Lopez's Ybor house moves, to be baseball museum
Baseball is intertwined in Tampa's history, and one man helped cement the connection.
Local baseball legend Al Lopez's career as a player, manager and Hall of Fame inductee helped put Tampa on the baseball map.
Local leaders are hoping to capitalize on Lopez's legacy and the area's baseball ties by relocating his childhood Ybor City home and turning it into a local baseball museum by next spring.
First, though, the house had to be moved.
A crew from Above All Structural of Largo worked two days to prepare Lopez's former home and a second house for the move. The second house will be turned into a law enforcement museum; both were being moved from 12th Avenue to 19th Street in Ybor City.
Crew members dug tunnels under the houses and placed a steel frame underneath. The houses were lifted 28 to 30 inches with a hydraulic jacking system, and a dolly with six axles and 24 tires was set under both homes.
Beginning Wednesday evening, seven to eight workers simultaneously began the mile-long journey for the two homes, a trek that wasn't expected to be finished until early this morning.
Progress was slow for the huge loads, maxing out at about 5 mph. Complicating the journey were street lights, street signs and electrical lines that had to be temporarily moved to make room for the wide homes on the narrow Ybor City streets, said Mark Roesch, owner of Above All Structural.
Local leaders say the results will be worth the effort.
“(It may) inspire future generations to enjoy the game of baseball and be inspired to be players,” said Chantal Hevia, president of the Ybor City Museum Society, a nonprofit which is developing the Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House.
The museum will cover 125 years of Tampa's baseball heritage, including youth, factory, municipal, Negro and major leagues. There will be permanent and rotating exhibits.
It will also tell Lopez's story.
When Lopez retired as a player in 1947, he held the record for the most games played as a catcher: 1,918. He then turned to managing and won American League pennants with the 1954 Cleveland Indians and the 1959 Chicago White Sox.
Lopez's mother, Faustina, and father, Modesto, moved into the house about 1910 or 1912, said Al Lopez Jr. Family members lived in the house until 1959, he said. Lopez died in 2005 at age 97.
The two homes that were moved were part of the 64 buildings being relocated as part of Florida Department of Transportation's Interstate Historic Mitigation Plan.
FDOT acquired the homes for the expansion of Interstate 4 and agreed to move them. Hillsborough County commissioners agreed to lease the house's new site to the nonprofit museum society.