#5: The Yankees Go To Shreveport

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.

 March 1921.

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.

New York Yankees, Spring Training 1921. Babe Ruth is there in the center.

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The Season Before The Season

I told a friend that if I got a lazy snow day at home this week, I would definitely write about baseball and Spring Training – the season-before-the-season.

I forgot the part about having electricity.

So, what began as a rare and beautiful snowy “off day” in a winter that hasn’t had much in the way of snow …

dotty snow

Quickly morphed into a brutal and ugly struggle for survival as a heavy, wet snow took out nearly every tree and power line in Central Virginia. (I’m estimating here, but we had either 10 inches or 8 feet of snow … I couldn’t tell for sure.)

snow day2

The Day After — the slushy, muddy, messy road to our house, after all the tree limbs were cleared away.

No power means a couple things. No heat. No light. No flushing. No internet. Clearly this would not be easy.

It would be a difficult struggle. Our very lives teetered on the brink.

I wore mittens, for God’s sake. IN THE HOUSE. Do you know how hard it is to turn the page on your Kindle wearing mittens? It is impossible.

Yes, we struggled. For six long and torturous hours.

(For point of reference, six hours is like sitting through a 17-inning game. Now, imagine it while wearing seven layers of clothing. And, then your team loses.)

Then, the power came back on.

(My husband and trusty editor would like you to know he napped through most of it.)

The lights lit. The water ran. The house toasted. Why are we more civilized than squirrels? We flush.

I’ve been easing my way into baseball this season. Just like the players, the umps, and the broadcasters, Spring Training is a time for fans to find our rhythm, too. Time to figure out who’s playing where. Time to choose the lucky tee-shirt I’ll wear during must-win games (Manny Machado, #13, don’t let me down).


Time to block off the calendar. You’re getting married/having a baby/throwing a party when? April? June? July? September? No, no, I’m afraid I can’t, I’ll be watching baseball.

Time to dissolve into an easy, loping pace. Because easy and loping is the only way you’ll make it through the season without burning out or giving up.

And, if I can get my easy loping skills down (and, as I said, I’m still in spring training) it might be an equally long blog season here. So, settle in …

Sitting in a dark, cold house – mitten-clad – on a wet, snowy, powerless day made me ask myself, “What Spring Training places would be preferable to sitting in a dark, cold house during a March snowstorm in Virginia?”

The correct answer is: all of them.

But, why should I simply plow through all 30 Spring Training locales on this blog when you can just turn on MLB Network, probably right this very second, and catch a game beamed live out of Florida or Arizona?

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida. Spring home of the Baltimore Orioles. Go O's!

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida. Spring home of the Baltimore Orioles. Go O’s!

That’s when I came up with my list of the most amazing Spring Trai… …

… …

Well, that’s enough for today.

Just like the players, who ease in by playing a few innings here or there, or knock off at noon so they can get in some golf, or just skip the bus ride to the away game entirely, I’m gonna wrap up for today. Can’t push too hard, too early, or risk injury.

But, I’ll be back tomorrow … or the next. Because we’ve got lots of Spring Training ahead, before the real season even begins. (And, don’t forget the World Baseball Classic. Oh, so much to do! Oh, so much to watch!)

It’s Spring!

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” ~ Rogers Hornsby (legendary 2nd baseman from 1915-1937, .358 career batting average)

Waiting For The Ball, by Clinton Helms

Waiting For The Ball, by Clinton Helms

There’s a moment that comes, long about February, when the need for the spring becomes more than just a gentle, sweet longing.  It becomes much more urgent, almost primal.  As though you’ve gotten so chilled to the bone … there’s no telling if you’ll ever thaw out.

It’s in that moment of urgency that you know that finally – finally! – you can begin to count.

Five, four, three, two …

Not the days ’til spring.

The days ’til Spring Training.

For those whose calendars failed to remind them, pitchers and catchers report in Florida and in Arizona on Monday.

And, while February 11 isn’t spring. It’s close enough.

Because baseball is there to remind you that spring will come, despite the cold and the snow and the dark.

Here in Virginia, it’s still winter. Sure, there’s no snow on the ground (sorry, New England) and today was almost pleasant (apologies, North Dakota). (And by pleasant, I mean I bundled up snuggly in a wool sweater, extra long scarf, and fully buttoned winter coat, but the kid playing outside at the grocery store was in shorts and a tee shirt.)

