A collaborative effort between the Baseball Reliquary and the John M. Pfau Library at California State University, San Bernardino, the Latino Baseball History Project is a comprehensive and multifaceted humanities-based endeavor. The ongoing project is concerned with documenting and interpreting the historic role that baseball has played as a cohesive element and as a social and cultural force within the Latino, predominantly Mexican American, communities of Southern California. While the impact of minor and Major League Baseball in the region is covered, a strong emphasis is placed on the once-flourishing culture of amateur and semi-professional baseball as an important means for celebrating ethnic identity and instilling community pride. In addition to the establishment of a permanent archive at the John M. Pfau Library, the project also encompasses oral history documentation, exhibitions, a Web site, and related activities.
The Latino Baseball History Project is a major expansion and development of an earlier collaborative effort between the Baseball Reliquary and California State University, Los Angeles, begun in 2005 under the title “Mexican-American Baseball in Los Angeles: From the Barrios to the Big Leagues.” With $5,000 in grant support from the California Council for the Humanities (awarded through the CCH’s “California Stories: California Story Fund” grant program), the earlier project received widespread acclaim, culminating with the Baseball Reliquary’s receipt of the prestigious 2007 Schwartz Prize, presented by the Federation of State Humanities Councils as the outstanding public-funded humanities program in the United States.
From the project’s inception in 2005 through 2007, highlights of “Mexican-American Baseball: From the Barrios to the Big Leagues” included: a major inaugural exhibition at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library at California State University, Los Angeles, from March 26-June 9, 2006; traveling exhibitions at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College Library, the Institute for Socio-Economic Justice & Progressive Community Development in Brawley, and the Pomona Public Library; and two oral history courses related to the project at California State University, Los Angeles. Oral histories were conducted by CSULA students under the guidance of Professor Francisco Balderrama. Held in the Fall Quarters of 2005 and 2006, the courses were designed as a ten-week reading/discussion seminar with a sustained exercise in oral history. Highlights included interviews with former ballplayers Al Padilla, Armando Perez, Ernie Rodriguez, Jim “Chayo” Rodriguez, Saul Toledo, and Art Velarde; Dodgers Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin; and former residents of Chavez Ravine.
In 2008, the original project, “Mexican-American Baseball in Los Angeles: From the Barrios to the Big Leagues,” went into a transitional phase as project staff and advisors determined that its future viability would best be served by moving it from California State University, Los Angeles to California State University, San Bernardino. The move was prompted by the hiring of Cesar Caballero as the Dean and University Librarian at CSUSB’s John M. Pfau Library in 2007. Caballero had formerly been the Acting University Librarian at CSULA when the project was conceived in 2005. In the fall of 2008, the John M. Pfau Library launched its new Special Collections department, which would become the home of the new project. Beginning in February 2009, a series of meetings was held at the Pfau Library to plan a major expansion and restructuring of the original project. The concept for the Latino Baseball History Project was developed at these meetings and through communication with the advisory committee. It was determined that while the project’s primary focus in the immediate future would continue to emphasize the Mexican American baseball experience in Southern California, the project would eventually incorporate other Latino baseball communities into its archival plans as its perspective broadens in the coming years. This resulted in the adoption of a new title: the Latino Baseball History Project.
The inaugural reception for the Latino Baseball History Project was held in the Special Collections room of the John M. Pfau Library on Tuesday, May 12, 2009. A total of 114 people were in attendance to view exhibition materials and to hear Cesar Caballero welcome the project to its new home at California State University, San Bernardino. In addition to Caballero, speakers included Terry Cannon, Executive Director of the Baseball Reliquary; Professor Francisco Balderrama; and Malia Vincent-Finney, CEO of the Haili Wailele Film/Arts Foundation, who was involved in developing the project’s Web site. Keynote speakers for the evening were Professor Jose Alamillo and Tomas Benitez.
Since the inaugural reception, the Latino Baseball History Project has sponsored a variety of events, including reunions of veteran ballplayers; lectures; and exhibitions, both at California State University, San Bernardino and other venues. A highlight of the project’s early history was the publication of the book, Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles, by Professors Francisco Balderrama and Richard Santillan, in February 2011. The book is, to a large extent, an outgrowth of the project, as much of its content was developed from research conducted since the project’s inception. In addition, most of the photographs are from the project’s archival collection.
Project Planning Committee:
Francisco Balderrama, Renee Barrera, Tomas Benitez, Cesar Caballero, Terry Cannon, Danny Carrasco, Iwona Contreras, Darlene Harr, Cherstin Lyon, Ruth Martinez, Richard Santillan, Jill Vassilakos-Long, Malia Vincent-Finney, and Mark Ocegueda.
- Jose M. Alamillo, Associate Professor & Coordinator, Chicano/a Studies Program, California State University, Channel Islands
- Gabriel (Tito) Avila, Jr., Founder, President and CEO, Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum, San Francisco
- Francisco E. Balderrama, Professor of Chicano Studies and History, California State University, Los Angeles
- Tomas J. Benitez, Artist and Art Consultant
- Raul J. Cardoza, Dean of Student Services, Los Angeles Trade-Technical College
- Peter Dreier, Professor of Politics and Director, Urban & Environmental Policy Program, Occidental College, Los Angeles
- Robert Elias, Professor of Politics and Chair, Legal Studies Program, University of San Francisco
- Jorge Iber, Associate Dean & Professor, Department of History, Texas Tech University
- Cherstin M. Lyon, Assistant Professor of History, California State University, San Bernardino
- Douglas Monroy, Professor of History, Colorado College
- Carlos Munoz, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley
- Samuel O. Regalado, Professor of History, California State University, Stanislaus
- Anthony Salazar, Latino Baseball Committee, Society for American Baseball Research
- Richard Santillan, Professor Emeritus, Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
- Carlos Tortolero, President, Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Chicago
For further information on the Latino Baseball History Project, contact Terry Cannon, Executive Director of the Baseball Reliquary, at P.O. Box 1850, Monrovia, CA 91017; by phone at (626) 791-7647; or by e-mail at email@example.com. You can also contact Iwona Contreras, Administrative Analyst/Specialist at the John M. Pfau Library, at California State University San Bernardino, Pfau Library-PL-2006, 5500 University Parkway, San Bernardino, CA 92407; by phone at (909) 537-3447; or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For upcoming events and newsletters related to the Latino Baseball History Project, visit the Web site: http://www.lib.csusb.edu/SpecialCollections/latino_baseball_history_project.html.