Title: Interview with Al Lopez (April 24, 1980)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006505/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Al Lopez (April 24, 1980)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: April 24, 1980
Spatial Coverage: 12057
Hillsborough County (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00006505
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Hillsborough' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: HILL 28

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Subject: Al Lopez

Interviewer: Gary Mormino

April 24, 1980


I: ...real pleasure to be talking VA Al Lopez, in a lovely beachfront

home in in Tampa. Al, let's start. I assume your

parents were immigrants, right? Or your father?

L: Yes, yes.

I: Could you tell me something about your family's background?

L: Yes, sure, I'll be glad to. My parents both were born in Spain.

My mother was what they call a she was from the

province of Gaicio and my dad was an LAtovio'1i Estudiano,
ji .i -4Anc he uh)
they call themeds they met in Madrid. They were both working

in Madrid as youngsters. I think she was working as a helper's

cook in one of the big families there. My dad was working in

one of the hotels, I think as a doorman. And they met and got

married, and went to Cuba after they got married.

I: Right. What did their families do in the old country?

L: Well, my dad;, my dad's folks had a farm, I forget what they

call it in Spanish, it was more a family thing, and my mother,my mvfer
I think,Aher mother, her folks, her mother mostly was, they were

working a farm for somebody else. I forgot exactly what the

term was that they call that.

I: Right. Tenant farmers oie,'- likc -It-

L: Yeah, something like that.

I: Right. How would you classify them, in economic terms?

L: They were very poor. Not my dad so much, because I think they

YBOR 28A page 2

owned their own, their own place, and they raised their own

pigs and cows, and food to eat, and stuff like that. In a small

town in Spain. But they, anyway, they got married and went to

Cuba, and from Cuba they had seven kids there. And, then they

decided, when the cigar industry started moving into Tampa, I

imagine that they asked him if he wanted more, and he left my

mother there with seven kids, and decided to come over by himself

to look around and see how, whether he was going to like the

place or not. And after he was here for, oh, I imagine six or

eight months, he decided he'd send for the family.

I: Now, what year did they go to Cuba, do you know?

L: Well, Havana.

I: Do you know what year, though, roughly what year?

L: This was, this was before the Spanish-American War, in 1890.

I: Oh, the 1890's.

L: Yeah, my sister was born, my older sister was born under the

Spanish flag. L:'e 5411 4Ie .I j,

I: Is that right?ArWhy did they decide to leave Spain?p, they ever

tell you the exact reason?

L: I think it was on account of the compulsory military thing that

they had, and they had been fighting those Moors for a hundred

years, and they was compulsory military.

I: Your dad was a draft code dodger, then, right?

L: Yeah, he was trying to get away from that military. I think

there was a lot of Spanish js!b at that time, that they were

trying to get away from, -r0' irhic O:'VYm

I: There were, right.

YBOR 28A page 3

L: Although you could buy yourself, in those days, you could buy

somebody else to serve for you. But I guess my parents, I mean

my folkS parents didn't have that much money, or something like

that, so he decided he was going to get married and go to Cuba,

and then, of course, if not, he was going to be taken into

the army, I think.

I: Right. Have you ever been back to that area in Spain, GcJice ?

L: I went to Spain twice, and I'm sorry to say that I didn't get

a chance to go out to that area. I wanted to, because my sister,

my younger sister has been there. And she, she says that I missed

the most, the prettiest part of Spain.

I: Very rugged, I understand, but very, very pretty.

L: Yes. My dad's town is from a fishing village.

I: You know the name of it?

L: I forgot the name./L:Y I think it is. Y yeah. --

L:And my mother's town was more inland, in Ga(lcia in the
northeast part. Gi'eia is pretty close to Portugal. They have

their own language, by the way, the GQ lit,' do. I know that

she used to speak once in a while to her sister here in Tampa,

and I tried to listen to catch on and see what they were talking

about. They didn't know what, they didn't want us to know what

they were talking about, so they9speak a dialect.
A A~oleN,vi,.5p
I: 4/ShevsFes. a great

L: Oh, yes,Athe very best. You know, when you're a kid, you don't

appreciate what your mother cooks for you, because you get tired

of the same food. But after you go around, traveling around

for a while, when you get back home, this is the best food that

YBOR 28A page 4

there ever was.

I: I bet they didn't serve on the road. You never

had it when you were traveling.

L: No, no, we didn't get it anyplace else, except here in town.

Another thing you don't get anyplace else, and it's amazing,

because we're so close to Miami, and places like that, is in

Cuba, what they call Cuban bread. It's actually not Cuban bread,

it's Tampa bread. Because I've been to Cuba many a time and

they, what they serve mostly there is French bredd.

I: Hmm. How would you describe the difference?

L: It's quite a difference, the taste of it. I worked in a bakery

here as a kid, as a youngster, I worked as a delivery boy, and

I saw how they make it. They get plain dough, and I guess -f

Slard, and the ingredients tsom the flour, and then what

they do is they take a palmetto leaf, one of those wild pojme05 OIa0

rocvand they split it in half and they put a half on one side, and
Lo top of W-e e--aof-+e
a half on top ofAtheyroll of bread, cause they roll it by hand,

or they did in those days, I don't know, I haven't been in a

bakery for quite a while. And they put it in the oven, and it

seems like thispalmetto leaf gives it a kind of a taste to it,

and also makes the bread open up, you notice that Cuban bread is

dps up in the center of the loaf. It's done byithat palmetto


I: What bakery was that?

L: We calleit Used to be Ferlido's bakery.
1: Oh, Is tht 4ehqT? orve A101- -+ /'yf to tL.--WhC1' c.
L: Thee one that they're trying to make/lit a CubGan iueum.
I: r -'-v h O "r rrrr o r. I{ .I
21-hf n~t- KCJ^i^ ito a r^^uw. Rihn, 0, rou

YBOR 28A page 5

L: Still, it's not the same way it was when I was working there.

When I was working there, it was a wooden building and they,

we had stables, because in those days, we delivered with horse

and wagon. We had stables right next to tw, and there was a

grocery store, the Gonzales grocery store on the corner, cand

next to it was a macaroni factory. Right next door.

I: Which'factory was that? 4i ____ ____6_ J. l s
it-___ :--I-- uAi kL4A
L: No, it wasn't ______,. t-link-, is a .AL:Yeah, they had

a macaroni factory OEBo eC +herc{.

I: ?

L: I think Stelliona, I think it was Stelliona, those boys, they're

still around, a lot of those boys. And the Foledo boys are

still around.

I: Right. Go back just a second here, you had mentioned your folks

went to Cuba. What did they do in Cuba? What type of business
,dd 4c/ foke "p?
L: Well, it's an amazing thing. He wanted to learn a trade, because

naturally he had worked in a hotel as a doorman, I think, in

Madrid, and he wanted to learn a trade, and he went into the

factory, the cigar factory, to learn a trade, and in those days

you could go in as an apprentice, but they didn't want you to

be married. They wanted you to be single, and live in the factory.

In other words, they gave you room and board, and you had to

get up real early, and I guess they swept up the factory, and

kept everything clean, and did all the work, and besides that

they would try to learn the trade. He learned the trade of what

they call a selector. He selects the leaves they give to the

cigar makers. In those days, it was all hand made cigars. And
h atuay te mst
they,A actually the most expensive part of the cigar was the

YBOR 28A page 6

leaf itself/A1 Al e selected, course actually if you

were a worker that was making, a cigar maker that was working
-malkcr lea;P IcAf
small cigars, he would give you the Saqa-il-:--+ soAyou wouldn't

waste ast-e of the leaf trying. And the better cigars were

made with a bigger wrapper, bigger leaf. And it saved a lot of

money that way. That's what my dad learned how to do. He had

to select by size, and also color.

I: Highly skilled job.

L: Yes, it was very skilled, I think that one and the, actually

the cigar pickers, packers were I think, a little more selective

than the....

I: Would you remember the factory in Cuba? D-o yoLu ric,.wr hie nvnK c rf If+

L: I think it was .. Which was a very excellent

factory, and;'existed for years, I don't know if it's still there
"13 At-
or not. Ip when he came here, I think he went to work for

,which is a -c----. He worked there

for about twenty-five years.

I: Why did he decide to leave Cuba, and, well, first of all, what

did your mother do in Cuba?

L: She just raised kids, I imagine, she had seven kids.
ever IVoo(Ied j './ r(
I: Right. Were they x-e4-4+it-g-inAthe political turmoil?

L: No, no, my dad again decided that, you know, that they were

going to start bringing the cigar industry into Tampa, and

imagine he was offered job. He wanted to come to Tampa, and

he probably decided, well, let's take a chance, I'll take a

chance, and go over there.

I: He come before or after the revolution? L: hc v\-cr"?
h ,,JCU O c\'I

YBOR 28A page 7

L: It was after the war.

I: Okay. So he came right at the turn of the century, probably floTomr

L: Yeah, 1906.
N i cfzfn-c?-'iX
I:A:G-.-she came to Tampa, right. Did he ever tell you what Tampa
was likely Io og0

L: Oh, I can tell you myself.

I: Now, you were born in what year, Al?

L: I was born in ct 'On., qOS,

I: SEI What were your first memories of Ybor City? And, first

of all, where were you bornfin ybor C-iY/y
4 -^ 13+ 2 0i', 4 ^^'.
L: I was born on T1daszeES ih Avenue between- ve and -T.SaU S t .

Let me tell you, in those days, what I can remember of, was--

Sa naturally,...eae Avenue was the business district, and

as far as we were concerned, we never went uptown, we did our
rmerchA iit
shopping in Ybor City. Most of the Amlerians were Jewish people,

and they could speak Spanish, Italian, and Jewish, and English)

All four languages very well. They were very good at adapting

languages, the Jewish people are. And my mother used to shop

and she knew all the, and those people were very nice, they

treated my mother real well, and naturally she had to kind of
b? C C- "us ec
bargain with them a lot, o4ej-e.e, she always felt that she,
0,6l C fel(
theyAoverpricing usseF#ae she could get it cheaper. But, in

those days, I remember/the streets, like between 20th, we lived

between 20th and 21st, the streets had pavement on it, but the

Avenues very seldom had pavement on them. The only one that was

paved was llth Avenue because there was a street car line there.
street car line. And that was about the one

of those streets that was paved, the rest of them was sand, dirt.

YBOR 28A page 8

We used to, with the horse and buggy, it wasn't, not a horse

and buggy, but a horse and wagon,Awe used to kind of have to

use that horse pretty good/Ato go through that sand, because I

think a lot of times m a car would have got stuck.

But then I could see that the city started progressing, and then

they started paving some of those streets' i -t improved the

city an awful lot.
kli L abo0,
I:A Now, is that, 13th, is that, that's4at where the interstate is

today, right? Thier-Fe A'/eame o 2-'4- Sr-t.

L: It's pretty close to it, yeah.

I: k4i eth. Urban renewal did away with most of those.--Kvu,

-3: What do remember about roaming? What would you have seen as

a young boy if you had walked down 7th Avenue, you know, as an

eight or nine year old kid? What kind of sights and sounds would

you have noticed?

L: Well, it was a funny thing, at the end of the car lines, which
O 1
there was a car line on 7th Avenue, and there was oneAllth Avenue,

and then there was one on Michigan Avenue, which is Columbus

Drive now. They all used to meet at 22nd Street. And at that

end of the car line, there looks like there was always a
caf6'Por a restaurant, or a small restaurant, 'ife@ like

everybody would buy sandwiches or coffee, waiting for the car

or something like that, it looked like it was good business.

Now, the car line, the one that came on 7th Avenue kept going

and went to, I think it's 36th Street, where the Spanish fark
5aa7niY, ?oj'k IejCieow'f1.1^
isXA That used to be a small cafe and small restaurant in there
one +-itnC
at one time. And I think that they called that Gvao/ aV I'm

not sure. And then the one that came, one of them came, I think

YBOR 28 A page 9

from Columbus Drive used to go all the way to Palmetto Beach,

and there was also a small restaurant at the end of that car

line. It seemed like there was always a small restaurant, cafe

for people just to have sandwiches, or bread and butter, and

cTtr __________ they call it. And it

seemed likeda did pretty well. But, well it was a very, let

me tell you, I wish I could have been born again in the same

t3s'-. I think that, we enjoyed our boyhood an awful lot,
'cause you could do most anything. You could go to, not too far

from where you were and you could build up your own baseball

diamond. We used to build our own baseball diamond, make, put

the bases down, and make our own baseball diamond in anyAopen

field that we had, or lots, a few lots, and we could play ball

there. Or if you wanted to go, we used to go sometimes, we used

to go out past Buffalo Avenue, in that area there. The oaks and...

I: What was that like then?

L: It was just plain oaks, oak trees, and a lot of trees, and stuff

like that, and we could start, in those days, there was an

abundance of flying squirrels, what they call flying squirrels.

It was much smaller than the squirrel that you see now, here,

but it had kind of a, they'd sail, they wouldn't fly, it was just

like a sail. And they would jump from the top of a tree all the

way to the bottom, just sail like, and try to escape whatever

noise was going on. And we used to catch those things by hand,4heC

lirt they'd bite pretty good sometimes. But we used to get a big
kick out of doing that. And you could go into the woods most

anyplace, and the river, or you could go not too far away, and

YBOR 28A page 10

there would be watermelon fields that they used to, we used to
1rob bly
go in there andApick a watermelon once in a while, put it in the

river to kind of cool it off, and itftaste2 delicious the way

it was, With the cold water, and it was a lot of fun. Orange

trees. I remember when, when the, where bg Fark is,

right across the street from where I went to school then/

Ybor Grammar School.

I: Is that where you went to school?

L: Yeah. There was an orange grove there, cause sci had an

orange grove there. And we used to try to sneak in there once

in a while to pick a few oranges. The man was kind of a mean

guy, He was getting tired of those kids stealing his oranges,
so he finally got himself aMair gun, and would pack it with salt.
(ik he 4C7
And he wouldn't shoot you in the face, or nothing, but he'd shoot

you around the back, or in the, in your buttocks, and it would

burn to beat the band. I remember one kid, I saw one kid one

day running from the orange grove on 14th and Columbus Drive all

the way to which was on 9th and 14th. Just

screaming, he thought he was shot with a bullet. And they finally

had to kind of get that salt out of there before the kid finally

quit screaming. But it was a lot of fun in those days.

I: How would your playmates get along, they were mainly Cuban and

Spanish and Italian. How did the groups get along, the ethnic


L: Well, we got along all right. Once in a while you'd have a

battle, you know, you'd have a fight, or you start throwing

stones or rocks at each other, one group against the other

YBOR 28A page 11

but nothing vicious, you know. The Italians, most of the

Italian neighborhoods ran from around 15th or 16th Street all

the way up to 23rd Street, and between 8th Avenue and all the

way maybe to about 15th Street, in that area there. And then

there was some that went on the other side, in back of the

Columbia Restaurant, over around 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue, up

in through there, there was a little Italian village in through

there, like. And then there was some on the other side of 22nd

Street. But, they were all mostly congregated around there.

And the Cuban people were from 16th over to, I'd say maybe,

around 12th, and -....-e through there. And then the Spanish

people, there was a few. There wasn't quite as many Spaniards

in that area, there was some around on the boarding houses. In

those days, the guys used to come from Cuba to work in the

cigar factories,'and they were single, they weren't married, so

they all lived in boarding houses around between, I'd say,

12th Avenue and I'd say between 16th and 18th) 4nd up in through

there, there was three or four, and there was two or three factories,

cigar factories up in that area. But they were living, living,

lot of them were living in boarding houses at that time, in that


I: Right, right. What kind of games would you play as kids?

L: We had all kinds of games. We made our own kites, we had marbles,

we had tops. We had all kinds of, all kinds of games that we

used to play that kids now, for some reason or another, I guess

they got away from it, they got too much TV or something. They

don't play those games any more. And we played baseball, mostly.

YBOR 28A page 12

We didn't play football. Lack of kids for some reason, others

didn't go for the football.

I: No basketball, then, right?

L: Basketball we played.

I: Really?

L: Yeah3(\e had a playground about a block from where I lived on

12th and 12th. And we played basketball there, and they had

what they called, at that time, they had a great big ball, I

didn't know whether they called it diamondball or softball,

whatever it was, we used to play at night, they had lights there.

And we used to play there at night.

I: Yeah. How about boxing?

L: Boxing, there was some boxing. I remember after I grew up a

little bit, not when I was real young, there was no boxing, but

after I grew up a little bit, they finally started some real

boxing shows at Benjamin Field, and also at the Cuban Club. The

Cuban Club arena had it good, arena, and there was some real good

young fighters. There were, at one time, it seemed like every-

body caught on, and there was some real good fighters that came

out of Tampa at that time. M F was a great fighter,

and Chino Alber- was a great fighter. Gomez was a good fighter.

There was a lot of good fighters that came out of this area at

that time. It kinda, it died down after that.

I: As a young boy, would you ever go to any of the rnuftui clubs?

Would you go to the Central Espanol, or Central Storiano?

L: Well, this is after, they wouldn't allow you in there as a young

boy, but after, as soon as I was of age, I think I was fifteen

YBOR 28A page 13

or maybe fourteen My dad made me a member of Cel +rat' G /jl.

0F Course, we had hospitalizations. And that's what the thing that
made it so, youknow, that you wanted to join. But it wasn't

so much that we used the clubs. But then, as a younger boy,

when I started playing ball, and most of the boys were Cubans,

because there was very few Spanish boys that played baseball, our

group, most of us hung around the Cuban Club all the time. Which
is a, a, you know, it was a real nice club, it was practically

new, I think the old one had burned down or something like that.

And then after that, after we got, I got to using the Cctal Pns-iiO)

I played dominoes and cards at the C)''0I S ia ,c; for years and

years. Most of my manhood was spent over there.

I: Did you ever go to the Italian clubs?

L: Oh yes, I used to go.....

I: Do you remember them building the new, the. .in J92-?

L: Yes. Yeah, I remember when the Italian Club was built. It was a

nice club. They did the same thing. They had their own

membership, and we used to go to dances there quite a lot as a

young boy, the Italian Club, the C:ii f '; I or Spanish Casino,

or theCeota( {uci0o and the Cuban Club. It was a perfect

setup for a young boy, because you know, you could go there,

you didn't have to take a date. You could go there by yourself,

and you could always find some girls there that were chaperoned.

But in those days they. . .

I: Tell us about chaperoning, ang interesting institution.

L: Well, it was nice. It was the times, you know, and the mothers

didn't like for the daughters to go to a dance without having

YBOR 28A page 14

a chaperone. It was either one of the older sister, or an

older brother, or the mother or the father used to go with them.

and they didn't have dates, you'd go there, and you finally go...

\ft 0U One time, they had a little booklet that you would put your name
down on whatever dance you wanted. And which was real nice.

If you wanted to dance a waltz or a foxtrot, or whatever, you

know, you'd put your name down on whatever you want, and you'd

dance with her. And, I think she's got the light on.

L: No, no that's okay, yeah.

L: But, for me, it was perfect, because I'd just look around, and

if I knew this girl, and she was a pretty nice girl, or a pretty
good dancer, IA go over and ask her if she'd like to dance)

4nd if she did, she'd get up and dance, and it was perfect for

us. At intermission, it was cheap, because at intermission you

just take them out, in those days, it was Prohibition, and we'd

take them over to or at the Boulevard there, across

the street from the Co.ro,' '.l!teo there was some cafes around the

Italian Club, and we used to take them out and buy them a Coke,

or some sweets of some kind, and the chaperone would go with us.

And, you know, it cost you maybe, a Coke a that time you could

get for a nickle, and candies for a nickle or a dime, and it

was fun, it was a lot of fun.

I: What did you figure you as a young boy, what did you figure,

what did you think you'd wind up doing? Did you ever have any

desire to go into the cigar industry?

L: No.

I: Why not? Why nct 7 -- kvlo

L: Well, my ambition, not my ambition,AI wanted to be a baseball

YBOR 28A page 15

player first of all. I wanted to play sports, I loved it. And

I didn't feel like, I drove a truck for a while as a sixteen year

old, fifteen year old. And I delivered bread as a young boy.

I: Did you drop out of school early, I take it? Or did you. .

L: Yes. Yes, I signed a baseball contract when I was sixteen, to

play with Tampa, and I was playing with the Tampa Smokers, 4wiEh
those days there wasn't a Tampa Tarpons, tjuae was a Tampa

Smokers. And I was lucky enough that they gave me, they wanted

to sign me, and they signed me to a contract. Got paid eae 0.

hundred and fifty dollars a month, which, I felt like it-wasc-.-

stealing. They're paying you to play ball. And I was lucky

enough to stay with the Tampa Club, I didn't catch too much

at the beginning, because, again, I was just a youngster, and

they had a fellow there that had been playing in a higher

classification, by the name of, I forgot his name right now.

But anyway, he was an experienced catcher, and a good catcher,a prct

o li:c And we had a good club. We finally ended up winning the pennant

here in Tampa, and won the championship.

I: What league would that have been in?

L: Florida state league.

I: Florida state league. What classification then?

L: It was "D",A But it was a good fast, a- =me, We had players

there that had played class "B" ball, which is a good rating

at that time.

I: !E2-*, then?'

I: Sa Were there any other Latins playing ball then?

L: Let me see, we use, they did bring some, not that year, I don't,

YBOR 28A page 16

yeah, we had one Cuban boy, that they brought from Cuba. Boy

that played the outfield, and pitched and played first base

he was a good ballplayer. He was sold to the Boston Braves after

the season, by the name of and myself were the only.,'

no, there was another Cuban boy, there was a Tampa native. Not

native, but he was born in Cuba, but was living here in Tampa,

by the name of Alvarez, Caesar Alvarez. We were the three

Spanish speaking boys on that club.

When you went on the road to some of these cracker towns in

the state, did they give you a rough.time?

L: Well, yeah, at first. You know, but nobody took it personally,

you know, they were trying to rile us. They do that in baseball

all over, you know, they try to see if they can get under your

skin or something like that, they start calling you names. As

long as they didn't get personal, they'd call you a Cuban or

something like that, which is all right.

I: Did you think that being Latin was, was it an asset or a hindrence

do you think, in your career?

L: I didn't, I guess that maybe I was too young, I didn't feel

either way, I felt that I treated everybody all right, and

everybody treated me all right. Since I was a youngster, I

always felt that way about it. And if a guy didn't like me for

some reason or another, I just didn't bother with him, or if

he liked me, I treated him nice, and he treated me nice. I don't

know, they bring in this minority thing a lot, and I never did

have anything handicap me in that way. I guess I was lucky, I

moved out of Tampa to play ball, I'm talking about. Laoase I
alwa back to Tam. WentAto Jacksonville the 27th, and
always came back to Tampa. Wentnto Jacksonville the 27th, and

YBOR 28A page 17

they treated me royally over there. I played pretty good ball

for them. An hen I went to Macon, Georgia, and geez, I was

one of the favorites over there.A I went to Atlanta, the same

thing,Athen I went up to Brooklyn. It's true that I/got started

on the right foot right away. But I was treated real, real nice

every place I went in baseball.

I: What did your mother think, and your father think of deciding on

a baseball career?

L: -Well, my dad liked baseball, my mother thought it was a waste

of time,'Athat I should go get a job instead of playing baseball.

Well, after I signed, and my brothers tried to explain to her,pn koDv)9

}Q )Uesi that I must have been pretty good to have signed with a pro club,
she kind of start feeling, well, maybe let him go, maybe he might

become a ball player.
fta~i, ?T -,, r-Fvj q7
I:A So, okay, you signed in '24. -,---;*' TVAJ /.

L: \r e tJty- ie *

I: 'S. How many years did it take you to get to the majors?

LL Well, I played at Tampa, the first year, like I said, I didn't

catch any, too much. I finally ended up p+teh1t g towards the

end of the season. The next year I was a regular catcher, I was

drafted, what they call drafted by the Jacksonville club, which

was a higher classification, it was "B". So I went to Jacksonville,

at Jacksonville, we had a pitcher by the name of Ben Cantwell,
T: adllt l ? VVe kN oe.i i ) -fv) (/--r.c
L: Cadvwetl. Who was having a great year, a real great year,Ahe wasAZS and

-Pve, by the latter part of July, which was, you know, he'd have

wonA/ games if he'd have pitched all year. And,Aall the scoutsA 0+

iT'C were big,1e-&-e scouts, right now, they have what they call bird-
l were big,-1e-a~e scouts, right now, they have what they call bird-

YBOR 28A page 18

dogs, you know, to watch all the kids, all over. Now, in those

days, they only had a few scouts, and thewould send those
wkhe.r,.)c r Y V \ I
scouts in to whe-e-er a ballplayer was hot,4he was having a

good season, to see if they like him or not, if they could make

a deal for him. And, everytime we played a ball game, there

must have been at least, anywhere from six to eight scouts in

the stands watching, watching our club playing, on account of

Ben Cantwell, especially when he was pitching. And, for some

reason or other, the Brooklyn scout, fellow by the name Of

Nesa k, that was a pitcher on the club, lived outside of

Atlanta, Georgia, took a liking to me, and he wrote back, or

called on the phone, back to the front office, that he liked the

catcher better than he did the pitcher. So they told him,-if

you like the catcher, go ahead and buy him. So, they made a

deal for me for ten thousand dollars. And I was sold to Brooklyn

in 1927.

I: Did you get any of that money?

L: No. The guys, now that you bring that up, the guy at Jacksonville

at the time, the president of the club told me, "If you make

good," cause they only gave him $1,000 down andf9,000 if they

kept me, and he says, "If you make good, if you can stay with

them, I get the extra 9,000, I'll give you a tenth of it, $1,000."

I said that's fine, but I never did get anything. But, anyway,

Brooklyn, the following year, sent me to Macon, Georgia, one
year B:r experience, then they sent me to Atlanta, Georgia, for

another year, and then after that I was .

I: Atlanta like triple A, then, or. .. ?

L: No, I was double A.

YBOR 28A page 19

I: Was that Dixie League?

L: It was called the Southern League.

I: Southern League?

L: Yeah, there was the Southern League and the Texas League, they

were both in parallelA, and then there was Triple A, the ones

up in Indianapolis, and Minneapolis, and those clubs, they were
,V/e r&
triple A. WeAnext to a +riple A. And I had a good year, and the
following year, I went up to Brooklyn, andAstayed with Brooklyn,


I: What kind of money were you making 4.he1, by '1 b irwc"

L; Atlanta, I was making, I think I was making $500 a month, in

Atlanta, which was good money, Although I found out some of the

guys were making, the older guys were making as high as $1000

a month. Funny thing is we were Van- all day baseball, no

night games in those days, And we traveled by train, good trans-

portation, we lived good, and we survived. The clubs made a

little money, but then the Depression hit, you know, and a lot

of those clubs went busted. The Atlanta club was owned by a man

called Colonel Spiller. He owned the ball club and the ball park,

and he had swimming pools and a soda fountain next to the ball

park. Across the street was Sears Roebuck in Atlanta, and I

remember this little girl -____ we- out to be

one of the great' oIC es of all time. She was a little girl,

she was Colonel Spiller's granddaughter, and she used to hang

around the soda fountain all the time. We'd come out of the

ballpark to get a refreshment, cause, again, we played all the

games and it was hot. Atlanta can get hot in the summertime.

YBOR 28A page 20

And in those days we used knickers, and I was always,Adidn't

even fasten my knickers up, I would just let them flop, cause

I was hot, just a T-shirt was warm. And I would come over their

and this little girl wold always come over and kind of give me

a hug and kissA then she'd come down there and she'd fix my

knickers up for me all the time. And I finally saw her here at

Pa:lmnc+i playingAwhen they first started the tour. She reminded

me of that, what she used to do.

I: What were some of these small towns like, let's say in Florida,

traveling, what kind of, which cities would you hit, what were

conditions like?

L: Our longest trip was Orlando, no, Sanford.

I: Sanford.

L: Yeah, Sanford was the longest trip, and Orlando, that was the

Setga e longest trip that we had. We had Orlando, but I

remember very well, that if you could go, we used to travel by

car in this league,Aprivate cars) Or we'd rent, we'd take

rental cars. And we, if you could make that trip in less than

four hours from here to Orlando, youAreally had to really rush.
VelC, IV0' !, a -- 07__
You had to go,Ait was what they called Broadway, now its Sevnt-h

Avenue, and y.ed have to go through all the way through those

small little towns into Plant City, and then Lakeland, and then

you'd have to go _ain_ City, Kissimmee, and there was some other

small town in between, and then Orlando, and there was narrow

roads, and it was very difficult to travel in those days.
vclf DI I/ hen i^C
St. Petersburg, St. Pete, e when wejwere over there, the

Gandy Bridge was just opened. Gandy Bridge was opened in '24,

YBOR 28A page 21

I think. And we thought this was great because, if not, we'd .

have had to go all the way around. Around Clearwater,a 4+aep

outjI0 u, in through there, and it must, it could have taken you a good
hour, hour and a half to get to St. Pete. This other way, it

might take us about a half Tr hour to get there, which was a

great help to us.

I: What kind of crowds would they get in places like Sanford, Orlandol1'-'

L: Sanford had, Sanford would draw, I imagine, anywhere from 600

to maybe 1500 people a game.lzpeople used to come out to watch

us du-0na ou uyqncD. Orlando was not too bad, especially if they

were up in the race. Most of those clubs, if they were up in

the race, they would come out. Tampa was a good draw. It was

mostly, I'm not being predjudiced, but I think that it was mostlyL

the cigar makers that they used to get off early sometimes from

the factory to come out to see the ball game. They were great
*:. T *o 4W-Z{ 7 /Q&rfi ) Wil I'Pi1.
baseball fans.ALGreat fans.

I: Hmm. I'd be curious, what kind of bargaining power did you have

in those days? How would you manage your contract?


I: I assume you did not have an agent?

L: Nope. To tell you the truth, when they, when the,

was the one that signed me,Asv-he used to be an old catcher

himself, and he says, "Al, what do you have in mind for a contract?"

and I says I don't know anything about contracts. And he says,

"How about $150?" Well, I took it, I thought maybe he might

change his mind. So I took Ogp $150,ilthe following year they

gave me $175, which I thought was great, because I hadn't

YBOR 28A page 22

fought that much. Then I went to Jacksonville, and I think I

was,,I think I made $250 or $275, or something like that. Again,

I thought it was great. And, afterwards, when the Brooklyn club

bought me, I think they gave me a contract of, I think it was

$500. I went to Macon, and the following year they gave me $550

or something like that, I thought it was great.

I: How did the Depression affect your career or the player's, of

the player's?

L: Well, it eventually hurt us, hurt the player's salaries because,

as you know, w4Way you don't know, it

was really, really rough in the Depression. And especially when

Roosevelt came in and closed all the banks,Ayour bargaining

power went out the door, because the argument the ball clubs

had is we don't know ho) Fa wo e cac, ya kVow), cadcoC '" he banks

cre not open, gas we won't be able to operate." And nobody would

come out &a4 r.-c. caii c Itt C 10:<'; kaic I ,y' :.'r,' i >C

But I was making pretty good money at that time. I was making

$10,000 &n my second year at Brooklyn, 1931. And I was fortunate.

Personally, I didn't feel the Depression at all, bea-ese I was

making pretty good money, but when I'd come home and see all

these families that were friends of ours, around Ybor Cityt there,

and some of them were going to bed without any food. It was

really a real serious bad thing, andAI felt real bad.

(End of side one)

YBOR 28A page 23
tape side 2

L: .....all great, you know, everybodyAjust, well there was nobody

from the whole state that ever played, had played any baseball

at all, you know, major league ball.

I: Were you the first pro baseball player in Ybor City?
"-There wls 2'. -!-uro
L: Oh, yes, by far. Nb o dAy-.a-und- this area had any, I don't know

whether they had any,Awas any at that time. Yeah, there was

one boy that played some, that I played with in school by the
T4 uios a Fo name of Mike B We played together in school.A He was a

good hitter, should have been a pretty good ballplayer, but he

just never did make it, he was slow of foot, you know, he couldn't

run too well, and he wanted to be a shortstop, and he should have

been either a first baseman or maybe a third baseman. But he

was a good hitter. I wish I could have hit like he hit, cause

he was a fine hitter. .But, y -- kiJ. there was, in fact, when

I went to the major leagues, it was only two Spanish speaking

ball players at that time,-myself, and a fellow by the name of

Adolph Luckey who had been in the big leagues quite awhile,

Q Cuban pitcher9 Very fine pitcher from Cuba. Real, real good

pitcher. He won twenty-five games one year.

I: A lot of Italians had been playing ball at that timelye4h.

and .. : o L:Croc .
f: CKyoCc" L.: rocj i.
L: Well, they came after, they came way after that.A There was a

few Italians from the coast, mostly from around the Sa Francisco

areaA tifn Los Angeles came into the picture. At one time

North Carolina was the biggest producer of major league ballplayers,

and then it moved to Texas, and then last, I'd say the last

twenty or thirty years, California has been responsible here

YBOR 28A page 24

they get most of the ballplayers. But there was a lot of,

around the San Francisco area,Aa lot of good Italian ballplayers

came from around that area. There was a few from around St.

Louis, east, around St. Louis, where Gari4-Le, Yogi Bera, and

those boys came from. A lot of good ballplayers came from that

area. The same neighborhood.

I: Who wereAsome of your more memorable teammatesAin those early

years in the thirties? In Brooklyn?

L: Oh, we had a great pitcher by the name of.Dazzie Vance. Great
pitcher, A! had a great shortstop by the name of Glenn Wright,

and I think he should be in the Hall of Fame. He was a great

shortstop. We had at first base)a fellow by the name of Dell
-for tS

B Dave Herman was a great ballplayer,--eer.&e. You


I: 01e#if1 a iehxic, t 1jr, rh.

L: No, p)-ve was an outfielder.ALHe hit .393 one year, ande h

.387 another year, never led the league. He finished second

both years.

I: Is that right?

L: Yeah.A tremendous.

I: Where was your best hitting year?
L: I hit .309 forABrooklyn my first year, and I hit .301 in 1932

or '33, I think it was, and then I hit .300 at Pittsburgh. I

didn't play that many games.

I:. What do you attribute your durability to? I, isn't that right

that you still hold the record for most games caught?

L: Yes.

YBOR 28A page 25

I: Right. And may not be brok-fhy k0io what, -e-+tu4y do you T

i yOy think Bench will break it?

L: Yeah, Bench has got a good chance.

I:A Why were you so durable do you think?

L: I guess it's the individual himself the way you're built, you
Svjas -- t fl, k ^C-
know.Aand the reason Bench, I like\ he catches easy, what we

call easy, he don't have to put too much effort into what he's
I41))nk *&-f XOI(--
doing.A Lnd I caught that way. I like to play. You got to

love to play. And I think it's your, you individually. I think

that if I hadn't have had my fingers broken as many times as I
I co,(d maybe
did that I WouldAhave maybe caughtA2500 games.

I: You caught how many, now?
N' C eefc i/ eiyw~n- rI JiVdeeni ci 'l'ilc ePOn v
L:A4b&'-:I think I could have esy caughtA2500. I must have caught

another, oh, I'd say 600 or 700 games in the minor leagues.

I: Minors, yeah ri.That's the thing, too,Aused to take a lot more
SL. Ohye. .-'eh 7 vJould chetk. /A ou-.
time to break in in the old days.AT-Now, they s5ed mi od wait more

than a year or two.

L: No, they try to bring you up as soon as they can.

I: Right. Do youh'ave knee problems today, I always thought that

catching that many games, bending that much. .

L: No, you'd be surprised, that was my best, 4e-best part of my

body was my legs, I had real fine legs. I could run when I was

younger, run pretty good, then I got older, and I kind of slowed
up a little bit. But I could run pretty good when I was young.

I:'. What's your high water mark in the big leagues? In, as a player?

L: As a player? Well, I guess the first year I played at Brooklyn

I had a great year, I had a real'good year. Then, after that,

YBOR 28A page 26

I got to where they considered me more of a handler of pitchers

youl-know, and a smart catcher than they considered me as a hitter.

But I played eighteen years in the major leagues, and I finally

ended up hitting .261, which, is, I think, a pretty good average.

I was not a long ball hitter. I thinkAthe thing thatAhurt me

the most, especially me, cause I wasn't that big, I weighed about

165 pounds, was that they changed the ball. My first year, there

was a real good ball, like, I think this ball was even Ious'er

than the ball that we used in 1930. They started changing the

ballay deadoiAo it a little bit because they k4i-d clia'Am 4yd-
YO K, ow^ OW
the ballJA they couldn't play what they called baseball, you
know, inside baseball, hitting, running,JA squeeze, and all that,
-for -GnCes, P, K'1O0)
everybody was swinging trying to hit the home runs, the same
thing that's happening today. And they started changing the
ball, a ea deade it up a little bit. And then when the war

years came in, they were using wool that was already been used,

which You got to have virgin wool in that

ball to make it springy, to make it go. And that hurt everybody,
nUo- yan knoty), l-
not only me, b-a- hurt all the averages at that

time. Using that thick wool, 4f-t Aed Stet ball. I wish
I'd have been playing with this ball here. A I could reach

fences with this ball. I could hit the fence, or maybe hit one
4, e,
over once in a while. But when they put the other ball in,Aballs

that might have hit the fence or gone over,Ajust ara iL Y

\ i:& an easy out. And it'd hurt your averages. The year from
1930 to 1931, when they started changing balls, in 1930, Bill
T.rry -CiM all1/
Chery- was a great first baseman when the New York Giants4ended

up being their manager. He hit .401. The following year, he

YBOR 28A page 27

and Chick HfyV and Barnaby were the runner-ups for the

batting average for the batting title, and they were both around
4wf' do-ppej
.343 or something like that. So hew@ m from .401 all the

way down to .343.
ThdoA r{e(r JrLmtkCi'-
I: Trmendau^ Did you think you think you would go on as a coach?

L: Well, in my latter years, I was a captain on the team, on every

team that I played, and in my latter years, I everyonce in p

while, I would have to run the club when a manager got thrown

out. I played with Casey Stingle, and he got thrown out a few

times, and I would have to run the club, and I.,..In my latter
eneJ1J lkeTo
years, I figured 4%.a1fitt$s .try it to see if I could manage. o,

I didn't know whether I could or not. Or even coach. And, I
know my last year Ag Pittsburgh, well at Pittsburgh I told them

that I was going to try to get a coaching job or a managing job,

and they sent me to Cleveland. And at the end of the year I

told Bill Beck, who was the owner, that I felt that I was about

through, and I said, "I'd appreciate it if you'd give me my

release because I'd like to get a manager's job in the minor
leagues or a coaching job in the major5,, if I could' And he

says, "Consider yourself released." He was very nice about it.

And I did. I went to the World Series in New York that year, and

finally ended up, getting a job with Indianapolis, managing


I: What year was that?
hNiletee 6r0-ei3t>+j All
L: ggiu '49, and '50. A We had three real good ball clubs. The

first year I managed, we had, we won a hundred ball games, and

won the pennant that year. The next year we finished second by

a half a game, and the third year we won the, we finished second

YBOR 28A page 28

again, but we, one year we won the Little World Series. Played
Montreal, and in the Little World Series. But we had, I had
three great years, I really enjoyed those three years TndJ'anoafti
I: And you broke into the big league coaching when?
L: Zib Fi' iy -< FIfy-ne Clveland or.....?
I: 4 Was it a big one-, "r' .
L: Cleveland. Greenburg talked to McKinney. I had a year to go
on my contract at Indianapolis, and Greenburg talked to McKinneyvA))
they were good friends. McKinney was the owner of the
Indianapolis Club, and asked him if he could talk to gsam, that
he would like to get me for the, we'd come up to the C V(ee(_xd
I: Those were the great pitching years, i4n-4tng- of Ce/e1and jla w 'f 'l
You had seller and Garcia/ .i_---,
L: Lemmon. L). L:Je had or ord f$ifhers.
I: And Lemmon. e!FAI\What did you think of 'eller4?ISke the
rt pitcher you ever coached?
L:Noke was si, but I've seen some great ones. I saw, well, I
hit against Dizzy Dean a lot. But Dazzieesimtr was a great, reo'

shaTff a great pitcher. Paul Hubble was a great pitcher.A Bne of the
greatest I ever saw. was great. Lefty__ ,
hit against him in I exhibl\\6 games, a -=ihe Oe S c ruYpltcfer.
There were a lot of great pitchers. But it's harder,A o close
to each other that it's hard. Johnson v-yeve i*1u
T;J,5 1 -a r io +?,
:L" he I waslhe A Th 3L)OS 9K1'feen they came
through here asiev.i..yf{ -F ye> o f '-
and they asked me if I would catch it, and I didn't know if I

YBOR 28A page 29

could catch it or not. It was quite a thrill for me. So I

said "I'll try to catch it." Because they wanted to see if
drC(1 4Ue, {ronl
they could throw me the Latin people 0 Ybor City to come pfo

the game. They were
And I did, I caught that ball game, I caught good, SP The
-Pa(u -for i-o
only thing he said to me, he says, "Hey kid, don't forfo-iet" t-o
many curve balls." And I said, "Mr. Johnson, you throw what
you want to do.U I put down the signs, andAyou don't want Siftj G-

gJa shake your glove or shake your head, and I'll change it."
He says, "And I'm not really going to let out except with a

couple of the hitters." And I said, "Who are they?" Cause I
wjedJ to be reaiy
wanted toye k0(O), 4 when he let was a guy by the name of Ike ." And I'd fe&l it, he said

he hit him pretty good, and bear

down on him. He says the other guy was a guy by the name of

Jack French first baseman, played the big leagues

for quite a while, then and he struck

him out both, twice. He only pitched five innings that daybut he
pic- .... It was a great experience for me to catch. And then after that,
-rdclhce por kiyo.
I caught, > uh< ror o ftj | for whilee.
I: Did you ever play against any of the black traveling teams eer-
the summer, or wSe the traveling shows?

L: No.

I: No. Mo eU-Wii-h aai UO nich1 W0lX4IC I T Yiej, rno A
L:oThey used to travel mostly in the big cities, and they used to
go out to the coast. They used to go out to Los Angeles, San

Francisco area, and play mostjout there to make a little money.

