‘Neighborhoods of Baseball’ Celebrates Community Teams in Multiethnic L.A.

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The Carmelita Chorizeros of East L.A.

BURBANK — The Baseball Reliquary presents “The Neighborhoods of Baseball,” a celebration of community baseball in multicultural, multiethnic Los Angeles, on Saturday, Sept. 17, from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Burbank Central Library Auditorium, 110 N. Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank.

The program, which is open to the public and free of charge, is being held in conjunction with the Baseball Reliquary’s current exhibition, “Not Exactly Cooperstown,” which is on view through Sept. 29 at the Burbank Central Library.

“The Neighborhoods of Baseball” examines amateur and semi-professional baseball in post-World War II Los Angeles from the perspective of the Mexican American, African American, and Japanese American communities, where baseball created a unique sense of shared values and fostered community identity and pride. The program will include a panel discussion with former players; the world premiere screening of “Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles”; and a book-signing.

Doors to the auditorium will open at 1:30 pm, and the festivities will begin at 2 p.m. with introductory remarks by Richard Santillan, baseball historian and professor emeritus in the Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Santillan will then moderate a discussion with former players that will look at the intimate history of baseball in Los Angeles as an activity critical to our understanding of community, particularly in terms of how the sport was used to build ethnic cohesion and identity. Following are profiles of the panelists:

• A graduate of Mount Carmel High School, John Young grew up in South Central Los Angeles, was a member of the 1968 Chapman College NCAA Division II National Championship baseball team, and played professionally with the Detroit Tigers. Young became baseball’s first African American scouting director when the Tigers promoted him to the post in 1981. In 1989, he founded RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), which has grown from a local program for disadvantaged youth in South L.A. to an international campaign encompassing more than 200 cities and well over 100,000 male and female participants each year.

• A graduate of Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, Richard Pena starred as a center fielder and pitcher for the legendary Carmelita Chorizeros baseball team in East Los Angeles. In several games, Pena and his eight brothers, all Roosevelt High graduates, made up the entire Carmelita lineup, playing all nine positions, an amazing accomplishment that rated a story in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”

• Fellow Roosevelt High grad Al Padilla played for the Evergreen Rangers and Ornelas Food Market in East Los Angeles in the 1940s, then played baseball and football at Occidental College in the early 1950s. Between 1954 and 1995, Padilla coached baseball and football at Roosevelt and Garfield High Schools and East Los Angeles College.

• Dan Kwong is an award-winning solo performance artist, playwright, and director who has toured his multimedia shows nationally and internationally since 1989. As a teacher and mentor, he has played a key role in the development of the next generation of Asian American solo performers. But long before he played that role, he was playing center field for the Li’l Tokio Giants, one of the oldest continuous teams in Japanese American baseball history. A lifelong athlete, Kwong got his start in the Japanese American baseball leagues under the guidance of manager Bobby Umemoto, and this summer marked his 40th season playing for the Giants – still with Umemoto as his manager.

• Born and raised in Los Angeles, Bobby Umemoto attended Marshall High School and Oregon State University, and worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 34 years. He has been a member of the Li’l Tokio Giants since 1961 and a board member of the Nisei Athletic Union (NAU) since the mid-1960s.

Following the panel discussion and Q&A, at 3 p.m., Santillan will introduce “Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles,” a 50-minute documentary that he directed and that was produced by Aldo Ortiz and Abel Becerra. The film captures the spirit of Mexican American baseball in post-World War II Los Angeles and features interviews with many star players, their family members, and historians, including three of the Pena brothers (Richard, John, and Pete), Gilbert Perez, Art Velarde, Tom Perez Jr., Isidro “Chilo” Herrera, Ernie Rodriguez, Bill Miranda, Ernie and Gilbert Blanco, Raul Moreno, Raymond Garcia, Alfredo Esparza, Bob Lagunas, Henry Ronquillo, Al Padilla, Fred Scott, Fernando Farfan, Conrad Munatones, Armando Perez, Willie Alvarez-Tostado, Gil Gamez, Bea Armenta Dever, Mark Ocegueda, and Mimi Poon.

Other players who are discussed in the film and/or seen in vintage photographs include Pete Navarro, Pete Barrios, Wally Poon, Charlie and Ernie Sierra, Marcelino Saucedo, Bobby Recendez, Manuel “Shorty” Perez, Tom Robles, Joe Gaitan, Coney Galindo, Ray Armenta, Tony Gamboa, Fidel Soliz, Francisco Chavez, Alonzo “Pops” Orozco, and David Salazar. In addition to the interviews, the documentary includes historic game footage and excerpts from special player celebrations and reunions.

Following the screening, at 4 p.m., authors Santillan and Francisco Balderrama will sign copies of their recently published book, “Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles,” a photo documentation of Mexican American baseball in the City of the Angels from the early 1900s to the emergence of “Fernandomania” in the 1980s. The book will be available for purchase for $21.99, with proceeds going to benefit the Latino Baseball History Project at California State University, San Bernardino.

Free parking is available in the lot next to the library, with additional free parking in the lot across the street from the library at Glenoaks and Olive (entrance on Olive).

For further information, contact the Baseball Reliquary at (626) 791-7647 or [email protected] For directions, phone the Burbank Central Library at (818) 238-5600.

“The Neighborhoods of Baseball” is made possible, in part, by a grant to the Baseball Reliquary from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. A special acknowledgment to the Latino Baseball History Project at CSU San Bernardino for its support and assistance.

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  1. I have been looking for information on the history of Los Angeles Semi-Pro Baseball, during pre- and WWII. I was under the impression that my father, Norman “Buster” Schlah, played Catcher for the L.A.? “Bulldogs”, though I’m not sure of that name. As I have come up empty on the ‘web’, if you have any information on the team or its league, I would appreciate it. Thank you, Steve Schlah

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