Results tagged ‘ Rafi Serrano ’

A trip to the Island

By Erik Strohl

On Friday morning, Hall of Fame director of security Evan Chase and I were picked up at our hotel and driven to the Sports Museum of Puerto Rico in Guaynabo by local baseball historian extraordinaire Jorge Colon Delgado. Jorge also met us at the airport on arrival Thursday night, and he has been exuding excitement about our visit from the first minute.

Bringing the Hall of Fame plaques of Roberto Alomar, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente and Tony Perez to Puerto Rico has everyone connected to the Museum feeling giddy. They have been working hard for months in anticipation of our visit. It is obvious that much time has been spent in preparation for this event.

When we arrived at the Museum shortly after 10 a.m. on Friday, we were greeted by Rafi Serrano and a number of his staff who were working hard in final preparation for this evening’s extravaganza. The purpose of our morning’s visit was to supervise the installation of the four plaques.

It is obvious much care has been taken in order for the presentation of the plaques to look topnotch. The Museum constructed four sided wooden pillars about seven feet high. One side contains the plaque, while the opposite side will house a TV showing highlights from each player. The other two sides contain photos from each player’s career from both their time in Puerto Rico as well as the major leagues. One of these pillars has been built for each of the four Hall of Famers.

Several employees jumped right in as the sound of power tools and the sight of screwdrivers became immediately prevalent. The employees all gathered around in excitement as each of the plaques was installed in succession. Everyone was taking photos and each staff member was pitching in. It was a fun moment and obvious to us that just participating in this pre-event was a special moment for each one of our hosts. The installation took about 15 minutes or so for each plaque, finishing up the job in a little over an hour.

Tonight will be the main event and we are all very excited. It is hopeful that the Governor of Puerto Rico will be able to attend, as well as many other local mayors and other dignitaries. And of course Alomar, Cepeda, and Perez will be present, along with Vera Clemente and other members of the Clemente family. It is sure to be a fun-filled evening and an unbridled celebration of Puerto Rican baseball.

The people here are so passionate about the game. Just hearing them talk about their heroes and the anticipation for this evening is enough to make any baseball fan feel humbled, including members of the Hall of Fame staff like myself. It is a reminder what a powerful hold baseball has on many people of various localities around the world. We have been here less than 24 hours and we already feel so very special because of the unbelievable hospitality we have received.

I can’t wait for tonight. It is sure to be one special evening filled with smiles, laughter, and perhaps even a few tears. It is wonderful to see how much this game and its history mean to the people of Puerto Rico.

Erik Strohl is the senior director of exhibitions and collections for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Homeland heroes

By Jeff Idelson

Twelve years ago, the Hall of Fame corrected a faux pas. At the time of it’s origination, it was barely noticed, but in today’s world was considered a glaring mistake. 

In 1973, when he was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame after a tragic plane crash took his life, his plaque read “Roberto Walker Clemente” when it should have been “Roberto Clemente Walker.” 

At the time, the concern was that fans would not understand the Latino tradition of one having your mother’s maiden name follow your father’s last name. In 1999 we felt it was important to correct this cultural mistake, which truly was done for the right reasons in 1973, but today would appear to be insensitive.

We brought the new plaque to San Juan, Carolina, the home town of Roberto Clemente, and a few other places in 2000. I had Clemente’s plaque postcard translated into Spanish. We handed them out to children in Puerto Rico. It was an unabashed hit.

This year we worked closely with the Museo del Deporte in Guyanabo and its director, Rafi Serrano, to bring 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Roberto Alomar’s plaque to Puerto Rico so that those from his native land who could not be in Cooperstown, would have a chance to see it. We extended the concept to honor all three Puerto Rican Hall of Famers, Alomar, Orlando Cepeda and Clemente, as well as adopted Puerto Rican son, Tany Perez, who moved to the Island from Cuba when he was 16.

We left Cooperstown Thursday, traveling from Syracuse, through JFK Airport in New York, to San Juan. Traveling with four plaques is not easy. Each one, with the backing and case, weighs close to 40 pounds. Four of us each took one as carry on luggage.

Walking through airport security, we had many quizzical looks and then there were smiles as proud central New Yorkers working security thought it was great that plaques from their home region were traveling abroad.

The flights were easy. We were met upon arrival by a delegate from the Museum here in Puerto Rico who took us to the Museum to secure the four plaques for the evening.

After checking into the hotel, we walked over to Lupi’s, a restaurant owned by former pitching great Ed Figueroa. Our group sat at a long table with Ed and had a wonderful evening catching on baseball. He was glad to see us. Dinner was terrific.

Jeff Idelson is the President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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