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Anthony Rendon, world series champion and proud Mexican-American. Via Getty.
Anthony Rendon, world series champion and proud Mexican-American. Via Getty.

Pleibol: Latinos Who Changed the Culture of Baseball

From the 'barrios' to the Major Leagues, an unprecedented exhibition traces the Hispanic community's contribution to this national sport.

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It's no news that many of the best players in Major League Baseball are Latino, so much so that, according to NYT, pronunciation guides are published so that English speakers can pronounce some of their names correctly. 

That's just one example of the recognition of their presence and impact on the history of baseball, a sport that is often initiated in the neighborhoods and, as in the case of Anthony Rendon, former third baseman for the Washington Nationals and current Los Angeles Angels star, can make World Series champions

In fact, Rendon's first jersey, which he started playing in on a YMCA youth team in Houston, will be one of the pieces on display at the upcoming Smithsonian exhibit, "¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues," which opens in October at the National Museum of American History.

A bilingual show that explores the influence of the Latino community on the national sport in two directions: on the one hand, how Hispanic players have transformed American culture through the lens of baseball, but also how baseball has offered a better future to Hispanics. The exhibit revisits the origin of this passion throughout the 20th century, when U.S. agricultural and industrial workers used it as a community meeting place to organize and claim their rights, and as a means to make ends meet. 

"¡Pleibol! tells stories of the big leagues, but it is first and foremost rooted in the communities and reality of who was allowed to play and where," said exhibition curator Margaret Salazar-Porzio

"The story we tell shows how Latino communities played, celebrated and changed the game." 

 
The leaders on and off the diamond
Although Latino players represent, according to 2018 data, almost 30% of the 877 players in the Major Leagues, their role off the field has also been and is VERY relevant. For example, Los Angeles Angels billionaire owner Arturo "Arte" Moreno, is the first Mexican-American to own a team of this caliber.

Likewise, the deceased Cuban baseball commentator Rafael "Felo" Ramírez, is a member of the Cooperstown Hall of Fame and the best-known voice of the Miami Marlins; Melvin Roman, who from his company MDR Sports represents sportsmen like Puerto Rican Yadier Molina, Dominican Jhonny Peralta or Cuban Brayan Peña.

"Pleibol" goes one step further, and also includes pioneering coaches, managers, and headhunters who have changed the rules of the game. In addition to exhibiting such mythical objects as the helmet of Roberto Clemente or the New York Mets jersey worn by Pedro Martínez, also on display are a Colorado Rockies team jacket owned by Linda Alvarado- the first Hispanic female co-owner of a team — and the sports uniform worn by Marge Ville, one of the first Latinas to start playing the sport professionally. 

And much more... trophies, photo albums and artwork that are part of the cultural history of Latinos in the United States, and how they've sweated and sweated their way through this country. 

The exhibition will be on display in 15 cities until 2025, which will be a real strike.

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