César Chávez honored by A’s in MLB first

Prior to Saturday, the Oakland Athletics had hosted just one home game on March 31 since 1993 — in 2014.

When the organization saw it was playing in Oakland on César Chávez Day in 2018, the response was resounding: Sí se puede.

For the first time by any Major League Baseball franchise, the A’s honored Mexican-American civil rights activist on the perfect day — what would have Chavez’s 91st birthday.

A’s VP of Communications and Community Catherine Aker told SFBay the decision to host the event was easy, and putting it together was “surprisingly” easy as well:

“Our marketing team looked at the calendar, saw that we were home on March 31, and knowing that it’s Cesar Chavez Day we tried to see if we had any connections. Someone on our ticketing team, Juan Chavez, actually knew a member of the family.”

Planning the event may have been easy for the organization, but it was even easier for the Chávez family to commit a more-than-200-person contingent to the event.

Anthony Chávez, the youngest of César’s eight children, told SFBay it took mere days for about 260 members of the family, including two of his father’s sisters, to respond to an invite:

“The call went out and I think within days like 120 responded to it, ‘we’ll be there.’ Then in a matter of a couple more days it went up to like 260. It was amazing.”

Along with 200-plus family members, Aker said the A’s are hosting “hundreds” of community leaders and organizations.

This comes with little surprise, though. Anyone familiar with César’s legacy understands that, if there is one thing the family excels at, it is drumming up massive support.

 

Chávez family members (L-R) César’s sisters Rita and Eduwieges Chávez, nephew Rudy Medina-Chávez and son Anthony Chávez throw out the commemorative first pitch as the Los Angeles Angels face the Oakland Athletics on César Chávez Day at Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday, March 31, 2018.

is most recognized for co-founding the National Farm Workers Association, unionizing American farm workers behind the rally cry “Sí se puede” — “yes, you can.” Chavez’s birthday became a U.S. Federal Commemorative Holiday via proclamation by President Barack Obama in 2014.

As for the A’s celebration of his impact on the history of the United States, the first by any Major League Baseball club, Anthony Chávez said it is a great honor:

“We want to thank the A’s organization for recognizing my dad’s work and his life. Oakland was always — the Bay Area was always a great supporter of my father’s work and life. This is a testament.”

A testament, Anthony said, that is so welcomed by the family it has gathered the greatest number of César’s family since his death in 1993.

Aker said she was unaware of that distinction, but called it an honor for the organization:

“I think it’s an incredible honor that they’ve come out to celebrate his legacy, to celebrate what he has done for so many people and the city of Oakland.”

César was never a huge sports fan — as Anthony said, he was always too busy — but he dedicated his life to the service of the Bay Area community. So much so, in fact, that on his one day off each year, Easter Sunday, he would gather the people around him to strengthen the bonds of that community.

Anthony Chávez said it makes the celebration of his father’s life on this date, one day before Easter, even more meanigful:

“His legacy is, no doubt, a great legacy. My father was one that always wanted to join people together, always building a community through one way or another — whether it was through a rally, through a barbecue, through a ball game. Easter Sunday was the only day he never worked. He worked Christmas and New Years, Easter Sunday was his day off where he’d get together and build community … so it’s real fitting, for this time of the year, for this to happen.”


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.