April 12, 1923 – Dec. 19, 2012
Pedro Juan Herrera, known to many as “Mr. Baseball” in Buffalo’s Hispanic community, died Wednesday in Buffalo General Medical Center. He was 89.
Mr. Herrera was a native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and came to the United States in 1950 as a migrant worker; he picked crops in Michigan.
A year later, he arrived in Western New York and began working in the local railroad yards before moving on to Ford Motor Co.’s Buffalo Stamping Plant in the Town of Hamburg, where he worked for four decades before his retirement.
Mr. Herrera learned to love baseball in his native Puerto Rico. That passion led him to become a community leader here as a player, manager and coach.
He went on to found Puerto Rican baseball clubs in Buffalo that competed in the municipal fast-ball leagues, including the Puerto Rican Tigers, which he managed and led to the division championship in the MUNY Class A Hard Ball League in 1962. That team later went on to gain AA and AAA status.
In 1975, Mr. Herrera co-founded the Roberto Clemente Baseball League, a softball league that was made up of local Hispanics on the West Side.
Friendly to several professional Hispanic baseball players who played for the Buffalo Bisons, Mr. Herrera opened his home to such players as Luis Salazar, Tony Pena and others, where they discussed baseball and shared “a good Puerto Rican meal,” according to family members.
“Mr. Herrera was a leader not only to young people but to the entire Hispanic community,” said Casimiro D. Rodriguez Sr., president of the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York. “I often attended many games as a youngster where he brought many to appreciate a day of baseball in the park with their families.”
Mr. Herrera is survived by his wife of 67 years, the former Ines Rodriguez; a daughter, Nora West; and a son, Melvin.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. today in Holy Cross Catholic Church, Maryland and Seventh streets.