Team Photo, Minor League, El Retiro Cafe Cardinals

El Retiro Café Cardinals Minor League team of the Prospect Hill Yellow Jackets Athletic Club, circa, 1963. Standing from left, Coach Navarro, Oscar Urabazo, Horace Lopez, Raul Guerra, Ruben Trevino, Reynaldo Nerio, Jr., Curtis Adams, Danny Castillo. Kneeling from left, Juan Campos, Mark Nerio, Cleofas Soto, Phil (last name unknown), Alfred Bonenburger, Ishmael Trevino, Frankie Castillon.

I visit my 94-year-old grandfather, who lives about 10 minutes away from St. Mary’s University,  just about every Sunday after church. During one of these visits he told me a story about how my father played Little League baseball at a young age nearby. The practice baseball field still exists, located right across the street from where we buy pan dulce, on the corner of 24th Street and Morales Street in San Antonio’s West Side.

Since sports have played a major role in my development as a person, student, and now college soccer coach, the central question of my research is straightforward: What role did the Prospect Hill Yellow Jackets (PHY) athletic club have on this Mexican American community in the West Side of San Antonio during the 1960’s? This research is an attempt to demonstrate how sports such as baseball were more than just a “social gathering” but rather an opportunity for the Mexican American community to celebrate and find success while also challenging stereotypes that surfaced from the general population.  For example, such stereotypes included, “lacked intelligence,” “fought instead of worked,” “a nuisance rather than an asset,” and “that their minds often revealed great inconsistencies” (R.A. Garcia 186-187).

Using images, maps, archival photographs and newspaper articles, obituaries, and oral history, I provide examples on how the PHY athletic club played a major role in helping shape and define the identity of this Mexican American community in San Antonio. The images, maps, and photographs contextualize the story of the San Antonio Mexican American community in one West Side neighborhood, while the newspaper articles, obituaries, and interviews capture the story of the players and adult leadership of the PHY athletic club.

In the foreword of the book Mexican American Baseball in the Alamo Region: Images of Baseball, Professor of History at Angelo State University, Arnoldo de Leon, explains baseball was much more than just another amusement in the Mexican American community.  Baseball was a sport that is equal in importance to subjects such as labor, immigration, and politics. My research presents the significance baseball had on the committed players, loyal fans, passionate coaches, and loving family and friends who were proud of their Mexican American ethnicity, living in the West Side of San Antonio during the 1960’s.

The Prospect Hill Yellow Jackets Athletic Club was an important institution in San Antonio’s West Side in the 1960’s.  It was a vehicle through which the emerging Mexican American middle-class families integrated and acculturated into the American mainstream.  The PHY athletic club provided a network that connected emerging middle-class Mexican Americans to each other and provided a vehicle for channeling frustrations, striving for success, and establishing a feeling of joy and celebration. Sporting events for the Mexican American middle-class was central to their lifestyle.  Parents were emerging middle class, so they had leisure time and chose to center that time on youth development sports.  Baseball, soccer, Pop-Warner football, etc., involved the whole family – coach, players, cheer team, and auxiliary for women.

Baseball, hot dogs and apple pie are the cliché of Americana. In this story though, I altered it to “baseball, hot dogs and raspas” (a snow cone, a Mexican cultural treat) to recognize the local community.  During oral histories I conducted, I asked the now adult former players about memories of the experience. Several commented with enthusiasm on the concession stand delicacies that included hot dogs, popcorn and especially…raspas!