The cricket championship that ran from 1900 to 1909 was the first sports league in Mexico. It appeared two years before the Mexico Amateur Association Football League (known as the Primera Fuerza in Spanish), the forerunner of today’s Mexican Premier League, and a further 23 before the Mexican Baseball League. Cricket now settled in to a regular yearly season going from January to July.
THE ATLAS OF MEXICAN CRICKET
The Reforma Athletic Club in their colours of Oxford blue and white dominated the cricket league, winning the titles in 1900, 1901, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, and 1909 (Mexico Cricket Club won in 1902 and 1903; Pachuca Athletic Club in 1908). The club, which had been founded in March 1894 in Mexico City, was the richest, most prestigious in the country during the Porfiriato. With its wealth and social clout, The Reforma Athletic Club imported the best cricket equipment from England, from matting wickets to bats and balls, and had the pick of the best cricketers in Mexico. It was so strong that it could field two teams which, according to The Mexican Herald, included English County Championship players within them. One of the biggest reasons for their success was Claude Butlin, captain from 1899 to 1901 and again in 1905, who swept aside all before him with bat and ball, topping the batting and bowling ranks in every season of the championship. Butlin was, without doubt, Mexico’s greatest cricketer. The following figures clearly show why.
5 May 1900: 9 wickets for 4 runs vs Mexico Cricket Club (4 wickets in 5 balls, but without completing a hat-trick)
16 June 1901: 6 wickets for 9 runs vs Mexico Cricket Club
13 April 1902: 13 wickets for 20 runs vs Puebla and District Cricket Club
1 February 1903: 6 wickets for 2 runs vs Mexico Cricket Club
22 February 1903: 175* runs vs Puebla and District Cricket Club (batted for seven hours; score included two sixes, five fives, eleven fours)
22 February 1903: 7 wickets for 13 runs vs Puebla and District Cricket Club
5 May 1903: 113 runs vs Mexico Cricket Club
5 March 1905: 101 runs vs San Pedro Golf Club
9 April 1905: 102* runs vs Puebla and District Cricket Club
22 June 1906: 113 runs vs British Club
22 March 1909: 8 wickets for 14 runs vs Pachuca Athletic Club
Born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to British parents, Claude Butlin arrived in Mexico in 1890 at the age of 13 and went on to become a man of all-round talent. He was skipper of The Reforma Athletic Club’s football team in 1905, finishing as top scorer in the 1905-06 and 1910-1911 seasons of the Primera Fuerza. He won 10 national golf championships and served as secretary of The Reforma Athletic Club, cricket committee and Mexican Cycling Union. Butlin particularly excelled in tennis, where he captured 28 trophies for The Reforma Athletic Club, won the Dallas Cup singles for Mexico in 1907 and 1909 and the national championship in 1917, and the Davis Cup doubles in 1924 and 1927. Such was his sporting prowess and reputation that President Porfirio Diaz was an admirer. During an athletics event in July 1906 The Mexican Herald tells us:
in the running high jump General Diaz was observed numbers of times to step from his place to see how Butlin cleared the tape, and he seemed particularly gratified, when that jumper made the five-foot-two limit after several trials.
Claude Butlin had 450 trophies in his name when he died in 1940 at the age of 68.
A GAME OF THE PORFIRIAN ELITES
The top brass in the Porfirian government and the Mexican elite were also attracted to cricket, as much for its associations with the world’s power at the time as by the memory of their own English educations, and nowhere was this more evident that in the Mexico Cricket Club.
The Mexico Cricket Club was established in August 1896 in Mexico City “like the phoenix on the ashes” of the Mexico National Athletic Club that folded a few months earlier. The mover and shaker behind creation of the team was Luis Amor, a Mexican sugar plantation owner and cricket fanatic from the state of Morelos. His love of cricket came from his childhood education at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. Such was his passion for the sport that he established the short-lived Mexico Wanderers in 1899 and donated bats, balls, and a scoring tent to the Mexico Cricket Club. He was also the captain until 1900 as well as its treasurer. When the Mexico Cricket Club overcame The Reforma Athletic Club by 18 runs on 18 May 1902 to secure the cricket championship, a reporter from The Mexican Herald caught up with the players after the match to get their thoughts. An unnamed veteran commented:
The happiest man in this city tonight is Louis Amor and he really deserves the pleasure the victory has given him. No man in this country has worked harder for the game than Louis, and as for the Mexico club, it is to him perhaps the dearest thing on earth. I am sure he wakes in the morning, thinking of the club’s welfare, and he works for its welfare at every hour of the day, and his sweetest dreams are of its success.
Alongside Luis in the Mexico Cricket Club were his brothers Alejandro (captain from 1900 to 1904), Victor, and Pablo. Like their sibling, they were also cricket mad because of their upbringing in England at Stonyhurst College. In fact, two of the Amor brothers were good enough to turn out for the school’s cricket eleven.
The Mexico Cricket Club donned a red and white uniform and, like The Reforma Athletic Club, had the numbers to form two teams. Matches were played on a patch of land opposite The Reforma Athletic Club. At the team’s Annual General Meeting in December 1900 the Mexico Cricket Club elected the Finance Minister Jose Yves Limantour (who served the office from 1893 until the outbreak of Revolution and fall of President Porfirio Diaz in 1911) as their Honorary President as a “proper compliment” to him “for use of the grounds on which the games are played, and though the minister does not play, he is a friend of cricket and of the players”, commented The Mexican Herald.
