The game is full of subtlety,
Of science and of art,
Where mind and brain
Beneath the strain
Must carry out their part.
But when it comes to climax stuff
Beyond the final scoff,
Give me the bloke
With mighty poke
Who tears the cover off.
~ Grantland Rice, New York Tribune, March 15, 1921
In today’s installment of “Spring Training Is Way Better Than Sitting In A House Without Power During A Freak Snowstorm In March” … let’s head to Shreveport, Louisiana.
Spring Training with the New York Yankees. (And, you know this better be good if I’m going to spend a post talking about the Yankees.)
See, Spring Training wasn’t always Grapefruits and Cactus. Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Alabama were all popular destinations in the early years of baseball. Teams just seemed to wander around.
Spring Training over the years has evolved into a structured program to polish up one’s skills with weight training, fielding drills, batting practice, and conditioning programs. (Even, most happily, Yoga. Big shout out to the Oakland A’s and Baltimore Orioles who have mentioned their Yoga programs in recent weeks.)
Back in early 20th century however, Spring Training was really just a time to get everyone back together, detox from the excesses of the off-season (mineral hot springs were especially popular), burn off winter weight, toss around a medicine ball, and try to get back into some sort of playing shape.
After a few rowdy Spring Trainings in Jacksonville, Florida (highlighted by more than a few “drunken orgies”), the Yankees moved their spring headquarters to Shreveport in 1921 because of its isolation (and because it was, ostensibly, a dry town). Safely away, they hoped, from the devilish temptations of booze, broads, and brawling.
Shreveport – in the midst of its own crazy oil boom (and not very “dry” at all) – would be a place where Babe Ruth and the rest of the team could focus on baseball.
Oh, did I not mention Babe?
George Herman Ruth. Baltimore native. The man who bestowed one of the most successful and enduring curses on the Boston Red Sox. He did some other stuff too, hit some homers, changed the face of baseball, you know, that sort of thing, but I think I hit the high points.
New York Yankees, Spring Training 1921. Babe Ruth is there in the center.