Obituary: Narciso Elvira (1967-2020)

RIP to Narciso Elvira, who played briefly in the major leagues as well as professionally in Mexico, Japan and Korea. Elvira, 52, and his 20-year-old son Gustavo were shot to death on January 28 in the municipality of Medellín de Bravo. As of this writing, January 30, no arrests have been made. Elvira pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1990.

According to BBC News, Elvira and his son were driving near town when their car was ambushed by gunmen traveling in two vehicles. The two men tried to flee on foot when the assailants opened fire. Elvira had been targeted previously by Mexican gangs; he was kidnapped in 2015 by men claiming to be a part of the criminal Gulf cartel. He was held captive for 23 days before being freed by police.

Narciso Elvira was born on October 29, 1967, in Tlalixcoyan, Mexico. According to SABR’s newly published Sporting News contract cards, he was acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1986 from Leon, a Mexican team. The southpaw pitcher appeared briefly with the Class-A Beloit Brewers in 1987, winning 3 games in 4 starts with a 1.33 ERA and was loaned to Leon for the rest of the season. He was on the roster for the Brewers Winter Instructional League team and was assigned to Class-A Stockton in 1988.

Elvira demonstrated that he had no-hit stuff early in his career. On July 20, 1988, he struck out 13 Reno Silver Sox and took a no-no into the 7th inning. He finished the year with a 7-6 record, 3.26 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 135-1/3 innings. The Brewers hoped they had found the next Teddy Higuera in Elvira and added him to their 40-man roster.

“He has good stuff, but his command of the strike zone isn’t what we’d like it to be,” said Stockton manager Dave Huppert. “He throws a lot of pitches in a game, but he does strike out a lot of guys. He has en excellent curveball, that’s his out pitch. He’s definitely a major league prospect.”

Higuera and Elvira were briefly teammates on the AA El Paso Diablos in 1989. Higuera was an established major-league star making a rehab start as he recovered from back surgery, and Elvira was glad to see him in action.

“It’s a great experience for me to watch Teddy pitch,” the 22-year-old said. “We’re similar pitchers, both lefties, and have similar mechanics. Teddy’s a great guy, someone who never forgot where he came from.”

Elvira ran into control problems with the Diablos and was demoted back to Stockton, where he turned things around to have a good season. He was named the 23rd best prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 1990 season. He was one of two Brewers players on the list, with Greg Vaughn appearing at #9. The 1990 season itself was a frustrating one for him and the team. After a dominant season in the Mexican Winter League (9-2 record, 1.41 ERA), Elvira again split the season between A-ball and AA while missing significant time with shoulder problems. He was promoted to the major leagues in September, though he had yet to pitch an inning above AA. His promotion was more a chance to get him some more work, if nothing else.

The young lefty was used as a mop-up reliever in four Brewers’ losses. He gave up a run in each of his first three appearances. In his last game on September 28, he held the Yankees scoreless for 2-1/3 innings in relief of Higuera. Elvira allowed 2 hits and walked 2 but struck out 4, including slugger Jesse Barfield twice. He also picked off Roberto Kelly, who had singled.

In his 4 games, Elvira had no record and a 5.40 ERA. He allowed 6 hits in 5 innings, with 5 walks and 6 strikeouts. The Brewers send him to AAA Denver in 1991, where he struggled with an 0-4 record and 5.96 ERA in 18 innings. He refused an assignment to the minors in the spring of 1992 and was released.

Elvira pitched in the Rangers organization for a season, and then he spent the next decade-plus playing in Mexico, the minor leagues, Japan and Korea. He had some sensational seasons pitching around the globe. According to a news report from Mexico News Daily, he threw two no-hitters for the Campeche Pirates in 1999 and a no-hitter for the Osaka Buffaloes in 2000, making him the only Mexican pitcher to do so in Nippon Professional Baseball history. When he pitched for the Samsung Lions in 2002, he won 13 games with a 2.50 ERA and fanned 111 batters in 137 innings. His last season was 2009, when he made a couple of appearances with Minatitlan when he was 40 years old.

Baseball Reference has Elvira’s career win totals at 63, though several years are not included. After his retirement from baseball, he owned and operated a farm that raised cattle and produced sugar cane. His farm employed about 100 people.

“I like it here, to be with my people, those who saw me grow up, I wanted to be back here with them,” he said about his decision to retire in Veracruz.

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