Germán “El Mago” Mesa

German-Mesa

 

Germán Mesa is widely regarded as the greatest shortstop to ever have played in Cuba.

Despite this fact, it is very difficult to find any information pertaining to him or any other legendary Cuban baseball players.

Germán Mesa Fresneda was born in Havana, Cuba on May 12, 1967.  He was 5’8″ and weighed 150lbs. during his playing career.  Mesa spent most of his career playing for the Industriales, but began with the Industriales’ “farm team” (the Metropolitanos) in 1986.

An above average hitter, Mesa was particularly speedy on the basepaths, leading the league 3 times (1988, 1989, 1991) and is 7th all time in stolen bases with 335.  Despite being a well-rounded ballplayer, the one thing that stood out about Mesa’s game was his defense.  He earned the nicknames “El Mago” (the Magician) and “El Imán” (the Magnet) based on his defensive play.

Defensive wizard and New York Mets shortstop Rey Ordoñez, after winning his third major-league gold glove, was asked if he thought he was the best defensive player in the game.  “No,” he said. “I am just a prince.  The King is in Cuba and his name is Germán Mesa.”

Ordoñez spent his entire Cuban baseball career as Mesa’s backup before defecting to the United States and becoming a big leaguer.

Mesa’s intelligence, sense of positioning, range to both his left and right, his elegant style and ability to make even the most impossible plays are why he is considered the greatest shortstop to ever play in a Cuban ballpark.  Those who have seen him play even go so far as to compare with another defensive great,  the American Ozzie “The Wizard” Smith.

Cuban baseball icon and former big-leaguer, the 99-year-old Conrado “Connie” Marrero once said that Mesa was easily the best defensive shortstop he had ever seen, including his time in the majors with the Washington Senators at which time both Phil Rizzuto and Pee-wee Reese played.

Conrado Marrero

 

Mesa, while being a stud defensively, was also an above average hitter.  He led the Cuban National Series in hits, triples and stolen bases during his career. Mesa retired from the game in 2002, and is now the manager for the Industriales. Last season in his second season at the helm, Mesa led the Industriales to the Cuban National Series title.  (Coincidentally, his double play partner for much of his career, Juan Padilla, was named manager of the lowly Metropolitanos at the same time Mesa was named manager of the Industriales.)

 

During international events, Mesa posted a .346 average (106/306). In Olympic competition, he won a gold medal in 1992 and a silver in 2000.

 

Mesa’s defensive prowess really needs to be seen to be believed:

Mesa and his double-play partner Juan Padilla.  This is defensive artistry at its best:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEkgZgOongE

This year’s hottest jam:

[youtube hdYHYJtkSsk] (German Mesa gets a shout out at approximately 1:22)

Fast forward through the first 25 seconds, which is garbage:

If you speak Spanish, you might enjoy this interview with Mesa:

has written for Mopupduty.com since 2006. Follow Callum on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram (@callumhughson)

  • james hodgins

    hey callum, great piece on german mesa. would love to see a bio of omar linares. i was at the world junior baseball championships in kindersley sask. in 1982? I remember linares just completely lighting up the USA and pretty much everyone else. The cuban players didn’t talk much to fans but i was lucky enough to get a few of them to sign my glove and linares was among them. From what I understand, steinbrenner tried very hard to pry him out of cuba but he refused or was “persuaded” to refuse. I’d love to see a post on whatever you can find of linares.

    • http://www.twitter.com/callumhughson Callum Hughson

      Of course! I’d be happy to. Linares is currently an assistant coach to Mesa on the Industriales.

  • http://www.mopupduty.com Matthias Koster

    That in the area double play (1st video, 0:16 – 0:20) is just insane. I’ve watched it 10 times already

  • Oscar

    As always I love when you guys post about my hometown cuban players. I feel bad for other baseball fans for not been witnessed of these players. There are so many stories of German that I can spend days here writting and it will be little. He used to with two outs, throw the ball to the first baseman and go straight to the bench without even looking if he had done an error. He was amazing. I never saw a live game of Ozzie but I have to be honest if German would had played in the majors now we would be comparing ozzie to him that’s how good he was. He had way better arm than Ozzie never had.

    To the one that asked about Omar linares, he is considered the greatest amateur baseball player. He started playing at the highest level at the age of 15. The story that I know is that a scout of the blue jays gave him a blank check to sing for them, promising to only play in games at home. Other people said that they showed him 14 Millions cash to leave the team in Atlanta 96 but that is kind of crazy I think.

  • alberto rodriguez

    man i got to tell you this guy german to me he was to the best defensive ss to ever play the game watching him plsy was pure magic , every ground out or line was caought we pure style