The History Of Spring Training
Ever wonder how spring training started, or why? Well, here’s a little history lesson after watching a recent repeat of Ken Burn’s Baseball on the MLB Network.
The Early Years
Stories are a bit conflicting with some claiming the first spring training taking place in Hot Springs Arkansas in 1886, by the Chicago White Stockings (today’s Chicago Cubs) and team President, Albert Spalding and Hall of Famer Cap Anson. Others claim that it was started back in 1870 by both Chicago and Cincinnati Red Stockings down in New Orleans. A third story starts with the Washington Capitals in 1888, holding a four-day camp in Jacksonville. Regardless of which story you hear and believe, we know that teams started training down south in the late 1800’s to prior to the start of their seasons.
Now back in the early years of spring training, most players could not survive on just a baseball salary, so they’d go home after the season and find a job somewhere. Those jobs would take a toll and players would be out of shape and out of practice by the start of the season. When it came to playing spring games, it meant mostly against colleges, semi-pro, and at times another Major League team.
In the early 1903, Connie Mack had his Philadelphia Athletics train in Jacksonville, however after a disappointing season; Mack blamed the outcome on the tropical weather and teams focus and didn’t return for 11 years. One of my favorite stories around the A’ in Florida, was about a very eccentric star pitcher named Rube Waddell who wrestled an alligator while down in Florida.