Leonardo “Leo Najo” Alaniz
Leo Alaniz was born in La Laijia, Nuevo Leon, Mexico in 1899 but claimed Mission, Texas as his hometown for 63 years. Leo Alaniz began his baseball career playing center field in the Mexican winter leagues and for the “30-30s” semi-pro team in Mission, Texas from 1918 to 1923. In 1924, Alaniz became the first Hispanic to play for the San Antonio Bears in the Texas League where he immediately became a star and a living legend on the west side of San Antonio. During his time with the Bears, fans began to call Alaniz conejo, Spanish for “rabbit.” Somewhere along the line, the name was shortened and transformed into “najo,” which he kept.
Many record books list his accomplishments under Leo Najo, rather than his real name, Leo Alaniz. Alaniz played 7 seasons in the Texas League, playing approximately 463 games, which were highlighted by numerous feats, such as twice stealing second base, third base, and home in succession and recording 12 outfield putouts in one game. Alaniz was acquired by the Chicago White Sox in 1926, and during his first season, he hit .310 and was an impressive center fielder. Unfortunately, a freak collision with a teammate ended Alaniz’s stint in the majors, but he returned to the Texas League and continued to excel. When his playing days were over, Alaniz went on to become a successful manager, leading the “30-30s” to numerous championships, even coaching Tom Landry. He even continued to umpire Little League games in the Rio Grande Valley.
For his baseball accomplishments as a player and a manager, Leo Alaniz was among the first class inducted into the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame and was later inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame. The City of Mission, Texas honored Alaniz with a special “Leo Najo Day” on October 12, 1971 when a street and the Mission High School baseball field were dedicated in his honor. Other baseball-related awards have been established in his honor. Leo Alaniz was a legend in San Antonio and a great baseball player and man from South Texas.