But, it’s still winter.

Photos of Minor League Baseball, by David Deal at the Arts Center in Orange

Photos of Minor League Baseball, by David Deal at the Arts Center in Orange

Until, you walk into a room filled with baseball.

And, the sun is shining through the windows at just the right angle, and you swear it’s the bone-warming sunshine that comes in May. And, the room is brighter and more golden than any room you’ve been in for months. And, you look all around and you’re surrounded by spring … and summer and baseball.

Even here, in Orange, Virginia, where the Orioles Spring Training camp is – by Mapquest’s calculations – 14 hours and 40 minutes away, and the first day of spring is farther still.

Even here, like even everywhere, baseball brings the promise of new life and the hopes of spring.

This week, the Arts Center in Orange, in downtown Orange, Virginia, opened a warm and sweet multimedia exhibit called Spring Training.  All things baseball, by a talented group of local artists.

Right here, in my little town. Baseball.

If that don’t beat all.

And, it made my heart jump alittle. And I felt the promise of springtime seep through the lining of my coat, through the scarf and wool sweater.  Right into my bones.

Finally. Warm again.

“That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.” ~ Bill Veeck (20th-century baseball owner & innovator)

For some, baseball is history …

Ball Park Blessing by Susan Harb

Ball Park Blessing by Susan Harb

For some baseball is youth …

By John Strader

By John Strader

“Don’t tell me about the world. Not today. It’s springtime and they’re knocking baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball.”  ~ Pete Hamill, journalist & author

For some, baseball is memory …

Memories, by Chee Kludt Ricketts

Memories, by Chee Kludt Ricketts

For some, baseball is a game …

Venus Flycatcher by John Strader

Venus Flycatcher by John Strader

For some, baseball is religion …

By Susan Harb

Baseball Candelabra by Susan Harb

For some, baseball is life …

"A Very Long Season" by John Corrao

“A Very Long Season” by John Corrao

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.” ~ occasionally attributed to Yogi Berra (Legendary Yankee, #8) … and sometimes to an 8-year-old kid.  But, hey, let’s give this one to Yogi.

You should wander your way to Orange and check out the Arts Center.  (Lots of cool other things besides baseball, too.  Yes, there are other things besides baseball.  A few things anyway.)


On Exhibit at the ARTS CENTER in ORANGE

129 East Main Street, Orange Virginia

February 7 thru March 30, 2013

Monday thru Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

No charge, although donations are gratefully accepted


All images are the copyright of the artists.  Images used with the kind permission of The Arts Center in Orange.  A special thank you to Laura Thompson, Arts Center Executive Director.

Ball in Hand, by David Deal

Ball in Hand, by David Deal

Bears Don’t Hibernate. Neither Does Baseball.

My husband informs me that bears in Virginia do not hibernate in Winter.  He works at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, so he oughta know. 

It’s a sad day when bears let you down.

I have relied on the wisdom of hibernating bears when encouraging my Yoga students to quiet their practice in winter and in honoring my own circadian life rhythms. 

Bears hibernate in winter, I figured, because they are smarter than we are.  They know the value of rest.  They know that cold, dark winter days demand that they slow down and refuel.  These resting bears became a powerful role model for how we all should care for ourselves in winter … carbo-pack and hibernate.

Now, I find out that this hibernation thing is a big bear hoax.

This bear cub was in the Wildlife Center of Virginia's care. Wide awake ... no hibernating for him.

This bear cub was in the Wildlife Center of Virginia’s care in 2012.  Wide awake. Thanks to WCV for this photo.

As long as Virginia bears find the weather comfortable and ample trash cans to paw through, they’ll just amble through their winter like the rest of us.  Still, they hunker down in ugly weather.  So, while they may not hibernate, they do know the value of slowing down. So, hibernation aside, I guess they’re still smarter than we humans.

I was looking forward to a bit of baseball hibernation this winter. 

162 games is a long regular season.  It’s a reliable, irrefutable fact.  Eighty-two basketball games in an NBA season.  Sixteen NFL games a season.  These are, apparently, games for the short-winded and the short-attention spanned.   

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