Friday, February 8, 2019
The Yankees and Spring Training
Harvey Frommer Sports
It’s that time of year where hope springs eternal for fans of baseball teams and for Yankee fans there is a long and special history of magical and amazing moments. Just a sampling follows:
1905-1906: After spending two springs in Atlanta, manager Clark Griffith moved his team to Alabama in 1905-1906. That first year the Highlanders stayed in Montgomery at the Highland Oval. Players march to and from the team hotel, which was located two miles away, to the playing field, In 1906, the team camp was at the Birmingham Training Grounds f
1907-1912: The Yankees in Georgia during this time played in Atlanta, Macon, Athens and then Atlanta again.
1913: Seeking sanctuary from the cold and rain that had been present during previous spring trainings, the Yankees moved their camp outside of the country for the first and only time. On March 3, most of the team and support staff sailed to Hamilton, Bermuda. A converted cricket field was used as the practice facility.
1914: Houston, Texas is the Yankees spring training site.
1915-1918: Under manager Bill Donovan, the Yankees returned to Georgia that included a three-year stay in Macon, the team’s longest stay at one location to that point in time.
1919-1920: The Yankees became part of growing trend relocating its spring training to Florida in 1919. All three New York teams were there, the Giants in Gainesville, the Yankees and Dodgers in Jacksonville. “The clubs expect to benefit by the arrangement, for it will give each club the advantage of playing against major league opposition from the very start of the training season,” noted the New York Times.
1920: Newly acquired Babe Ruth was part of the 1920 spring training environment. At an exhibition game he went into the bleachers to mix it up with a taunting fan. When the fan showed off his knife, Ruth backed off and went back to the safety of the playing field. Had Ruth not held his temper, the whole course of Yankee history may have been different.
1921-1924: Louisiana was the spring training location for the Yankees. In 1921, they trained in Shreveport. From 1922 to 1924, the club trained in New Orleans. T
1925-1942: St. Petersburg, Florida and the New York Yankees had a longstanding and highly successful relationship.
1943-1945: World War II precluded teams traveling very far from home for spring training. In 1943, the Yankees made use of a high school in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The final two years of the war saw them training in the 112th Field Artillery Armory and playing exhibition games at Bader Field in Atlantic City.
1946-1950: The Yankee returned to St. Petersburg, Florida when WWII was over. In 1947, they moved into a new stadium, Al Lang Field. It was joint home for the Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals.
1951: Spring training was in Arizona, the first and only time for the Yankees. The one-year trade-off of training sites was a courtesy by the New York Giants to Yankees’ co-owner and vice president Del Webb, who hailed from Phoenix.
1952-1961: It was back to St. Petersburg in 1952 for the Yankees. As the fifties moved on New York was dissatisfied with what was perceived as favoritism toward the Cardinals with whom they shared the spring training site with. There was a Yankee disappointment with spring training proceeds that went to the city. The spring of 1961 was the last for the Yankees in St. Petersburg. Yankee co-owner Dan Topping said: “In St. Petersburg, we practice on one field and play on another. In Fort Lauderdale, we would have the town to ourselves”.
1962-1995: The Yankees brand new $600,000 Ft. Lauderdale Stadium is ready for spring training. The ballpark broke new ground with seating for 8,000, air-conditioned clubhouses, on-site offices.
1996-Present: The Yankees moved to George Steinbrenner’s adopted home town, Tampa, Florida. Legends Field, a state-of-the-art $30 million facility with identical dimensions to Yankee Stadium, received rave reviews. Seating capacity was 10,200 and expanded to 11,026 in 2007. It was re-named George M. Steinbrenner Field in 2008.
Terrific selected tidbits
JERRY COLEMAN: Spring training of 1948 I was trying to make the Yankees. I was the last man cut. I played for the Newark Bears in the International League and came up to the Yankees at the end of the season.
In spring training 1951, former Yankee outfield star Tommy Henrich was assigned to mentor the young and talented prospect. After a while the former star Yankee outfielder said: “There isn't any more that I can teach him."
Casey Stengel that first spring switched Mantle to the outfield and said: "I never saw a player who had greater promise. That young fellow has me terribly confused. He should have a year in Triple A Ball but with his combination of speed and power he should win the triple batting crown every year. In fact, he should do anything he wants to do.”
Later, Casey who had seen it all, added: "They're been a lot of fast men but none as big and strong as Mantle. He's gonna be around a long time, if he can stay well, that fella of mine."
BILL SKOWRON: Casey would leave us alone to get in shape in spring training. But when those last 10 days of spring training came around you knew you had to be better ready to play.
In spring training 1927, Babe Ruth bet pitcher Wilcy Moore $l00 that he would not get more than three hits all season. A notoriously weak hitter, Moore somehow managed six hits in 75 at bats. Ruth paid off his debt and Moore purchased two mules for his farm naming them "Babe" and "Ruth."