South Florida didn’t officially hit the big leagues until 1993 when Charlie Hough uncorked a knuckleball past Jose Offerman for a called first strike in the inaugural game of the Florida Marlins. Yet, for decades, baseball and Miami were intertwined. Hough, as many before him and many since, grew up in Miami playing the game he loved on fields around town. A native of Hawaii, Hough prepped at Hialeah (Fla.) High before spending 25 seasons in the big leagues — the final two with his hometown team in its infancy. Today, the Miami Marlins play their games at a domed stadium atop hallowed football ground. While the Orange Bowl is best known for the football games it hosted until being demolished to make way for the new Marlins ballpark, it was home to baseball, as well.
The importance of Florida in early American history is often overlooked. The so-called “13 original colonies” that would lead to the creation of the United States exclude the 14th and 15th colonies of East Florida and West Florida. St. Augustine, Florida, was an active city for more than four decades before the English established a settlement at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. The Spanish gave Florida its name in 1513, and established the first continuously occupied European settlement in what would become the United States in 1565. After two centuries under Spanish occupation, the British took control of Florida in 1763.
Armed with a flashlight on a backroad in Florida, Hillary Dupont-Joyce is on the hunt. Her target is a master of disguise, but a flash of light can make it stick out among the dark trees. She scans her light along a thicket. Suddenly, her trained eye spots the prize: a sleeping chameleon. Dupont-Joyce is part of a community of “herpers”—reptile enthusiasts who catch non-native chameleons in the backyards and bayous of rural Florida, often adopting them. During the day, chameleons are near-impossible to see. They “don’t exactly match any given background like the old Looney Tunes bit,” says Montreat College herpetologist Joshua Holbrook, but their ability to change color and contort their bodies to hide behind branches and leaves make them seem invisible.
A Florida skipjack that would have taken about six months to build in the late-19th century will finally set sail on the Matanzas River, capping a three-year project to create a replica of the historic vessel. The launch, set for Thursday at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, will provide an opportunity for onlookers to catch a glimpse of what was once a popular working boat out on the water again as it makes its way from Salt Run to Matanzas Bay. The ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the boat ramp, and shortly after a large jib will fly forward from the top of the mast to the end of the bowsprit before the 20-foot handcrafted wooden boat begins her maiden voyage.
There are a few different dates that may be mentioned concerning the beginning of communications between Florida and Cuba: the 1850’s when the McKay family began shipping cattle from Tampa’s Ballast Point to Havana, 1886 with the arrival of the cigar industry and the founding of Ybor City or in 1959 with Fidel Castro’s takeover. But the history reaches back further. Gateways to the Caribbean: Mapping the Florida-Cuba Connection, the new exhibit at the Tampa Bay History Center, shows definite threads between the Sunshine State and the island for over the last 500 years with over 50 maps, both rare and original, lithographs and other documents.
What an amazing step-back-in-time we had at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida in Gainesville. For more than 100 years, the staff at the museum has been building an archeological collection that is now considered to be the best Southeast attraction of its kind. It focuses on the evolution of fossils and animals and the way of life of Native Americans in the 1500s, when they met the Spanish in what is now called Florida.
The Florida Theatre has been an entertainment and and architectural landmark in Downtown Jacksonville for 90 years. For about half that time, I have been a journalist in Jacksonville. In the late ‘70s I was a movie reviewer, often visiting that building to screen new movies in the building’s floor screening room. The theater itself had seen much better days. At the time, suburbia was hot, new movie theaters were being added in the suburbs and older theaters were being split in two for a quick and dirty multiplex effect.
Think Florida has no connection to the Declaration of Independence? Actually Florida played a large role in the lives of four of the signers, three of whom celebrated the first Independence Day in Florida on July 4, 1781. While there are some prominent names among the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, most of the men who added their names to that document in the summer of 1776 remain unknown even to history buffs. Certainly some of the names are recognizable — Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Sam Adams. But even some of the more important signers remain unknown; few outside of Connecticut have heard of Roger Sherman, for example, even though he was one of the most important of the Founding Fathers.
Thousands of years ago the Hillsborough River was home to indigenous tribes including the Calusa Indians. It doesn’t take much imagination to visualize Florida history while experiencing the river in its natural state. Fallen trees and branches stretch over the shady river, and while paddling under and around green mossy cypress trees, you can’t help but be moved by the beauty and stillness. Some stretches were swampy and slightly primeval while other areas were forested with palms, river lilies and ferns, creating an emerald green Florida landscape.
An iconic fixture at the South Florida Museum has been moved after living there for 45 years. And no, it’s not Snooty. The Hernando de Soto equestrian statue, which stood at the center of the Spanish Plaza next to Snooty’s tank, was pulled up by its roots Monday to be transferred to its rightful owner, the Hernando de Soto Historical Society. According to the South Florida Museum’s director of exhibitions and chief curator Matthew Woodside, the bronze statue was created by Spanish sculptor Enrique Perez Comendador. His studio sat near St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome
Featured Image Via Library of Congress