The Winter Meetings in their current form are an exercise in madness. Throngs of reporters descend on some gigantic southern hotel or convention center and attempt to track their every move in hopes of breaking trades hours before an official team press release. It is an absurdity, especially when the point of the Winter Meetings in the first place was probably just to escape some cold weather and throw down some drinks in the process.
Now, we have this:
Prior to the internet-driven sports media explosion, the Winter Meetings were a smaller affair. The proceedings were still covered, but mostly by larger media organizations like the Associated Press or dedicated publications like The Sporting News. As such, the executives spent significantly less holed up in hotel rooms or in front of an MLB Network set and more time doing normal human activities, like going out in whatever city the Winter Meetings took place in that year.
In 1967, as part of a celebration of the Mexican League’s elevation from Double-A to Triple-A status, Major League Baseball held the Winter Meetings in Mexico City. The event marked the first time the Winter Meetings were held outside United States borders. The all-white and all-rich general managers and executives descended on the city and, unsurprisingly, were totally and completely unprepared for the language and cultural differences it presented from their typical lives.
Luckily, Stan Isle of The Sporting News was there to report.
“What happened to the British pound was relatively mild compared with the fate of the Yankee dollar in the first few days of the only winter meeting baseball ever held outside the United States.
In too many cases, “el tourista” was stuck, and frequently for several bucks.
It’s a forgone conclusion that it will be virtually impossible to provide an accurate accounting of the money spent by the baseball family during its stay South of the Border.”
Tom Mee, Twins director of public relations, dropped a 50-peso note on a shoeshine. Joe Cronin, American League president, threw down 100 pesos for his. The baseball men had so much trouble figuring out what a “centavo” was they eventually resorted to only buying coffee at the Marie Isabel, the building hosting the convention, where they were allowed to sign a tab instead.
For reference, Mee’s 50-peso shoeshine cost him four American dollars — roughly $28 after accounting for the inflation of the last 47 years. Cronin, then, spent the equivalent of $56 in today’s dollars on his shine. And we can be sure there was more where that came from, as a number of the baseball men were likely too proud to share their stories of getting ripped off. After all, these are businessmen. Their job is being on the other side of the equation.
The Mexico Winter Meetings turned out to be eventful. Rules banning the spitball were tightened. More importantly, a four-team expansion was announced, originally slated for 1971 but later moved up to 1969 after the Kansas City A’s moved to Oakland. But for all their productivity, baseball’s leading executives couldn’t manage to leave Mexico City without a few financial gaffes. It should come as no surprise the Winter Meetings have remained within American borders ever since.
The full story, from the December 9, 1967 issue of The Sporting News, can be seen here: