We’re giving you a sneak peek at two of the exhibits celebrating Tampa’s baseball heritage.
|Joe Benito was an infielder who played for one of Tampa’s earliest baseball leagues, the Intersocial League.
Tampa’s First Leagues
This exhibit chronicles the early years of Tampa’s love of the game. Tampa’s first baseball team was founded in 1878, a time when the city’s population was a mere 700 people. The founding of the cigar industry in 1886 brought an influx of immigrants to the area, and soon after, baseball became Tampa’s favorite pastime. It was a way for people of different cultures and languages to come together over a shared passion.
Cigar factories sponsored baseball teams to play one another. In 1910, these informal games became Tampa’s first local baseball league, the Cigar City League. Many others would follow, including the Municipal League, American Legion League and Inter-social League.
Tampa’s history with Major League Baseball dates to 1899 when Plant Field, Tampa’s first major sports venue, was completed. It was just a few years after MLB teams started travelling to warmer climates like New Orleans and Hot Springs, Ark. to train before the start of the season.
|Plant Field was Tampa’s first major sports venue. Over the years it was the spring training home to several MLB teams.
In 1913, Plant Field became the spring training location for the Chicago Cubs – one of the first teams to travel to Florida for training. Since then, seven teams have selected Tampa as their spring training location.
Tampa hit another Major League milestone in 1995 when the region was selected for the 13th expansion team in MLB history. Three years later, the Devil Rays (now Tampa Bay Rays) played their inaugural game on March 31, 1998.
In addition to the teams who have called Tampa home, nearly 90 players from Tampa have played Major League Baseball. Each one will be recognized in the Tampa Baseball Museum’s Major League exhibit.
These exhibits, and others, will start moving in to their permanent home in the Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House once construction is complete.