The official story, which has long been proven incorrect, purports that Cap Anson and the Chicago White Stockings originated spring training in 1885. Baseball researcher Harold Seymour points to the amateur powerhouse New York Mutuals heading south as early as 1869.
Regardless, from about 1870 and on teams began barnstorming in warmer climates leading up the regular season. Later in the late 1890’s organized spring training became more common. The presses fascination with spring training really took off with John McGraw and the New York Giants.
McGraw was a friend (and lets be honest, drinking buddy) to sports writers and a shrewd business man that was well ahead of his time.
[pullquote2 quotes=”true” align=”center” cite=”John McGraw”]You can’t expect a man in New York with his nose in his coat collar to get excited about baseball overnight[/pullquote2]
McGraw used the spring to make money back home in NY and within the training city itself . At the start of McGraw’s managerial tenure the Giants trained in multiple locations, including LA, Savannah and Memphis. In 1908 the Giants settled into Marlin, Texas, receiving payments in return for advertising the city on a nation wide basis, until WW1 forced their departure.
Note: I’d like to continue writing about Marlin, Texas but frankly I’d just be re-writing this SABR report. It’s in powerpoint format and is worth a quick glance.
Back to the Video
The training video that kicks off this post is the only footage available on YouTube. It’s shot in the light hearted newsreel style of the day. In actuality McGraw worked the Giants very, very hard. Former Giant & HOF Frank Frisch;[blockquote align=”center” cite=”Frank Frisch” citeLink=”http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1132461/1/index.htm”]During my first spring training at San Antonio in 1920 I woke at seven and walked four miles to the ball park. At nine I was jogging around the field on a five-lap workout. I hit, fielded, threw and slid until noon. I lunched on cheese sandwiches and milk. I hit, fielded, threw and slid until dusk and exhaustion. I walked four miles back to the Menger Hotel. [/blockquote]
Part tactical training, part fat camps, the Spring Training days of yesterday have evolved. It’s debatable whether teams need more than two weeks to get ready when taking into account todays off-season regiments. But as long as the stadium deals and dollars keep flowing in we’ll continue to see a month plus of spring training. And really, meaningless baseball is still better than nothing.