This image was donated by the Cordero family who were active in Mexican-American and other community organizations. Starting in the late 1920s, Justino Cordero helped organize and coach sports teams geared toward Mexican-American youth, including the Yaquis and Maya baseball clubs. In an oral history, he described doing so as a way to keep young people “out of trouble.” The Yaquis baseball team, pictured here in 1937, was founded by Eduardo Peralta in 1928 and continued until 1979. The team had a reputation as one of the area’s top baseball teams.
In general, local sports teams were extremely popular in Southeast Chicago. Most were sponsored through area businesses, churches, ethnic organizations, and parks. Sports teams were often organized along ethnic and neighborhood lines, serving as sources of inter-group competition and sometimes as a way to transcend those divisions. Samuel Trevino recalled playing baseball at South Chicago’s Russell Square Park during the 1950s, “I had a lot of contact with different Polish cultures and managers. For a young Mexican boy growing up and having that kind of contact with them as a ballplayer, it seemed they kind of looked upon you and said, “Well this kid really can play some baseball. Doesn’t matter if he’s Mexican or not.” While, for some immigrants, sports served as a means of integration into neighborhood life as well as recreation, for the most athletically-gifted young men, sports could also serve as a route to upward mobility and work outside of the steel mills. Over Southeast Chicago’s history, a number of young men from the area went on to play semi-professional and even professional sports. In the early years when sports salaries were low, some continued to work in the mills during the off season.