Monday, June 29, 2009

Hall of Fame exhibit 'Viva Baseball' focuses on Hispanics in baseball

This summer, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., is marking its 70th anniversary with, among other highlights, Viva Baseball, its first permanent exhibit on Latin American baseball. At the exhibit's opening, former first baseman Orlando Cepeda spoke for the nine Latinos already inducted into the Hall. ''To be here today,'' he said, ``we went through some obstacles.''

Cepeda was referring to the racial prejudice and cultural incomprehension that Latinos have encountered since 1871, when Cuban third-baseman Estaban Bellan of the Troy Haymakers became the first Latino major leaguer. For more than seven decades after that, only ''white'' Latinos were allowed in the majors (and even they often felt uncomfortable) -- until Jackie Robinson integrated the game in 1947. Many took Anglo names or otherwise downplayed their roots. Even Ted Williams, one of the best-known players in baseball history, got through his entire career without publicly mentioning the fact that his mother was Mexican American.

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