A museum honoring Tampa baseball history could be installed in Al Lopez’s childhood home under a plan pushed by the Ybor City Museum Society.
Al Lopez, for those too young to remember, was the first Tampa native to play in the majors, joining the Brooklyn Robins (later the Dodgers) in 1930 and spending productive seasons with the Boston Bees (Braves) and Pittsburgh Pirates before retiring in 1947 with the Cleveland Indians. He later managed the Indians (1954) and the Chicago White Sox (1959) to pennants before being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.
His childhood home still stands but has been targeted for demolition by the Florida Department of Transportation, which needs the land for Interstate 4 expansion. Under the new plan, the DOT will move the house across from Centennial Park in Ybor City, where the museum would take it over for exhibits on the history of baseball in the city.
And it is a rich history. Though we now associate Tampa and the Tampa Bay area as a big home to spring training, there was a lot of baseball being played in the area apart from Major League Baseball: players from the cigar factories (Ybor City was the center of American cigar making for decades) and from different ethnic groups launched leagues and teams on their own. When they were kids, the likes of Lou Piniella played lots of ball at Cuscaden Park, a WPA-funded facility in Ybor City; Al Lopez Field, located on the current Raymond James Stadium site, was also a center for local baseball.
It’s not a done deal: the museum society will be requesting to lease land from Hillsborough County for the museum.
Photo: Al Lopez in 1939 as a member of the Boston Bees, playing at Braves Field. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.
RELATED STORIES: A natural pairing: museums at the ballpark
Share your news with the baseball community. Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you a subscriber to the weekly Ballpark Digest newsletter? You can sign up for a free subscription at the Newsletter Signup Page.