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Library baseball display paints picture of 1950s Greeley

By Michael Nowels
On October 12, 2012

 

Last Friday, UNC Libraries held a reception for a new exhibit titled "Beets, Baseball and Beyond" on the first floor of Michener Library. 
The displays focused on the origins of semi-pro baseball in the Greeley area during the Bracero period of the early 1950s. All of the information and artifacts were compiled courtesy of Gabe Lopez and his wife, Jody.
 
Gabe said his motivation for compiling all the information and materials, as well as for writing books about the community at the time, came from his father, Augustine Lopez, being so involved in baseball and sugar beet farming.
 
"My dad was the oldest of 13 boys," Lopez said. "There were 14 in the family. The first one was a girl, and her name was Jenny. She married my uncle Alvin Garcia."
 
Not all of the players from the time were beet farmers, though. Boyd Bivens, a Grover Hilltop shortstop from 1947-59 and wheat farmer, said it was difficult to work the fields six days a week and then play ball every Sunday.
 
"We had a manager who used to say, 'You can't work a horse six times a week and race him on Sunday,' and if we got beat, that was his excuse," Lopez said.
 
J. R. Marquez and Tony Ortega have been inseparable since their time playing together on the Brighton Rams and two Fort Lupton teams in the 1960s. The former ballplayers have both worked as police officers and at the Denver Mint, married a pair of sisters and now are hunting and fishing buddies.
 
"Right now, it's hard to recognize the faces," Marquez said of being around old teammates for the first time in many years.
 
Ortega seemed to agree, noting the time passed since their playing days, but this display provides a chance to learn more about the town's history.
 
"Some of the people, we haven't seen in 50 years," Ortega said.
 
Also featured were drawings of "Faces from the Hispanic World"  by University of Wyoming professor emeritus Carlos Mellizo, a poetry reading by UNC professor emeritus and poet Alfonso Rodriguez and a traditional Spanish guitar performance by Carlos Olivas, a Spanish major.
 
Gabe Lopez said he and his wife plan to send their artifacts to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
 
"All the information, all the photos, all the interviews we've done were submitted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame," Lopez said. "It's kind of fascinating that they were interested enough to know about this history and they wanted it. They called us and asked us for it."
 
The exhibit will be in the Michener Library through Nov 3.

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