TAMPA, Fla. — If you live in Tampa, you've likely heard the name, Al Lopez. Now you can see the home of the Major League Baseball Hall of Famer in a way that honors the legacy of baseball across Tampa and Hillsborough County.
Tampa is one of the top areas in the country producing Major League Baseball players. Al Lopez was the first Tampa native to play in the major leagues. He began his career with the Tampa Smokers then made his debut with the Brooklyn Robins, who later became the Brooklyn Dodgers, then Los Angeles Dodgers.
On May 15, 2013, crews moved his childhood home from a mile away from where it currently sits at 2003 North 19th Street.
"He had six brothers and sisters, so there was a total of seven. And then the parents and I understand the grandparents there was an upstairs room, and many of these Casitas and the grandparents' bedroom was upstairs," Chantal Hevia, President, and CEO of the Ybor City Museum and the Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House said.
It's now the Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House in Ybor City. His legacy and the rich history of baseball in Tampa are now open to the public to enjoy.
"Al loved to play baseball," Hevia said. "At the age of 16, he was discovered because he just loved playing baseball in the local lots. He was the first major league player, manager, and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee from Tampa."
The museum opened its doors on Saturday, Sept. 25. Lou Piniella, a Hall of Famer and Tampa native was the honorary host.
"We are incredibly proud of our baseball museum, our history, and our community. It started here, and in 1887 the Cubans came to work in the cigar industry. And as such, they brought their love of baseball," Hevia said.
There are 89 autographed baseballs in the museum. Each represents a player from Tampa and Hillsborough County.
"That ball collection says it all because when you look at it, you realize, oh 89 players from Tampa. And then if you start to read the names, you will start to see the Latin or Hispanic names, and how many of them are from that culture," Hevia said. "But to us, it's exciting that Tampa has one of the highest per capita baseball, professional baseball players of anywhere in the country. You know, perhaps, you know New York or Los Angeles would have big numbers, but we're right up there with them. Most people guess that we've had 10. We've had 89 so far."
The original seats to Al Lopez field are now in the front of the museum where his son's bedroom used to be.
According to the baseball hall of fame, Alfonso Ramon López "left the game with a .584 career winning percentage – one of four managers to exceed the .580 mark after managing at least 2,200 games. In 15 full seasons as a skipper, López's teams never posted a losing record and finished lower than second place just three times. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977."
López passed away on Oct. 30, 2005.
The museum is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. For more information, click here.