If you’re a baseball fan living in Tampa but hail from out of town, you learn quite quickly from your friends and fellow fans about all the local natives who have made good in the Major Leagues over the years. You know the names: Wade Boggs, Doc Gooden, Gary Sheffield, Tino Martinez, Dave Magadan, Fred McGriff, et al.
Maybe that same baseball enthusiast will also talk your ear off about the game’s local roots and traditions, but probably not. That’s where Béisbol: Tampa’s Love of the Game, earns its value. The exhibit showcasing the history of the grand ol’ game in Tampa/Hillsborough County continues at the Ybor City Museum throughout the summer.
The first window display features the names of all 82 players who made it to “The Show,” and highlights Al Lopez, the very first Tampa native to make it in the bigs (with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1928). It also features a cool Tampa Tribune cartoon drawn up in the fall of 1990, when West Tampa contemporaries Lou Piniella and Tony LaRussa squared off as managers in that year’s World Series, representing the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland A’s, respectively.
The exhibit will also school the uneducated fan (like yours truly) about the Tampa Smokers, a name used by a variety of minor league and semi-pro teams from 1919 to 1954, and the Tampa Tarpons, who in 1961 became a minor league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, maintaining that relationship through 1987 and playing the entire time at Al Lopez Field.
Béisbol: Tampa’s Love of the Game is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day from now through September. Admission is $4. For more information, visit ybormuseum.org.