From Sugar to Diamonds: Spanish/Mexican Baseball 1925-1969

Stories of the Greeley Grays and the Teams that Dared to Challenge Them

by Jody L.; Gabriel A. Lopez



Book Details

Language : English
Publication Date : 2/17/2009

Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 8.25x11
Page Count : 436
ISBN : 9781438952529

About the Book

             Prior to 1910 and continuing into the 1920s, Great Western Sugar Company aggressively recruited Mexican Americans from Southern Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Mexican Nationals were also recruited, especially after World War I. By 1920, 10,000 of the 12,000 workers employed by the company were of Hispanic heritage.

Looking for an effective way to break the “migrant cycle” and keep the “elite” Spanish-speaking workers---along with their wages---in the area, the company launched a plan in 1922 to establish colonias or housing for the beet workers on company-owned land throughout northern Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana. Workers were provided a lot at minimal cost, and given a plan for building a two-room adobe home, through their own “sweat equity” for their families.

Work in the beet fields was arduous, and the men and boys of “la colonias” found recreation and relief from beet work in baseball. Local teams were soon formed, and teams traveled to neighboring towns and “colonias” to play. The teams got together to form an organization that later became the Rocky Mountain League of the National Semi-Pro Baseball Congress.

             On Sundays, many Spanish/Mexican players and their families enthusiastically stepped up to the plate and became a part of America’s “national pastime.” The teams’ reputation for consistently high caliber players and great ball games brought them to the attention of envious players from outside “la colonias.” Soon, friendships were established among players in the various colonias and other towns, many lasting a lifetime. Race was never an issue and no “color lines” had to be crossed. The integrated sugar beet league was unique and ahead of its time. Spectators honked car horns, screamed loudly at the players and umpires, and created good-natured rivalries among teams and fans.

About the Author

Jody and Gabriel Lopez are natives of Cheyenne, WY, but have resided in Greeley, CO since 1996. In 2000, they decided to conduct genealogical research.  Several ancestors were residents and leaders of Greeley’s Spanish Colony, a 1924 housing project or “colonia” conceived by the Great Western Sugar Company for its “elite” Spanish-speaking workers. 

Peggy A. Ford, Archives and Research Coordinator for the City of Greeley Museums, realized the value of systematically documenting information from first and second-generation residents of the Colony. Jody, Gabriel, and Peggy have conducted over 50 oral and video interviews with former baseball players. Soon, the idea for organizing the oral recollections into a book gained momentum. Gabriel and Jody visited individuals, libraries and archives in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming to locate documents, images, and secondary resources.

This research enabled them to obtain many photos, artifacts, quotes and newspaper articles for a roving exhibit on the Rocky Mountain League and other leagues that played against the Rocky Mountain League, exhibited in the Greeley Museum and Cheyenne Civic Center. As museum volunteers, Jody and Gabriel share their research and knowledge about this region’s Hispanic heritage in programs for museums, schools, colleges, and special community events. 

As “grass roots” historians, Jody and Gabriel logged thousands of hours to seek, document, and publish the stories of the struggles and accomplishments of Hispanic farm workers who lived in one Northern Colorado “colonia.”  From Sugar to Diamonds preserves an important aspect of Northern Colorado’s and Southern Wyoming’s history and culture for future generations.  

           Jody manages the Greeley Museums stores. Gabriel is disabled from Excel Energy. Jody and Gabriel wrote a book about the Greeley Spanish Colony. White Gold Laborers the Story of Greeley’s Spanish Colony.