The Viva Baseball exhibit at the National Baseball Hall Of Fame & Museum stands out among the three floors of historical displays of baseball's history in Cooperstown. Representing every country in Latin America which plays America's greatest game today, Viva Baseball is colorful, has flare and shows the strong emotions aficionados that live within the Caribbean, Central and South America have for baseball.
The Tropic Of Baseball.' It’s about the Dominican Republic, Milton Jamail and Alan Klein. The important part of their participation was that they were all scholars who’ve work on baseball down in the Caribbean and not just the game between the lines but how baseball interacts with the culture down there. And one of the great things we found was how long baseball had been going on down in the Caribbean and how each country down there has its own baseball history. So when we started off Viva Baseball, even before we had a name for the exhibit--which we called the Latino Exhibit during planning stages--we thought we’d talk with Juan Marichal and his contributions all the way up to Big Popi (David Ortiz), about Pedro Martinez, to Rod Carew who speaks English so well you forget he’s from Panama. He’s so bi-lingual."
"So in Viva Baseball, we learn about all of these kinds of things and this is the sort of history people can look at and say: ‘O’yeah, that is how we used to deal with Spanish speaking people.’ And one of the other things we wanted to do, and the ballplayers were very open to it, was talking about their experiences coming to the United States. They talk about how they didn’t know how to speak any English. So in a restaurant they would just point at the menu. Or just say: ‘chicken’. ‘Everytime I went somewhere I would just say chicken. And they would answer back whether I wanted it baked or fried and I didn’t know what they were asking and I would just nod. But I knew whatever came out was chicken.’"
John Odell: "That’s right. We use the artifacts to hook people into the story. When we started reaching out to different people down in the Caribbean, people who love baseball, and people found out what we were doing--we ended up getting people contacting us saying: ‘Hey, I’ve got something for you.’ And one of things we learned is that these countries are very dynamic and the sport grows when there are rivalries between teams. Sort of like the Red Sox and Yankees or The Cardinals and The Cubs. In Latin America, there was enough critical mass of ballplayers playing good baseball that each side wanted to win and that started ratcheting up the atmosphere. They feel really good when they beat those other guys."
Pedro Zorrilla--the long time owner of Santurce (Crabbers). They were able to donate the Santurce Jersey and the big trophy that came from the year Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente played on the Santurce team--which is considered to be one of the very best teams in winter ball history in Puerto Rico. And that’s another reason why it takes time to build these exhibits because it takes time to develop relationships with people. I might be able to ask you for something as soon as I meet you, but until we’ve developed a relationship you might not be ready to lend it or donate it. So very often and this happened here, folks are interested in lending something first, then they see the care we take of it and the presentation of it and that hundreds of thousands of people get a chance to see it and they see their name ‘loaned by’ written on a card within the display and they realize we can be trusted."