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Latinos and Baseball: In the Barrios and the Big Leagues

October 13, 2015

“Latinos and Baseball: In the Barrios and the Big Leagues” is a multi-year community collecting initiative at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in collaboration with the Smithsonian Latino Center. The initiative focuses on the historic role that baseball has played as a social and cultural force within Latino communities across the nation and currently includes eight partner organizations across the U.S. as well as a number of Smithsonian outreach divisions.

The project is designed to build on a growing body of original research, oral histories, and collections by and with Smithsonian partners to document the impact Latino communities have had on American history and culture through the lens of baseball. Baseball has been and continues to be an important means for celebrating national and ethnic identities, building communities, and negotiating race and class relations in an increasingly globalized world. 

“Latinos and Baseball” officially kicks off with an Oct. 15 evening program with a panel discussion, objects out-of-storage and book signings at the National Museum of American History. It will be followed by an Oct. 16 working session of the partner organizations to outline the collecting of diverse stories, support for public programs and community engagement across the nation. In this first year, we lay the groundwork necessary to launch a National Museum of American History community collection initiative. 

Partners currently include: California State University, Channel Islands, Channel Islands, Calif.; John M. Pfau Library at California State University, San Bernardino, San Bernardino, Calif.; Institute of Texan Cultures at the University of Texas, San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas; La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Los Angeles, Calif.; Los Magnificos Film, LLC, New York, NY; Syracuse University, La Casita Cultural Center, Syracuse, NY; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana Champaign, Ill. and the Colorado/Wyoming based traveling exhibition, “Sugar Beet Fields to Field of Dreams, 1920s-1960s, Mexican/Spanish Contributions to America’s Favorite Pasttime.” To explore how to become a partner in the baseball initiative, individuals and organizations may e-mail NMAH-latinobaseball@si.edu

The project is also looking to the public to record and preserve their baseball stories by thinking about the role baseball has played in their lives and communities. Through the website,  https://americanhistory.si.edu/latinos-and-baseball, the museum prompts individuals to consider sharing their memories of playing or watching baseball, how the sport brought together diverse community members in their cities, towns, schools and places of worship and to nominate objects that should be considered by curators for addition to the collections of local historical societies and museums as well as at the National Museum of American History.

Baseball jerseys, equipment and other artifacts, such as seat cushions, are examples of objects that can tell personal, community and national stories. Jerseys provide a way of displaying team and community identity and signify belonging to a specific group. Curators are interested in handmade or mass-produced jerseys with team names, names of team sponsors and player’s names as well as equipment including favorite or makeshift baseballs, bats, gloves, hats, helmets, cleats, or gloves. Objects from the stands and community park fields, such as cushions, mascots, snack sales signs, tickets, and even tools, such as a shovel or rake used on a field, are of interest.

The first community collecting event will be hosted in January 2016 by the California State University, San Bernardino in the Los Angeles area. The initiative plans to host an average of three to four community events in both 2016 and 2017 designed to build interest in the project, expand the archive and bring collections into the museum.

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) is also a partner in the project and will work to turn future collections into a traveling exhibit on Latinos and baseball, which will be in development by 2020.


Latinos in Baseball donation ceremony with (left to right) Michelle Zubizaretta, Joe Zubizaretta, Gaby Alcantara-Diaz, Alex Lopez Negrete, Hector Orci, Norma Orci, Tony Dieste, Sara Sunshine.