BY RENE TORRES
Alberto R. Esqueda was born in Harlingen in 1925. He was an outstanding athlete at Harlingen High School, and as a teenager, played semi-pro baseball in the 1942 Valley League.
His tenure in the circuit was cut short after the league folded due to war shortages. Soon after, he decided to join the war effort, like many of our Valley boys did.
It was documented that by 1940, the Cameron and Hidalgo county Selective Service offices had registered a total of 27,000 potential soldiers.
After basic training, Al, within weeks, was facing the ugly face of war in Europe as a member of the 66th Infantry Division. Esqueda, in battle, demonstrated the same kind of tenacity he did on the diamond. His efforts did not go unnoticed, and was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart for wounds received in battle.
With the climax of the war coming to an end in the summer of 1945 — there was a renewed interest in baseball. Esqueda’s skills on the diamond were once again highlighted as a member of his regiment’s baseball squad.
He played a significant role as pitcher — leading them to a Regimental Championship.
By 1946, Al was back home and celebrating not only a war victory but rejoicing over the fact he would be playing professional baseball.
New York Giants
come to Harlingen
The Giants’ tryout camp for South Texas opened in Harlingen’s Fair Park on July 22, 1946. It lasted for five days for prospects ages of 16 to 22. Bill Lacy of La Feria, New York scout, was the camp supervisor.
It was in one of those camp sessions that Al Esqueda and Keith Carpenter of Rio Hondo were discovered. Both were assigned to play with the Oshkosh Giants of the Class “D” Wisconsin League.
Esqueda had a memorable rookie year — in his first game he struck out 19 batters, setting a Wisconsin League record.
By the end of the year, pitching a total of 174 innings, struck out 207 batters, and finished the ‘46 season with a 15-6 record and a 2.22 ERA.
By 1951, after several seasons in the minor leagues, that included a season in the Mexican Pacific Winter league — Al retired from professional baseball after an unsuccessful tryout with San Antonio Missions.
Al left a legacy of bravery on the battle field and brilliance on the diamond.
Nationalism was at an all-time high during this period.
Demonstrated not only by those on the battle field, but also by those that stay behind. Oh! By the Way! There’s no kneeling in baseball.