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Saul Toledo dies at 90; played on and wrote about Latino baseball teams in East L.A.

Beginning in the 1940s, Toledo played on teams sponsored by local merchants. He later became the public address announcer for games and then wrote about players and teams for East L.A. newspapers.

October 19, 2010|By Keith Thursby, Los Angeles Times
  • Saul Toledo, right, interviews Mexican-born Bobby Avila of the Cleveland Indians, who in 1954 became the first Latino to win a major league batting title.
Saul Toledo, right, interviews Mexican-born Bobby Avila of the Cleveland… (Latino Baseball History…)

Saul Toledo, who played on and later wrote about Latino baseball teams during a celebrated era for the sport in East Los Angeles, has died. He was 90.

Toledo died Sept. 28 of a heart attack at Downey Regional Medical Center, said Terry Cannon, executive director of the Baseball Reliquary,an organization whose historical projects have included documenting the history of Latinos and baseball in Southern California.

Beginning in the 1940s, Toledo played on teams sponsored by local merchants. The amateur and semi-professional teams played Sundays in front of large crowds at such Southern California locations as Evergreen and Belvedere parks.

"Everyone looked forward to Sunday," said Rich Pena, 80, a former teammate of Toledo.

After his playing days ended in the early 1950s, Toledo became the public address announcer for games and then wrote about the players and teams for a variety of East Los Angeles newspapers.

"In so many ways he was Mr. Baseball for East Los Angeles," said Francisco Balderrama, professor of Chicano studies and history at Cal State Los Angeles. "He's one of the individuals who spans the whole period."

Sam Regalado, a professor of history at Cal State Stanislaus, said Toledo was not only a journalist but "an advocate for the community."

"Sports is very often an arena that creates an image of a community. His mechanism was Mexican American baseball," Regalado said, "at a time when the East Los Angeles community was beginning to express itself in a much more visible manner."

Saul Mario Toledo was born Aug. 15, 1920, in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. His family moved to Boyle Heights when he was 2.

He started playing baseball with local teams after graduating from Roosevelt High School in 1939, Cannon said. Beginning in the late 1940s Toledo played right field and second base with the Carmelita Chorizeros, the most successful of East Los Angeles teams. He's even credited with coming up with the nickname of Chorizeros ("sausage makers"). The team was owned by the Carmelita Provision Co.

Toledo also had a sense of history. Many snapshots he took and collected over the years became part of a 2006 exhibition at Cal State Los Angeles, "Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles: From the Barrios to the Big Leagues." The exhibit has been expanded into a long-term project for Cal State San Bernardino and the Baseball Reliquary.

"He knew that the photographs and materials that he collected over his lifetime represented an important window onto a golden era of Mexican American baseball, where the sport was an all-consuming passion in the barrios," Cannon said.

Toledo is survived by his wife of 69 years, Louise; a son, Saul Jr.; daughters Mary Welch and Sandy McClurg; his brother, Joe; his sister, Veronica; seven grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Services have been held.

keith.thursby@latimes.com

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