Thursday, August 18, 2011

Max Lanier, Agapito Mayor share birth date, Cuban League title for Almendares

Aug. 18: On this day in 1915, Cuban baseball legend Agapito Mayor was born in in Sagua La Grande, Las Villas, Cuba, and former major-league pitcher Max Lanier was born in Denton, N.C.

Though born in separate countries they are forever linked not only by their shared birth date but by their exploits during the 1946-47 Cuban League season.

With less than a month remaining in the season, Habana and forged a 6 1/2-game lead over Almendares before the Scorpions reeled off 13 victories in their final 14 games to win the pennant. Six of Habana's losses came against Almendares.

Three came in a three-game, three-day sweep in the final three meetings between the teams, thanks largely to the efforts of Lanier (left) and Mayor.

On Feb. 23, Lanier pitched Almendares to a 4-2 victory, and Mayor beat Habana a 2-1 the following day, setting up the winner-take-all finale on Feb. 25.

That's when Lanier, pitching on one-day's rest, dominated the Lions for a 9-2 victory and the championship.
Their contribution to what is considered the greatest pennant race in Cuban League history helped Mayor and Lanier share another accomplishment: enshrinement in the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame -- Mayor in 1970 and Lanier in 1997.

Even in retirement, they lived near each other -- Mayor in Tampa, Fla., and Lanier 90 miles away in the town of Dunnellon -- and kept in touch.

"Max Lanier," Mayor once told me, "is a great friend of mine."

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