The Reforma Athletic Club and Mexico Cricket Club were rivals. The longer-established The Reforma Athletic Club looked down its nose at its younger opponent, seeing it as an annoyance and an upstart organisation. The Mexico Cricket Club, in turn, saw The Reforma Athletic Club as a team of aristocrats. The British Ambassador to Mexico was Honorary President of both clubs. “The feeling is not one, however, that will prevent the holding of some rousing good matches”, assessed The Mexican Herald after acknowledging the “strained relations” that existed between the two sides. That the newspaper was correct is shown by the fact that The Reforma Athletic Club – Mexico Cricket Club rivalry is still going strong today!
Another of the Mexican elite who was a fan of cricket was Carlos de Landa y Escandón, whose brother Guillermo was the Governor of Mexico City between 1903 and 1911. An alumnus of Stonyhurst College and a partner in the British construction company Pearson and Son., Carlos wielded the willow for the San Cristobal British Club. In a match against the Read and Campbell Cricket Club on May 1892 he scored 9 runs in the first innings and made a well-played 4 in the second innings. A week later on 5 June he scored 0 and 4 as the team lost by 4 runs to the Zumpango Cricket Club.
Zumpango Cricket Club was a sister side to Read and Campbell Cricket Club (Read and Campbell was another British construction firm and business rival to Pearson and Son). Pablo Martinez del Rio (also of Stonyhurst College fame) was the Vice-President of Read and Campbell Cricket Club. The Martinez del Rios have been a prominent family in Mexican political, social, and business life from Mexico’s independence since 1821 right to the present day.
THE THIN RED LINE
The league matches were social events and the British community came out en masse to watch. The clash between Pachuca Athletic Club and Mexico Cricket Club at Xochihuacan in the state of Hidalgo on 14 June 1900 drew a huge crowd. There was a strong British influence and sizeable Anglo-Mexican population in Hidalgo that stretched back to the 1820s when miners from Cornwall came to reconstitute the region’s silver mines. British surnames were common; the Rule family was prominent in local political, social and economic affairs; the British architectural style was reflected in homes and public buildings in Pachuca and Mineral del Monte; football in Mexico was first played in Mineral del Monte; and the pasty was (and still is) a staple food.
On the day the British turned up in their hundreds with picnics to watch the big game. The majority came from the mining towns in Hidalgo while some came up on the train from Mexico City and as far afield as the states of Puebla and Veracruz. Tents were set up, Union Jacks fluttering above in the wind, for the players, women, bigwigs and private parties as well as for refreshments. The Pachuca brass band was in attendance, showing its support for the British forces fighting the Boer republics in South Africa by playing a patriotic programme of songs during the match, including “Brave England”, “The Fall of Pretoria”, “Relief of Ladysmith”, “General Bailer’s March”, “Lord Robert’s Waltz”, “White’s Polka”, “Baden Powell’s Quadrille”, “God Bless the Prince of Wales”, “God Save the Queen”, and “See the Conquering Hero Comes”. Gambling went on and the spectators were in fine voice cheering on the players. Pachuca Athletic Club, which contained five members of the Rule family, won by 10 runs.
The first season of the league in 1900 resulted in a flurry of cricket ideas. The Two Republics published an initiative to send a Mexico national team (wearing red, white, and green) to the United States and Canada in May of that year. Drawn from the crème de la crème of The Reforma Athletic Club, Mexico Cricket Club, Pachuca Athletic Club, Puebla and District Cricket Club, and including players from Orizaba and Veracruz, our heroes would tour San Antonio, St. Louis, Philadelphia (America and Germantown clubs), New York, Chicago, Toronto, and Montreal. “The names selected are as follows”, announced The Two Republics:
Alexander Amor, Paul Amor, J. Flynn, Nenn Hughes, Claude Butlin, J. A. Brauch, Hedley Ludlow. Pachuca; Harry Rule, Pachuca; J. Velasco, Puebla; C. J. Castle, Frank R. Smith, H. E. Brooke, J. L. Clarkson, Veracruz; A. J Simpson, Orizaba; Thurston Hamer, captain.
Plans were also made for a “novelty” Britain versus Mexico game in August. Even though “it seems strange”, commented The Two Republics, “Mexico could place a wonderfully strong team in the field, including as it would the Messrs Paul, Louis, and Alexander Amor, Jose de Velasco, Somelera, Soto, Cabrera, Pasquel, C. Marron, Enrique Marron, and others”. Another idea appeared in The Two Republics to invite the Philadelphia Cricket Club to the country in 1901 for a four-match series with the Puebla and District Club, The Reforma Athletic Club, Mexico Cricket Club, and the Pachuca Athletic Club, culminating in a game against a Mexico national team. However, for various reasons these ideas never got off the drawing board.
Article © Craig White
 Claude Butlin’s statistics taken from Reforma Athletic Club. S.C: A History and Description of the Club with the Rules and Records of various Sports. 1894 to 1910, Mexico: Imprenta Comercial, 1910.
 Daily Record, 3 May 1906.
 The Reforma Athletic Club: Club Centenario: 117 años, Mexico: Offset Rebosan, 1911
 The Mexican Herald, 5 July 1906
 The Mexican Herald, 28 October 1900, p.5
 The Mexican Herald, Tuesday 20 May 1902, p. 2.
 The Mexican Herald, 7 June 1899
 The Mexican Herald, Tuesday 30 December 1900, p. 8.
 The Mexican Herald, 9 October 1899, p. 8.
 Daily Anglo-American, 31 May 1892.
 The Mexican Herald, 5 June 1892, p.1.
 The Mexican Herald, Saturday 16 June 1900, p. 5.
 The Two Republics, Sunday 10 December 1899.
 The Two Republics, Tuesday 1 May 1900, p.5.
 Ibid, p.5