30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 12 — Viva los Mexican Americans from the early days of L.A.


The book: “Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles (Images of Baseball)”

The author: Francisco E. Balderrama and Richard A. Santillan, forward by Samuel O. Regalado

The vital stats: Arcadia Publishing, 127 pages, $21.99

Find it: At the publisher’s website (linked here) as well as Powell’s (linked here), Amazon.com (linked here) and Barnes & Noble (linked here).

The pitch: Maybe it’s coincidence that this is the 30th anniversary of Fernandomania’s arrival in L.A. Hopefully, it’s not.

While Chapter 6 covers the Dodgers move from Brooklyn to Chavez Ravine and Fernando Valenzuela’s electric rise to stardom, it’s really the first five chapters that need the reader’s full attention, especially those who grew up in Southern California and could be enlightened by an amazing history lesson.

You come across names like Elias Baca, aka “The Spanish Tornado,” who pitched at UCLA during the Great Depression, to the Carmelita Chorizeros team of the 1950s, to the nine Pena brothers who played together.

There are the photos of Saul Toledo, a player who went on to be a newspaper writer and promoter for the teams, and Shorty Perez, longtime leader of the Chorizeros, and Rudy Regaldo, a former Hoover High of Glendale and USC standout who played with the Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series.

While it may seem like just a photo album of days gone by, Balderrama, a professor of Chicano studies and history at Cal State L.A., and Santillan, professor emeritus of ethnic and women studies at Cal Poly Pomona, bring it alive with their text. They are on the advisory board of the Latino Baseball History Project, based at Cal State San Bernardino. The group is responsible for pulling together these vintage photographs that document a story that prior to this has only been passed down generation to generation, or experienced through special exhibits, some presented by the Pasadena-based Baseball Reliquary, which fosters an understand and appreciation of the culture of the game.

Baseball Reliquary director Terry Cannon started a collaberation with the Latino Baseball History Project more than five years ago, when he organized an exhibit called “From the Barrios to the Big Leagues” at Cal State L.A., and has cultivated many of the background captions that goes with the pages and pages of black-and-white photos.

How it goes down in the scorebook: Classic, and classy, leaving us wanting to find out more. Viva, indeed.

Also: If you get a chance to scan the Arcadia Publishing library of baseball related books, you’ll also find issues dedicated to Los Angeles’ Historical Ballparks (2010, by Chris Epting, linked here), Dodger Stadium (linked here) by Dodgers team historian Mark Langill, The Brooklyn Dodgers in Cuba (2011, linked here), Dodgertown (linked here), The Hollywood Stars by Dick Beverage (2005, linked here), Baseball in Albuquerque (2011, linked here), Baseball in Long Beach (linked here), Baseball in Ventura County (linked here), Baseball in San Diego (linked here) and Women’s Baseball (linked here).

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