The first week in March is always a beautiful one for sports fans. In Florida and Arizona, a few hundred baseball players (and a few thousand fans) among thirty teams in twenty-five complexes show that spring is slowly returning and baseball will be played. However, they haven’t always played in just Florida and Arizona. In fact, until the 1920s, teams just trained at their home stadiums – the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns (the latter now the Baltimore Orioles), the New York Yankees, the Chicago Cubs were the first to participate in what we know now as ‘Spring Training,’ practicing in Hot Springs, AR, Tulsa, New Orleans, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.
On that note, here’s four more bits of trivia about Spring training.
- Talk about beginning again cold – during World War II, teams trained close to home in order to save travel on the rails for the war effort east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio. The New York Yankees trained in Asbury Park, the New York Giants at Bear Mountain, and the Washington Senators (still a few years before they became the Minnesota Twins) trained in College Park, MD, among others.
- On the opposite end of the travel spectrum, Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan’s major leagues, currently operate Spring Training sites in Salinas and Yuma, along with islands on the Pacific and in South Korea.
- While Spring Training stats mean little to nothing, in 2000 the Boston Red Sox accomplished something even surprising to them. In a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, five pitchers combined to throw a perfect game, winning 5-0. Rod Beck (also of San Francisco Giants fame), who closed the game out, didn’t realize the nature of the accomplishment until well after the game was over!
- While the game has changed tremendously over the past hundred-plus years, Spring Training stadiums haven’t. Holman Stadium in Vero Beach, the former Spring Training home of the L.A. Dodgers, to this day has not had covered dugouts (so literally, when it rains, it pours), and McKechnie Field in Bradenton (home to Pirate City, where Pittsburgh’s team sucks trains) didn’t have a night game until 2008!
Finally, while this is not trivia, I have to show it anyway because of its awesomeness: Randy Johnson making a bird explode in 2001.
Join me next week for another installment of Thursday Trivia, when I discuss five bits of information on a topic to be decided.