DECEMBER 29, 1951 | EL MANTE, MEXICO • It was a mystery then. It’s a mystery today. A one-time rising star for the Chicago Cubs was shot and killed in El Mante (Ciudad, Mante in Spanish) Mexico on this date in 1951.
Thirty-five year old Hi Bithorn, a native of Puerto Rico, was playing in the Mexican Winter League trying to make a comeback when he was killed.
According to an article written by Jane Allen Quevedo for the Society of American Baseball Research, the Bithorn family believes Officer Cano's motive for shooting Bithorn was because he wanted to steal his car.
According to several articles in The Chicago Tribune in the days after the shooting, Bithorn was broke and trying to sell a car for cash. El Mante policeman Ambrosio Castillo Cano asked Bithorn for the car’s registration papers. There was an altercation and Bithorn was shot in the stomach. Cano said Bithorn attacked him.
According to an article written by Jane Allen Quevedo for the Society of American Baseball Research, the Bithorn family believes Officer Cano’s motive for shooting Bithorn was because he wanted to steal his car.
For some unknown reason, Bithorn was driven to a hospital more than 80 miles away. He died enroute. Cano was charged with homicide and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Bithorn was a shining star early in his career. He came up with the Chicago Cubs in 1942. He won 18 games in ’43, including a league leading 7 shutouts. It was the midst of World War II and Uncle Sam called. He missed the 1944 and ’45 seasons.
The luster Bithorn showed before entering the military wasn’t there when he got out in 1946. He bounced around the majors for a couple years, pitching two innings for the Chicago White Sox in 1947 until a sore arm put him out of action. He would never pitch in the major leagues again.
His attempt at a comeback in the Mexican Winter League ended violently, but the Bithorn mystery lives on. The largest baseball stadium in Puerto Rico is named after Hi Bithorn.
The Chicago Tribune, January 1-5, 1952
Hi Bithorn stats