(From L to R: Bernardo Ruiz, Dr Adrian Burgos, Orestes ‘Minnie’ Minoso, and Fernando Perez)
I went to tonight’s ‘Fireside Chat’ put on by the University of Illinois Latino/Latina Studies program. The topic was Pioneering Latinos: Building a Legacy on and Beyond the Playing Field. Hosted by U of I professor Adrian Burgos, the panelists on the stage were impressive.
Orestes ‘Minnie’ Minoso, who played for the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians during the integration of baseball, headlined the event. At age 86, he’s still pretty vivacious. Minoso (left), a Cuban national and was the first black to play baseball in town of Chicago (He received an award presented by Dr Burgos on behalf of the U of I Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Planning Committee marking the 60th anniversary of that event), told a lot of stories from his days with the White Sox. A overriding theme throughout the night with Mr Minoso was ‘respect the game’.
Another panelist came from a slightly different perspective. Fernando Perez is a current baseball player drafted by the Tampa Rays and was recently traded to the Chicago Cubs. Perez (right) is no dumb jock. He graduated from Columbia in American Studies and Creative Writing. Not only that, he’s apparently put some of that learnin’ to good use. He’s published a couple essays in the past few years and written for a blog for the New York Times (here’s an example of his work from 2009). I found Perez quite thoughtful and well-reasoned especially considering his youth. Seeing that he’s been traded to the Cubs, now I just hope he can hit.
Finally, Bernardo Ruiz is the director of the film ‘Roberto Clemente’. I must admit I have not seen ‘Clemente’ yet but now I want to. Ruiz (left) said that he made the movie because there was not a film out that adequately addressed Clemente and his life. He wanted to tell his story. He encouraged people to not stop there as there other stories around Latino baseball that still need to be told.
It was nice to see former Negro League pitcher and Champaign native Ernie Westfield in the audience. It was even better when Dr Burgos introduced him and had him read a poem before the panel discussion. Westfield (right) is a hidden treasure in Champaign-Urbana. No, I’m not a big poetry fan but I could listen to Westfield’s poems any day.
Thanks to the Department of Latina/Latino Studies and Dr Burgos for putting on the Pioneering Latinos event. I know Burgos is a great fan of Mr Minoso (and he said so at the event). This must have been a fulfilling project for him.
More photos of the event here.