As promised yesterday, today we are taking a virtual tour of Tampa, FL, and places dedicated to former MLB catcher and manager, Al Lopez. Lopez was born in Ybor City and played for Brooklyn, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland between 1928 and 1947. He became the first Hispanic manager in Major League Baseball, managing the Cleveland Indians (1951-1956) and the Chicago White Sox (1957-1965, 1968-1969). In 1977, he became one of the first Hispanics, and the first from Tampa, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Several places around Tampa serve as reminders of Lopez’ legacy. Recently, Lopez’ home was moved from 12th to 19th Street in Ybor City, located near the Ybor City Museum. The house will be renovated and will open as the Tampa Baseball Museum next Spring.
And while Al Lopez Field (former Spring Training home of the Chicago White Sox (1955-1959) and Cincinnati Reds (1960-1988) and home of the Florida State League Tampa Tarpons from 1957 to 1988), was demolished in 1989 to make room for Raymond James Stadium and the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a nearby city park was renamed Al Lopez Park. Across the street from the park, the athletic center at Jesuit High School, which Lopez attended, also is dedicated to Lopez.
The Tampa Bay Rays also have honored Lopez. Lopez was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the team’s inaugural game in 1988. In addition, Lopez is featured prominently in the concourse of the ballpark where the history of baseball in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area is depicted.
Surely, these are not the only reminders of Lopez’ impact on the community, but they are important reminders of his legacy. So, next time you’re in Tampa, be sure to seek out these important baseball landmarks.