Al Lopez Field

Remembering Tampa's Favorite Son

On Wednesday, October 6th, 1954, Al Lopez was honored by the city of Tampa with a parade and a dedication. This would be one of the first celebrations that honored “El Señor.” On that day, the mayor of Tampa dedicated the city’s new baseball stadium by naming it “Al Lopez Field.” Over the next fifty years, the people of Tampa honored Lopez many times over.

Upon his death, Al Lopez was heralded as a source of pride to a generation of Tampa Latinos. Born to immigrant Spanish parents in 1908, the Ybor City native played 19 years in the Major Leagues for four teams: Brooklyn Robins/Dodgers, Boston Bees, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cleveland Indians. He was the first ballplayer from to make it to the Major Leagues. In 1951, he became manager of the Cleveland team, a job he held for five years. In 1959, he led the Chicago White Sox to the American League pennant. Following his retirement, Lopez was elected the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. Despite all his accomplishments and accolades on the field, his obituary emphasized the impact he had to on Tampa’s Latin-American community. For many lamenting the loss of the baseball icon, Lopez signified a way in which a poor immigrant from Tampa could prosper on skill alone. Pointing to a black and white picture of cigar workers, one funeral-goer stated that: “He represented all you wanted to be – all you could be – in the Hispanic community.”

Al Lopez represented the second generation of Tampans, the sons and daughters of immigrants. His father worked in a cigar factory in Cuba before immigrating to Tampa. At a young age, however, Lopez declared to never work in a cigar factory. “I hated them,” he said, “I vowed never to work in one.” Instead of following in his father’s line of work, Lopez focused on playing baseball at a young age. It was while growing up in Ybor City that Lopez, like many other immigrants, began playing and enjoying baseball. When reminiscing about his youth, Lopez stated: “I think that we enjoyed our boyhood an awful lot…You could go not too far from where you were and you could build up your own baseball diamond. We used to build our own baseball diamond, put the bases down, and make our own baseball diamond in any couple of open field that we had.”

After reaching the Major Leagues in 1928, and throughout his baseball career, Lopez kept ties to the city of Tampa and its immigrant community. So much so that, in 1954, the city dedicated its new ballpark to Lopez. Named after Lopez, Al Lopez Field replaced Plant Field as the city’s baseball stadium. The stadium was originally the home for the Chicago White Sox spring training and the Tampa Tarpons – the city’s minor league team. The stadium opened on March 10, 1955. That afternoon, the Chicago White Sox defeated the Cincinnati Reds in front 3,025 fans. After taking the job as manager of the White Sox in 1957, Lopez had the distinction of coaching in a stadium named after him. During one spring training game in 1957, Lopez was ejected after arguing with an umpire. Following the game, Lopez was quoted as saying: “The umpire threw me out of my own ballpark!” The stadium was eventually demolished in 1989. Yet, in 1992, the city again dedicated the space to the memory of Al Lopez. On October 3, 1992, A statute and plaque were dedicated at the new Al Lopez park.

Images

1960 Topps Baseball Card

1960 Topps Baseball Card

In 1959, Tampa's son of a Spanish immigrant led the Chicago White Sox to the American League pennant. | Source: Topps Basbeall View File Details Page

Al Lopez, Brooklyn Dodger

Al Lopez, Brooklyn Dodger

Al Lopez with the Brooklyn Dodgers | Source: Tampa Baseball Museum View File Details Page

Lopez Catching for the Brooklyn Dodgers

Lopez Catching for the Brooklyn Dodgers

Lopez broke into the Major Leagues as a Catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1928. Here he plays against the New York Giants. View File Details Page

Al Lopez Field

Al Lopez Field

Al Lopez field was the spring home for the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds. Upon entering the stadium, fans were greeted with a likeness of Al Lopez. View File Details Page

Al Lopez Baseball Hall of Fame Plaque in Cooperstown, NY.

Al Lopez Baseball Hall of Fame Plaque in Cooperstown, NY.

In 1977, Al Lopez was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. While noting his playing days, Lopez was remembered for his managerial career. | Source: http://baseballhall.org/hof/lopez-al | Creator: Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY View File Details Page

Program for USF's Spring Commencement

Program for USF's Spring Commencement

In 1989, the University of South Florida award Al Lopez with an honorary ductal degree in humane letters. | Source: USF Special Collections View File Details Page

Al Lopez Reception and Dinner

Al Lopez Reception and Dinner

Hosted by the Centro Asturiano, Al Lopez was honored for his induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. | Source: USF Special Collections View File Details Page

President John F. Kennedy Speaks at Al Lopez Field

President John F. Kennedy Speaks at Al Lopez Field

Places of baseball can often be remembered for things other than baseball. On November 18, 1963, the president visited Al Lopez field to give a speech at an airline service event. Thousands gathered at the ballpark to hear the president speak. This would be one of his last speeches as he was killed four days later in Dallas, TX. | Source: Tampa Times View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Paul Dunder, “Al Lopez Field,” Tampa Historical, accessed April 20, 2019, http://tampahistorical.org/items/show/15.

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