(Hot) Spring(s) Training

Brooklyn Dodgers, Hot Springs, Spring Training 1912Ever been to Hot Springs, Arkansas?  Me neither.  But Brooks Robinson has – as well as Babe Ruth, Cool Papa Bell, Walter Johnson, Hank Aaron, Monte Irvin, Jackie Robinson, and other baseball greats.  But why Hot Springs?  And why Arkansas?  A few weeks ago I promised to get back to you on that question.  But I had to do more research. You see, I have to admit I used to confuse Hot Springs with Warm Springs (though, in my defense, FDR did visit Hot Springs at least once).  But once I heard about the Hot Springs Baseball Trail, I knew I needed to learn more.

Hot Springs, AR, was a Spring Training spot for Major League Baseball, Negro League Baseball, and Minor League Baseball teams in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The Chicago White Stockings’ owner Albert Spalding and player/manager Cap Anson decided their players could benefit from the therapeutic springs in the area.  Thus, the White Stockings became the first team to conduct Spring Training in Hot Springs in 1886. Between then and 1938, Major League teams from Chicago to Boston trained there.  Negro League teams held Spring Training intermittently in Hot Springs from 1928 to 1955, including the 1928 Kansas City Monarchs, the 1930-1931 Homestead Grays, and the 1944 Baltimore Elite Giants.  Other Spring Training sites in Arkansas included Little Rock, Hope, and Pine Bluff.

Who knew there was so much baseball history in Arkansas? Obviously not me. I will definitely put these places on my “Baseball To Do” list.

~ baseballrebecca

A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

One of the things sociologists study is collective behavior.  One form of collective behavior sweeping the sports world right now is the fad, or craze.  Fads are relatively short-lived phenomena – at least we can only hope.  The latest fad I’m talking about?  Making your own “Harlem Shake” video and posting it on the internet.  The St. Leo University Lions appear to have been the first baseball team to do it.  According to the Mercury News as of February 15, there were more than 12,000 different versions of “Harlem Shake” videos.  Now, February 15 was a long time ago (in internet years that is) – and, just a couple days ago, the Bowie Baysox added their own version.

However, the Baysox were not the first Orioles affiliate to do the Harlem Shake.  That honor goes to the Delmarva Shorebirds:

The Frederick Keys also joined in the fun:

Of course, not everyone is amused.  At a private high school in Shreveport, LA, members of the baseball team and other students were suspended after making their own versions of the video.  The assistant principal said the students involved are all “really good kids that made a bad decision.”  We could probably say that about a lot of the folks in on this craze…

~ baseballrebecca

Just When You Thought Spring Was Here

In case you missed this great video making its rounds on the internet, in Boiling Springs, NC, there was a snow delay during a college baseball game.  Saturday’s game between the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs and Dayton Flyers was suspended in the 6th inning because of snow.  Of course, what do the college players do?  Have a snowball fight and make snow angels.

~ baseballrebecca

Spring Training is Here!

Spring training in Hot Springs, Arkansas, 1912

Left to right: Bill Carrigan, Boston AL; Jake Stahl, Boston AL; Cy Young, Boson NL; and Fred Anderson, Boston AL at spring training in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1912. Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Around about now when folks are getting tired of the cold weather and the Super Bowl has come and gone, people turn their thoughts to baseball.  Without Spring Training, we’d have little to hope for until Opening Day.  Fortunately, today is the day that pitchers and catchers begin to report to their teams’ spring training sites.  In just a few short weeks, the official spring training games will begin.

As many of us make plans to head south to Florida and Arizona, we give little thought to where else teams may have had spring training.  Fortunately, the Baseball Almanac provides a comprehensive list of spring training sites for all baseball teams from 1901 to the present.  Major League Baseball teams have conducted spring training not only in the warmer states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, California, and, of course, Florida and Arizona, but also in Mexico, Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.  In addition, spring training has been held in a few unexpected places, including Little Rock, Arkansas, and College Park, Maryland.

Do you live in Indiana and wish spring training was held there?  Well, it was during World War II (1943-1945) (and a few earlier years).  In fact, MLB worked out a plan with the federal government that during the war spring training would be held only east of the Mississippi River and north of the Potomac and Ohio Rivers. Thus, teams trained closer to their home towns in places such as Bloomington, Indiana, and Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Over the next few days, we’ll explore a few more “nontraditional” locations for Spring Training.  Happy Spring!

~ baseballrebecca

Yankees Spring Training, New Orleans, LA, 1921

What is the Economic Impact of Spring Training?

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, FL, 2012Now that the Super Bowl is over, we can move on to more important things – like preparing for Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers begin reporting a week from tomorrow, and the games start in less than a month. Now is the time to take a more sociological look at baseball’s spring tradition.

Municipalities consider building or upgrading Spring Training stadiums to be an investment. It has been estimated that the Grapefruit League has a $753 million impact in Florida and the Cactus League adds $422 million to Arizona’s economy. In addition, communities emphasize the non-tangible benefits of hosting a Spring Training team, such as identifying with Major League Baseball.

Economists, on the other hand, argue that funding a Spring Training stadium does not make financial sense for towns in Florida and Arizona. Since MLB Spring Training lasts only 6 weeks, there may be better way to invest Gio Gonzalez, Spring Traing 2012municipal funds. Studies have shown that when teams leave town, there is no discernible impact on sales, tax revenue, or other indicators of economic impact. In fact, some argue that the studies that do show a positive economic impact of hosting a Spring Training team are generally sponsored by the cities themselves and leave out important factors, such as revenues that only go to the team and are not reinvested in the community, such as proceeds from ticket sales.

Naturally, sociologists fall somewhere in between. As social scientists, we must examine the statistics and look at the impact of a Spring Training facility in terms of revenue, return on investment, tourism, and other economic factors. On the other hand, quality of life is an important factor in retaining residents, bringing in visitors, and encouraging people to move to an area. Hosting a Major League Baseball team, even if only for a month and half each year, may prove to be one of those intangibles that makes a place worth living in or visiting. Sociologists continue to seek meaningful ways to measure the intangible benefits and determine both the social and economic impact of baseball.

Until then, I look forward to pitchers and catchers report in less than 10 days!

~ baseballrebecca

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, FL, 2011