By Phil Hecken
While we enjoy the breath of fresh air that is spring training in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues, let us take a trek down memory lane to the spring training days of yore. Some great information exists out there on the history and origins of spring training, and it’s fascinating. A good primer on the Cactus League can be found here. A good source of information as well as the history of spring training can be read here.
Looking back at old spring training photographs provides us with a veritable treasure trove of uni-goodness. Lets have a look-see, shall we?
• In 1935, Babe Ruth was no longer a Yankee. He finished his career with the Boston Braves, and is seen in this photograph wearing a catchers mitt! That same spring, the Babe was reunited for some spring training games with Lou Gehrig. Dig that Braves uni with the Indian Head in between “BRA” and “VES”. Classic.
• Here’s another shot of the Sultan of Swat from his final spring training, still signing autographs for the young boys who idolized him. Interesting duds (and white socks!) on Ruth, along with Miller Huggins and Lou Gehrig in pinstripes, sometime in the 1920s.
• There are a few good players in this picture of the 1982 Angels, and if you had to think of a “first team” for any of them, the Angels likely wouldn’t be it.
• Here’s the Angels and Red Sox from 1963, one of the first Angels spring training seasons, having entered the league only two seasons previously.
• Good shot of Billy Martin from 1953.
• A year before “The Giants Won The Pennant,” Bobby Thompson posed for this shot in 1950.
• Much like today, when your playing days are over, you get invited to training camp as a special hitting instructor. Back in 1965, there were some eager students for the Yankee Clipper to teach. Hope they learned a thing or two.
• Wonderful shot here of Dodgers rookies hoping to make the trek to Brooklyn, in 1948.
• The caption for this photo reads: “12 Mar 1952, Miami, Florida, USA — Former Negro League and current National League players stand together before a spring training game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves in 1952. From left are Jackie Robinson, George Crowe, Joe Black, Sam Jethroe, Roy Campanella, and Bill Bruton.” Beautiful.
• Here’s a picture of the Milwaukee Braves from 1960.
• It’s hard to tell who’s more stylin’ in this 1978 photograph: peg-legged Bill Veeck or the White Sox player in his softball uniform.
• Nice color photo here of Eddie Stankey and Alvin Dark from the Giants spring training facility in 1951, the year the “Giants Win The Pennant.”
• Great shot of Ferris Fain and Gus Zernial of the Philadelphia Athletics, taken in 1954.
• Check out the cap on the Atlanta Braves’ Frank Thomas from 1966. Love that “Block A.” By the time knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm posed for this 1970 pic, the Braves much more familiar “Script A” was on their lids.
• Fun or calisthenics? Hard to tell, but the 1950 Giants look like they’re having fun.
• Whom amongst us can forget His Airness’ attempt to make the White Sox in the 1990’s, after a moderately successful basketball career?
• The typeface on the 1945 wartime Pirates unis is cool. This is Joe Vitelli and Andy Poklemba in what I believe was a very modified training camp (due to the Second World War). LOVE those zippers!
• OK…this picture is actually NOT from Spring Training. It was taken on the last day of the season in 1954. A reminder of the next time the team would meet.
• Here’s another photograph of Lou Gehrig taken in Florida. Not exactly sure of the date, but “St. Pete” and “Mar” are clear.
• Another beautiful color photograph, this one from Bradenton, Florida in 1964, of the Kansas City A’s Jose Tartabull. This was the second year the A’s wore their green and gold color scheme so beloved by Charles O. Finley.
• More recently, the Brothers Alomar pose in 1999 in Winter Haven, Florida.
• It’s obvious who is pictured in this photograph. However, despite his early greatness, Mickey Mantle wasn’t yet “The Mick.” The caption for this photograph tells us where he was in the early stages of his career: “03 Mar 1955, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA — Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees’ top slugger takes his first cuts in the batting cage on the opening day of 1955 Spring Training at St. Petersburg. Observers see Mantle’s battings as crucial in the general effectiveness of the Yanks this year.”
• Who says the players didn’t have fun on official photograph day? Wonder how long it took to assemble the players for this 1930 photograph? In case you’re wondering, that’s the Sox…the Beantown ones.
• Check out the red Chucks on Charlie Hustle in this 1972 shot!
• Beautiful Indians uniforms in this 1931 photograph. That’s manager Roger Peckinpaugh along with star hurler Wesley Ferrell, and that was taken at the Cleveland training camp in New Orleans, Louisiana. LOVE those socks!
• One of the all-time greats was Rogers Hornsby seen here in 1931, when he was player-manager of the St. Louis squad. Here he is again, in 1952 still with the Browns (check out that zipper front jersey), in what would be the Browns penultimate season in St. Louis.
• Speaking of teams who moved on to other cities and changed their names, here are the 1929 Washington Senators in Tampa, Florida. Note the tall gentleman, second from the right. That’s the Big Train, who by this time was managing the club.
• In 1988, Sparky Anderson was riding high as manager of the Tigers. That can’t be comfortable.
• Here’s kind of an interesting spring training juxtaposition. That’s Casey Stengel and the Yankees, with Casey standing beside a hot stove. Hmmm.
• Bad colorization job here. Great player there. Stan the Man in 1960.
• I love this photograph. You probably recognize the batter and catcher. Why is this so cool? Because the Dodgers and Red Sox only met each other in spring training. (and um, oh yeah…that’s Campy and the Splendid Splinter.) Speaking of Ted Wiliams, here he is with the second incarnation of the Washington Senators in 1969.
• Finally, we see an unique photo of Oakland A’s manager Billy Martin. Why is it unique? He’s wearing black cleats. Only in spring training.
(Special thanks to Rick Pearson for the pics of Billy Martin and Ernie Banks.)
And finally, finally … here is a pretty cool old spring training video. It’s pretty short, and worth the watch. *BONUS* footage at the end of the Babe in 1927 at Yankee Stadium. Check out the outfield configuration! They don’t build ’em like that anymore.
Well, there you have it. Great memories from spring training past.
Reminder for all UWers in and around Pittsburgh: Don’t forget the gathering today at 1pm, at Max’s. To everyone going, have a great time! Wish I could be there.