer, raising 9 children on a farm not too far west of El Paso. Nazario’s grandparents and parents both emphasized the importance of an education, and the Gallegos children were discouraged from pursuing farm work. In fact, the family employed three domestic servants. While it is unknown just how wealthy the Gallegos family may have been or their expectations of Nazario and their other children, Gallegos attended and graduated high school in El Paso before going to work as a typist at his father’s newspaper. But Nazario, who went by the nickname “Teen” (short for his middle name of Faustine), was more interested in making news than typing about someone else’s exploits. By the time he was 22, Teen left Texas for Illinois where he signed to play professional baseball with the Rockford Rox. While Nazario appeared in 134 games in his first season, his .230 batting average did not impress, and he returned to Texas a season later.

The West Texas League was two steps below Rockford, but Narario’s skillset was better suited for the secluded circuit, and he played in both San Angelo and Sweetwater in 1921. By all accounts, he sat out of professional baseball for the following two seasons before turning up in the East Texas League with the Paris North Stars in 1924. It was in Paris that Gallegos’ career started to show promise as he hit for both average and power, and showed speed on the base paths. His work in Paris impressed Texas League owners enough that San Antonio signed him to finish its season. While he played only 14 games in San Antonio, his .326 batting average was an impressive figure in any league. But when the 1925 season opened, Nazario was back in Paris, this time with the newly-named Bearcats. Over the next two seasons, he remained in Paris and put up the best numbers of his career. Nazario batted .320 combined in 1925-26 with 280 base hits, 93 of which he stretched beyond first base.

Following the 1926 season, Nazario Gallegos once again caught the attention of the higher levels of the minor leagues and moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where he played the majority of the next four seasons with the Southeastern League’s Jacksonville Tars. Then he suddenly disappeared from the record books.

It’s unknown what became of Nazario Gallegos in the early 1930s in terms of baseball. In 1930, census records note him employed as a painter in Jacksonville, and a year later the local directory includes a listing under his name as an inspector with Ford Motor Company. Whatever Gallegos had been doing during the early Depression years apparently did not mean baseball was out of his system. In 1936 he returned for one final season of minor league ball, this time splitting the year with four teams affiliated with Cincinnati and Detroit. All four teams allowed Gallegos to continue playing in Florida and Georgia. Following his baseball career, he remained in the area, adopting Florida as home where he lived with his wife, Thelma, and two sons, Faustine and Dudley. No records suggest Nazario Gallegos ever set foot in Paris after the 1926 East Texas League season. After his career ended, he went work as a longshoreman. But that career was short, and in January of 1943, he died of unkown causes.  His place of burial is unknown.

Nazario Faustine “Teen” Gallegos, Jr., may never have been a household name or achieved notable feats in his nine seasons of professional baseball. But in Paris, Texas, baseball circles, he holds one distinction that has like never been recognized or considered particularly important. Gallegos was the first player of Mexican descent to appear in Paris professional baseball uniform.


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