The Tampa Smokers are all but forgotten today, being far less well known even to baseball historians than teams like the Tampa Tarpons (who, as a Cincinnati Reds affiliate, provided them with many of its greatest players like Ken Griffey, Sr., Johnny Bench, Dan Driessen, Rawly Eastwick, and Dave Concepcion.) But I find them to be a perfect symbol of all that was great about Florida in another era. Being headquartered in the cigar capital of the world, their name and logo reflected early 20th century affection for a fine smoke, something you would never ever see today. The same people who have made it their personal crusade to eradicate the name of the Washington Redskins would probably collectively soil their underwear at the notion of a sports team glorifying the demon tobacco.
Did I say "all but forgotten today"? Well, that's not quite so. The Tampa Bay Rays, in 2011, actually celebrated the memory of the Smokers by wearing "throwback" Smokers uniforms. Sadly, however, after some deliberation it was decided by those who decide such things that the cigar on the logo should be quietly removed from the Rays uniforms to better reflect the more enlightened times we are assured to be living in.
The Smokers produced many greats of Baseball, but Alfonso Ramón "Al" López was probably their most famous player, inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. Al López field is located in Tampa, with the statue of him seen at left.
Al was not a cigar fancier himself, but his father Modesto worked as a selector in a cigar factory - which involved sorting tobacco leaves for use in various grades of cigars.
When the Rays (then the Devil Rays) began playing in St. Petersburg in 1988, López was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, and at the time of his death he was the last living person who had played major league baseball during the 1920s. To this day, Lopez holds the record for having been the longest-lived member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.