From a Minor League Dream to the Big Leagues

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has spent the better part of his life serving his country as a politician and policymaker, but he might have pursued a career in baseball instead of politics if not for his immigrant father's emphasis on education and belief in the American dream.

ABC's Charles Gibson spoke with Richardson as part of a new series called "Who Is," which features one interview every week with a presidential candidate from now until December, with the focus fixed on their private lives.

For an extended version of Charles Gibson's interview with Gov. Bill Richardson click here.

For Richardson, life began on Nov. 15, 1947. He was born in California after his father, William, who was a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Mexico, decided it would be best for his children to be born in America.

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"[My father] made it a dictum in our family that his firstborn would be born in the United States," Richardson said. "And so, when I was about to be born, he took a train with my mother and myself … and we went to Pasadena, Calif., where he had a sister. And so I was born there, just to be born American."

Richardson was then raised in Mexico City with his father, a bank manager; his mother Maria Luisa Lopez-Collada, a secretary; and a younger sister, Vesta.

Wanted Career in Baseball 'More Than Anything'

Richardson's young life was filled with dreams of baseball. His idol was Mickey Mantle, and he started playing the game while still in Mexico.


When he was 13, Richardson's father sent him to Middlesex School, a private preparatory school in Concord, Mass. The rest of Richardson's family remained in Mexico. It was at boarding school that Richardson first began to feel like a true American.

"When I was growing up, I didn't know whether I was an American or a Mexican," Richardson said. "I was darker than most kids. They called me 'Poncho.' I was kind of typecast. I felt I had to win [the students] over. They were popular, self-confident, and I wasn't. So I was trying to find a way to fit in."

Baseball gave Richardson confidence during those transitional years, and he eventually excelled enough to be noticed by professional baseball scouts.

"I wanted more than anything to sign a Minor League Baseball contract," Richardson said.

However, his father made it clear that his son would not be pursuing a baseball career. He insisted that his son go to college.

"He was the total boss. He was a very strong disciplinarian," Richardson said. "He's the kind of father that never praised you, but the kind of father that pushed you to study, to help others. I believe that the fact that I am driven is because of him."

Finding a Love of Politics, and His Future Wife

Richardson met his wife, Barbara, during his senior year at Middlesex. She lived across the street from the school.

"There was a tradition that the townspeople in Concord would pick up the Middlesex students, give them a ride, hitchhike," Richardson said. "So I was hitchhiking once and she picked me up in her car."

They began dating and eventually married eight years later in 1972, after Richardson had graduated from Tufts University, where he majored in French and political science.

He stayed on to attend the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts. A self-described "straight-laced" student, he said he focused more on academics than partying while in college.

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