Friday, May 05, 2006

May 5th, 1862

Cinco de Mayo

Don't worry, not another repeat today, although last's year entry on Mexican ballplayers is still worth reading. As I mention very briefly there, Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of the defeat of French forces at the Battle of Puebla. I'm very familiar with this topic from writing about it for my senior history thesis, titled "The American Civil War and Diplomatic Ramifications of French Intervention in Mexico." Catchy title, I know.

Anyway, seeing as last year I did something on the best Mexican ballplayers, today it seems only fair I do something to cheer up my readers of French heritage whose defeat on this date is being joyously celebrated today by the Corona Corporat--er, I mean, the people of Mexico! Among the eight Major Leaguers born in France--if not necessarily French--the most famous is current Padres' manager Bruce Bochy. Bochy was born in Landes De Bussac in 1955, and while his playing career was nothing special (a lifetime .239 hitter as a back-up catcher), Bochy is currently the second longest tenured manager in baseball behind Bobby Cox. Bochy has thrice led the Padres to the playoffs, including a trip to the World Series in 1998.

The France-born player with the most at-bats is actually Steve Jeltz, who was born in Paris. Jeltz was a starter on some mediocre Philly teams as a shortstop in the 80s, hitting a lifetime .213 with just four home runs. (All of which, curiously, came in 1989.) Charlie Lea, born in Orleans on Christmas Day 1956, is probably the best France-born player of all-time. Lea won sixty-two big leagues games with a just better than average 3.54 ERA. In 1981, appropriately enough given the bilingual nature of their home city, Lea threw a no-hitter for the Expos, the second pitcher in franchise history to have done that.

So chin up France, the Battle of Puebla may have been a humiliating and unexpected defeat, but at least you've got Bruce Bochy and Charlie Lea to cheer you up!

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