No other item of baseball memorabilia illustrates more succinctly the complex relationship between the Los Angeles Dodgers and their Mexican-American fan base than this unusual artifact — a flour tortilla bearing a remarkable likeness to former Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley. Purchased from Ernesto Villafon in 1988 by Los Angeles artist and photographer Tom Meyer, who subsequently donated it to the Baseball Reliquary, the provenance of the tortilla is sketchy. According to Meyer, the tortilla was discovered by Mrs. Regina Flores, a resident of Chavez Ravine, who presented the object to her nephew, young Ernesto, shortly before her death in 1981. Villafon told Meyer that it was the sight of the Dodger patriarch’s jowly visage on the tortilla that convinced Mrs. Flores and family to abandon their Chavez Ravine home peacefully in 1959 prior to the construction of Dodger Stadium. After resettling in Highland Park, Mrs. Flores became a zealous Dodger fan, much to the amazement of her family and friends, who, claims Villafon, had never heard her express any interest in baseball. Radio carbon dating indicates that the tortilla is approximately forty years old, lending credence to Villafon’s story. Encased originally in an ordinary picture frame, Reliquary preparators delicately removed the fragile artifact and enclosed it in a glass-covered scientific mount box for display.
On April 8, 2000, during a Baseball Reliquary-sponsored guided bus tour of the hills and hollows of Chavez Ravine, the once-thriving Mexican-American neighborhood that later became the home of Dodger Stadium and its parking lots, Lou Santillan shared his thoughts from the perspective of a displaced former resident. He was, in fact, born in a home where third base now resides at Dodger Stadium and, in a Mexican tradition, his umbilical cord was buried there, long before the Brooklyn Dodgers moved west. A community activist, Mr. Santillan is head of Los Desterrados (The Uprooted), which sponsors an annual picnic for former residents of Chavez Ravine and their friends and families. (Photo courtesy of Larry Goren)