Hispanic Baseball History Celebrated April 1 at UW
March 12, 2010 — The University of Wyoming's Chicano Studies Program will host a public event April 1, celebrating Hispanic contributions to baseball at both the regional and national levels -- a start to the Major League Baseball season.
Adrian Burgos Jr., University of Illinois associate professor of history and author of "Playing America's Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line," will give a public lecture about sports promoter Alex Pompez at 5 p.m. in the Wyoming Union West Ballroom. Pompez helped hundreds of young baseball players from the Caribbean make the leap from sugar cane fields to major league ball fields.
Following Burgos' lecture, Gabe and Jody Lopez, finalists for the 2009 Colorado Rockies Adult Hispanic Leadership Award, will open in Ross Hall their exhibit "From Sugar Beet Fields to Fields of Dreams: Mexican/Spanish Contributions to America's Favorite Pastime."
The exhibit documents the history of the Rocky Mountain Semipro Baseball League, which got its start among Hispanic agricultural workers in the 1920s and quickly spread throughout northern Colorado, southeast Wyoming and western Nebraska.
"It was dubbed the ‘sugar beet league' because it came out of the Spanish colonies built by the Great Western Sugar Company beet field laborers," says Ed Munoz, UW Chicano Studies Program director.
A reception and book signing will take place in Room 109 of Ross Hall, where books by Burgos and the Lopezes will be available for purchase.
"Mexican baseball teams helped solidify Chicano communities during the 20th century," Munoz says. "They provided a break from hard work in the fields or on the railroad and they also served as social and political outlets for the players and their fans."
Through research, the Lopezes have located information about Wyoming baseball teams in Albin, Bitter Creek, Burns, Carpenter, Casper, Cheyenne, Cody, Creston Junction, Hanna, Laramie, Lusk, Newcastle, Piker Spring, Pine Bluffs, Rawlins, Riverton, Sinclair, Superior, Torrington, Wamsutter, Wheatland, Worland and Yoder. The exhibit will be expanded to include some of this information.
"We invite the players and their families to the exhibit to relive their playing days," Gabe Lopez says. "We want to hear their stories."
Event sponsors are the Wyoming Humanities Council, the UW Office of Diversity, Multicultural Affairs, Sigma Lambda Gamma, MEChA, Associated Students of UW, the Social Justice Research Center and KOCA 93.5 FM La Radio Montanesa.
For more information, contact the UW Chicano Studies Program at Chicano_Studies@uwyo.edu or (307) 766-4127.
The 1943 Cheyenne Lobos played in the Rocky Mountain League.