From AHA Today by Zoe Jackson:
Each year, in a tradition dating back over a century, major league clubs head to warm locales in the southern United States to play baseball before the regular season starts. And each year, in a tradition dating back almost as long, hometown fans and newspaper reporters follow. The history of spring training is a history of both business and media.
Before the Grapefruit League, which currently consists of 15 major league baseball clubs who conduct their spring training in Florida, and the Cactus League, consisting of 15 clubs training in Arizona, spring training was a more spontaneous affair. In 1870, a year after becoming the first fully professional team in baseball, the Cincinnati Reds started their second season by going down to New Orleans and playing the first games of the season in the South. The Chicago White Stockings, which later became the Chicago Cubs, also started that season in New Orleans. Over the next decade, more professional and amateur teams started heading to cities in the South to kick off their seasons. As Charles Fountain describes in Under the March Sun (2009), spring training in this period was mostly about conditioning rather than improving baseball skills. Players spent their days taking long hikes or doing bodyweight exercises to lose the weight they’d gained over the winter and to get back in shape for the season. Not all teams planned for spring training far in advance, or even participated in it.
Categories: Sports History