By Rodolfo Trujillo
The long-time manager of the semi-professional team the Carmelita Chorizeros, Manuel “Shorty” Perez, was honored Sunday at Belvedere Park with a plaque next to the baseball field where he worked for many years.
Along with Mario Lopez, Sr., owner of Carmelita Chorizeros and sponsor of the team, were partially responsible for organizing baseball in East Los Angeles and providing an opportunity for local talent to play and, in some instances, be scouted by major league teams. A who’s-who of former East L.A. athletes who played in the City Baseball Leagues was present, as were representatives of Los Angeles County, the Carmelita Provision Company (who once sponsored the Chorizeros), baseball historians and Perez’s family.
After the formal festivities, it was the stories of the former players and those who knew Perez that were most memorable.
“Our family was baseball…every Sunday was baseball,” said Perez’s son, Gilbert Perez.
“Most of the players came out of Roosevelt and Garfield (high schools).
“Every player wanted to play for my dad. We had Ruben Rodriguez, who was a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. He would play for my dad in the off-season.
“His brother Ernie went to UCLA and played with my dad too,” said Gilbert.
He also went to a then-newly formed college named East Los Angeles College.
“One well known player was Willie Davis,” said Gil.
“He was signed (by the Dodgers) at Evergreen Park.”
Davis won two World Series championships with the Dodgers and was a fan favorite.
In Perez’s biography in the program for the dedication, Saul Toledo, a close friend of Perez’s and the person who is credited with naming the Chorizeros, said, “Shorty attracted not only the most gifted natural athletes around, but also many of mediocre ability that, because of their desire to make his roster, gave 120 percent.”
Tomas Perez Jr., son of former player and manager Tom Perez and no relation to Shorty, said, “Without these guys, none of us would have been out there.”
“Shorty took over the team after my father,” said Tomas Jr., speaking about how the East LA baseball dominion transferred from the old Mario’s Service team and then moved on to the Chorizeros.
Tomas Jr. said that the old teams at first did not even play at Belvedere Park because it was not there.
“I remember this was all just an open field with tomatoes over there,” he said, signaling to where there are now houses.
“They used to play at Fresno Park, Evergreen Park, Hazard Park,” said Tomas Jr.
“They had a following.
“Any place they went to, there was a crowd.
“It helped build [Belvedere Park] completely, and it got a lot of people off the streets.
“Some watched them play, others joined the team.
“I played 25 years,” said Willie Alvarez.
Perez was godfather to Alvarez’s son and the two had a close relationship.
“Being in the leagues taught me to be a better person and kept me out of trouble.”
It appears that a lot of what Perez, Lopez and the Chorizeros did inspired a generation of youth to get into playing baseball.
For a lot of those young men, college was not in their futures, but at least a dream of big league action was only blocks away.
Photo by Rodolfo Trujillo