Hillsborough County to provide land for relocation of Al Lopez home

Published May 17, 2012

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to provide land for relocating the one-time home of former baseball player and manager Al Lopez so it can be turned into a museum.

The house at 1210 E 12th Ave. was acquired by the Florida Department of Transportation as part of the Interstate 4 widening.

The DOT is proposing to relocate the home at a cost approaching $100,000 to the northeast corner of Ninth Avenue and 19th Street near the Ybor City Museum. The DOT will pay for the move.

The Ybor City Museum Society would take ownership and anticipates raising as much as $175,000 to restore the building and renovate it to be used as a baseball museum.

The museum would include exhibits featuring the 11 Tampa residents who have gone on to play for Major League Baseball, from Steve Garvey to Tino Martinez and Lou Piniella. It will also celebrate past baseball teams that have been located here, such as the former minor league Tampa Smokers.

Alfonso "Al" Lopez played catcher, debuting in 1928 for the Brooklyn Robins and playing for the Boston Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates before ending his playing career in 1947 with the Cleveland Indians. He was a manager of the Indians and Chicago White Sox in the 1950s and 1960s and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. His 1,918 games as a catcher set a record that stood for more than 40 years, according to the Hall of Fame. Lopez died in Tampa in 2005.

The discussion about the Lopez house didn't pass without at least a reference to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner noted his fellow board members' flirtation with the team, offering up Hillsborough as a prospective location for a new stadium should the team finally weary of St. Petersburg.

"One thing we could start with … is a baseball museum," Beckner said. "It's not going to require a referendum. It's not going to require a budget amendment."

Backers of the initiative said they intend to apply for grants and raise private money to renovate the building and operate it as a museum.

Commissioner Ken Hagan, the biggest Rays flirt on the board, applauded Beckner's proposal.

"Anything to do with baseball, I'm instantly attracted to that," said Hagan, who played baseball in high school and college.

"I've heard that, commissioner," said Mary Alvarez, a former Tampa City Council member who is helping with the preservation effort.

"Can we put him in the museum?" asked Commissioner Sandra Murman.