The Grapefruit League

This pretty pin will cost you $6. I thought things were supposed to be cheaper in Spring Training.

The Grapefruit League, one of the two Spring Training “leagues” (the Cactus League is the other — come back tomorrow), somewhat began in 1908. In October of that year, the Cincinnati Reds played the St. Petersburg Saints while down in Florida, but the first “real” “Spring Training” was in 1913 when the Cubs came down to Tampa.

Tampa Mayor D.B. McKay lured the Chicago Cubs down to Florida promising to pay the expenses, up to $100 per player, in order for the team to come and practice at Plant Field. On February 19, a large crowd gathered to watch the Cubs take the field for practice. The Cubs had won pennants from 1906-1908 and 1910, but they had finished the 1912 season in third. Manager-Player John Evers hoped the sun would bring the team back up. As part of their time down in Florida, the Cubs played the Havana Athletics in a three-game. Just a little ways away, the Cleveland Indians were practicing in Pensacola.

Those were the only teams in Florida in 1913, but in 1914, the St. Louis Browns, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Philadelphia Athletics had joined the others in Florida. Sunshine Park became the marquee stadium in Florida, situated in St. Petersburg (a place once referred to as a backwater by Barney Dreyfuss — though to be fair, it was when Dreyfuss said this, but he didn’t think St. Petersburg would ever be able to support the industry). By the 1920’s, cities throughout Florida were involved a fight for major-league teams as cities faced off for tourists.

During WWII, the economy and Kenesaw Landis prevented teams from traveling south through the “Potomac Line”, which forced teams to stay closer to their cities in the North. In 1946, he repealed the ban, and teams flooded back to Florida. Over the years, all but 6 teams have played in Florida as part of the Grapefruit League. Those rascals are the Anaheim Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Today, 16 of the 30 major-league teams make Florida home for the spring. They are:

Atlanta Braves (Lake Buena Vista)
Baltimore Orioles (Fort Lauderdale)
Boston Red Sox (Fort Myers)
Cincinnati Reds (Sarasota)
Detroit Tigers (Lakeland)
Florida Marlins (Jupiter)
Houston Astros (Kissimmee)
Minnesota Twins (Fort Myers)
New York Mets (Port St. Lucie)
New York Yankees (Tampa)
Philadelphia Phillies (Clearwater)
Pittsburgh Pirates (Bradenton)
St. Louis Cardinals (Jupiter)
Tampa Bay Rays (Port Charlotte)
Toronto Blue Jays (Dunedin)
Washington Nationals (Viera)

The recent defection was the Los Angeles Dodgers. Vero Beach had been Dodgertown since 1948. The Dodgers reason that Arizona is much closer to their fans in Southern California, but don’t tell that to Florida Dodger fans. In reality, the nice new $80 million complex was a major advantage, but they will share the new stadium with the Chicago White Sox, who moved from Tuscon to Glendale.

Still, baseball is going strong, but many wonder how the economy will affect attendance in these games.

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2 Responses to “The Grapefruit League”

  1. The Common Man Says:

    If you’re the Marlins or the Rays, why do you go anywhere? Isn’t it just cheaper to stay in your stadiums (at least for the big league camp and the games). Then again, I suppose the manager and GM want everything centralized to keep track. Still, it seems kind of silly.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    Do you want to spend another month in Pro Player or Tropicana Field? I wouldn’t. I’m sure wherever they go is nicer than where they are.

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