Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Friend Dies

My friend Louie Almada died a few days ago, and this obituary was forwarded to me by Mark Macrae. Louie and I became friends when I returned to California in 1993. I would go up and visit with him at his home in San Marino every couple of months until he moved to Carmel to be close to his family up there. I last visited with Louie and his wife Lígia last year. I spent two wonderful hours with him, and though Louie had noticeably slowed down, he still was a wealth of information on the Coast League.

Over the years, I recorded some sixty hours of his reminisces on his career in baseball, and his life both before and after that. Louie and I also shared a love for the lidia de toros bullfighting doesn't capture the sport— and we would talk in Spanish for hours on the great toreros of yesteryear, many of whom he had seen personally.

I loved the man. And will miss him greatly. I will write more about Louie later on. The above photo was Louie’s favorite. He gave it to me many years ago. It was taken at Vaughn Street Grounds by the Portland Oregonian photographer when Louie played for Seattle.


BORN: September 7, 1907

PASSED AWAY: September 16, 2005

Known to all his friends and family as "Popa Lou," Louis Joseph Almada, passed away at his home in Del Mesa, Carmel on September 17, 2005, having just turned 98 the previous week. At his side were his wife of 73 years, Ligia Davila Almada, and his daughter, Cristina Biegel.

Popa Lou was born on September 7, 1907 in El Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico. He came to Los Angeles at the age of seven with his parents, Baldomero and Amelia Almada. The senior Mr. Almada was in the foreign service for the Country of Mexico and posted to Los Angeles.

Within his first few days of living in America, "Louie," as he was then known, discovered the game of baseball and, in order to join in a game at the local playground, he learned English in about a week.

Louie Almada attended Los Angeles High School where he starred for the "Romans" on both the baseball and football teams. In the 1960's, in a poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times, he was voted the all-time most outstanding quarterback in "Roman" history. At his graduation, he received college scholarship offers from U.S.C. and from Notre Dame to play football.

However, his first love was baseball, where he was a terrific pitcher and power hitter under his mentor and inspirational force, Coach Herb White. His statistics in both baseball and football were so impressive that he was voted the Outstanding High School Athlete in the State of California for 1927, a list later joined by Ted Williams, John Elway and Greg Louganis, to name a few. In a memorable exhibition staged at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles in 1927, Louie Almada struck out Babe Ruth and it became the rage of

the Los Angeles newspapers.

Turning down the football scholarships, Mr. Almada signed a $5,000 contract to play for the New York Giants, then managed by the legendary John McGraw, a team which included future Hall of Famers, Mel Ott, Rogers Hornsby, Burleigh Grimes, Bill Terry, Freddie Lindstrom, and Ed Roush. In Spring

Training camp at Sarasota, Florida in 1927, he made the major league roster and was labeled "The Caballero from California." Slated to be the first major league player born in Mexico, Louie got hurt as the team barnstormed up the eastern seaboard and wound up never actually playing in a game at the venerable Polo Grounds. In two years, his younger brother, Mel, did become the first Mexican player to make it to the big leagues. Their careers were chronicled in an Internet article entitled "Beisboleros: Latin Americans and Baseball in the Northwest, 1914-1937."

Mr. Almada played 11 years in the Pacific Coast league. His picture at bat will forever adorn the cover of that league's almanac of all the players to have played in the PCL since its founding in 1903.

In 1999, the Seattle Mariners honored Mr. Almada at the opening of their $500 million new ballpark, Safeco Field. At a ceremony before the game, nine "legends" of Seattle baseball, wearing their retro uniforms, were introduced to the capacity crowd and their faces shown on the Jumbotron in center field. The announcer told the story of Mr. Almada's three years playing for the Seattle Indians between 1930 and 1932; the fact that he normally was a .300+ hitter, but when a sportswriter noted that on Thursdays, when ladies were let in for half price, he hit over .400. Thus, the sportswriter dubbed him, "Ladies Day Louie" and that is how he was introduced at the ceremony, the oldest of the legendary players at 91 years of age. Following the ceremony, he was asked by a sportswriter how he liked the new ballpark and he was quoted in the Seattle newspapers as saying, "I think I could hit here, I'd just need someone to run for me."

After his baseball career ended, Mr. Almada went into the produce business in Central California, the Produce Market in Los Angels, and later in Nogales, Arizona. He retired in 1977. He and his wife lived in San Marino, California for 50 years before moving to Carmel in 1999.

Mr. Almada is survived by his wife, Ligia Davila Almada, his son Charles Almada and his daughter, Cristina Biegel, along with grandchildren Anthony Almada, Andrew Almada, Brandon Kirsch and Jacob Biegel, and a recently born great grandchild, Ava Almada.

A funeral mass will be held at ____a.m./p.m. on Saturday, September 24th at the San Carlos Cathedral in Monterey. Burial will take place at a family plot in Covina, California. The family suggests that any contributions in memory of Mr. Almada be made to __________________________.

Mr. Almada had one final wish: To be known as "The Noblest Roman of Them All." That will be affixed to his headstone upon his burial.


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