New museum for baseball history in Tampa opens

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A museum debuting Friday in Ybor City showcases 135 years of baseball history from a region widely known for producing some of the world’s best baseball talent.

  • Axios got a sneak peek.

Why it matters: The humble Tampa Baseball Museum adds another hyper-local landmark to a tourist district best known for its parties and perfectos while preserving the stories of diverse Latino immigrant communities.

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Flashback: While the town's earliest baseballers were elite society, it all changed when Vincente Martinez-Ybor moved his cigar factory to Tampa in the 1880s.

  • Baseball-mad Cuban immigrants organized their first team in 1887. The Cigar City League followed, creating competition between teams sponsored by cigar factories.

  • As more Italian and Spanish immigrants arrived to work in Ybor City, ethnic social clubs popped up. Most had a baseball team that played on Sundays at Cuscaden Park.

From this fertile soil sprung a slew of talented baseballers.

  • Players: Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield, Kenny Rogers and Wade Boggs.

  • Managers: Al López, the first player from Tampa to make the major leagues, plus Tony La Russa, Lou Piniella, Carlos Tosca and Kevin Cash.

Yes, but: The museum focuses most on the man who led the way: López, the Hall of Famer who managed for 16 years after his playing career.

  • El Señor was an inspiration to young Latino players growing up in Ybor City and West Tampa.

  • The museum is entirely contained in his remodeled family home, which was relocated in 2013 to 19th Street, near Ybor’s Centennial Park

Our thought bubble: Collected by longtime prep coach Frank Permuy, the museum's most impressive display is a complete set of autographed baseballs from every player born in Hillsborough County to make the major leagues.

  • Nice try, Pete Alonso’s game-day rookie-year cleats.

What’s next: The museum’s grand opening at 10am Saturday is half price and hosted by Lou Piniella.

Autographed baseballs from the rookie season of every player born in Hillsborough County to make the major leagues. The effort! Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

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