YBOR 28A page 30

W1\' JoLlde'/e been
I:Avere you coaching, or playing, you werEcin h coaching when

blacks finally broke in, right? In the big Leagues. in '47

with Robinson.
L: No, I was at Indianapolis itk Robinson. It was just right

after I left the Major Leagues that Robinson came in.
I: Did he have any blacks inACleveland game?

L: Oh, yeah.

"I: Barry )\)\J5 e I(aIC ('?.J 7

L: We had a lot of blacks, we had Lou K Larry Delb/

Simpson. We -4ad..,.

I: was the second black to break in wasn't he? First in
LY' yeo., TV f- IM A-ic Ahevncaii leiaucyeo.-t
the American leagues? AThat was really something.
of a 4-1Hq
L: I think the press made moreA/out of that thing than anything else1thkt

they were trying to create a lot of.,..,etween the players, I ever

saw any resentment of any kind, In fact, Larry fitted in real

good right away with us ,rCleveland. And I think Robinson, well,

Robinson was, and Dolby too, they were all great competitors.

know, guys that had been around, and they weren't going to

let, we had to go through some of that. You know they'd call y
ya k yo 'A and 110 r116
your first so and so,AsometimesA, but they called everybody that,

and they, they'd throw at you. When I broke in, the pitchers

would throw at you to knock you down to see if you could take it
Lxup 0t 4ejf10
not, they'd get you scaredAe-'t-ha, then you were through. You

had to battle back. And that goes for the same thing as,

practically that, you know, if they holler names at you, what's

the difference? To me, it was no diffence if I was a minority

or not. I am what I am. And I'm proud of it.

YBOR 28A page 31

I: What, how would you describe your experiences I|' t on, with
the 4tigh.s\At'c foX
L: Great.A Iou know, we had, I enjoyed managing that club because it wa5s,
I took managing. You know, it took a lot of time to squeeze a run
here, and get a run here, we didn't have any power, you know.
"16t Cleveland Club was more of a powerful club, it was a great pitching,
and some guys that could get up there and Ko5se-,onc iPotb1 aocn.

like Ttaicould hit the ball out of the ballpark, and you'd finally win,)yl(IoO
4( 0 -ourou 5-4 EEgf or something, whatever, you know, but you-- vWe... 3t I'
iei 1+o It Ioo0eJa like every game you had to struggle to try to win it, you
had to really play, andAmanuver around all you could to try to
win it. You had),Cleveland that year, I thought we had the best
all-around pitching staff I ever saw on any club, of all the years
because wLe- Felle r
that I was there/A AM had a fellow,___ ______
' 4e budpen, we had N6u)lougS( in the bullpen, we had Lemmon, we had Winn, we
had a fellow by the name of Art GOudaOa, Garcia. Es>odalnan
won fifteen games for us. and nobody mentions him. -a he pitched
good ball for us that year.
I: JDid you find like with the White Sox being Latin did that help
you handle guys like and Rivera ?
L: No, we didn't have, no -lsag te vod Aiv'+ e v....
I: No problems
L:AAgain,AI think it's a, they respected me and I respected them.
I spoke Spanish once in a while to _, I spoke Spanish to

OViJL and, at Cleveland, when he was with us at Cleveland,
Once in aWhile, you know, if we were by ourselves or something
like that, he'd come over and speak Spanish to me, and I'd speak

YBOR 28A page 32

Spanish to him. He spoke very, very good Spanish. So did
SRivera, not so much. He was spg. brought up

in New York. I don't know if he was born in New York or Puerto
I: Rudo A tO'q 4 emia. -fv)
L: Yeph.T'No one ever hears of him. ___
L. ye.Ai On all -Four avenueSe
I: I know that team, every player c-dy 0QJo Co? .

L: Is that right?
LI"h4&.uw {kip y'OL i0otUd brnv Thetk1 nam p-
I: Yeah.AIZHe was one of the obscure relievers with Staley and L4LA
^etgwk-._ Wxe^ u)S +(ne u-k_ .
He. (A)S a met boy rea.
L:At igo nice boy.1 remember one incident that happened now that you
brought his name up. We used to play the Yankees, and they had

his guy by the name of He wore glasses, real thick glasses,
and he said he couldn't see too well. But he could see pretty

good, you know, and for some reason or another, every time
L aYn Ad s L aAi's
It1Sfis would come up, -auI& was a skinny kid, you know,
\/ K1IOW, opaki
he would just let one fly right by his neckA 6r he' throw one e-

_Sa screen or something like that. And he finally his A4n+tis
here in St. Petersburg in e". i game. And I kept
ya KoYt lot knov-)
lookinge.Ma- this guy,Afor some reason or another he wants to
Lav4i of er0yne4tqn |;ke 41c- J L[-Mcii's
scare 4.t lan is intimidate him, you know. And he hit A4lantis
right on the skull cap. Luckily he had a skull cap on. And I
went up to home plate to see if he was all right, and finally I
told Yogi, cause Yogi and I had been friends for a while, ag 5T 5

"Yogi, I want you to do something for me.A;\I want you to tell

that guy that if he ever throws at this guy again, he better be
ready when he comes up, cause we're going to low-bridge him, I

YBOR 28A page 33

don't care if he's got glassesA Sure enough, he must have

forgot. We were playing in Chigago, and Landis is the hitter,
and here comes and the first pitch he threwAwent right

behind his head. I called the bullpen/ndI called Ray Berry and X
\\ RFy
says,A*i want somebody to volunteer, cause I really want to

really knock this guy down, But I want him to volunteer, I

don't want him, to, you know, if he don't want to do it, I don't

want him to hurt him, 'cause he wears glasses, you got to be

careful, But I want to let him know that he can't keep doing
this thing, same thing to Landis, 'cause I got to protect him.

So finally, this boy, Area, says, "I want to volunteer." But

I didn't want a left hander, he was a left hander, I wanted a

right hander. And he volunteered, and sure enough, he lowered

him good. I mean really good, and that, that TPAra looked at him

K like saying, "What are you throwing at me for?" He was a

pitcher. Well, we didn't care, we just wanted to let him know
coiuldn+ keef poor
that he just kept)abusing this 1Z Landis the way he was doing.

I: /Well llife), I'd really like to thank you. It's really been

most enjoyable, most enjoyable.
L:A I hope you get some good out of it.

I: Hey, thanks again. Gre.

(End of tape) EeA f it' trviJJ3

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