Paul Dickson is the author of more than 60 books and several hundred magazine and newspaper articles. He has written over a dozen bat and ball books (11 on baseball and one on softball). His most recent is the biography, Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick. It was named the 2012 CASEY Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year. In 2011 Paul was awarded the Tony Salin Memorial Award from the Baseball Reliquary for the preservation of baseball history. He was also honored in 2008 by the New York Public Library for his award-winning and widely acclaimed Dickson Baseball Dictionary, now in its third edition.
Spring training is many things to many people.
To many players it is essential—especially pitchers.
Sandy Koufax once put it: “People who write about spring training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball.”
As the Second World War intensified, baseball faced strict travel restrictions, especially when it came to spring training. This was a cost of keeping baseball alive while the nation fought on two fronts. During wartime, American trains were filled with supplies and troops, so transporting baseball players and their fans seemed to be a frivolous use of precious resources.
Spring training moved to Arizona for the first time in 1947 when Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck concluded that it would be the right place to bring racially integrated teams, which he felt were about to become a reality.
Ending Jim Crow in the Preseason:
The Heroic Spring Struggles of Jackie Robinson,
Roy Campanella, and Others
In the spring of 1946 Jackie Robinson was trying to become the first black player in the twentieth century to make the roster of a Major League baseball team. He had signed with the Montreal Royals the previous fall, and over the winter the Royals had also signed 27-year-old Johnny Wright, a right-hander with the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues. Both men were invited to Florida to train with the Royals and play in exhibition games against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Ending Jim Crow in the Preseason:
The Heroic Spring Struggles by Jackie Robinson
and Others at West Point
The story of the heroic integration of Major League Baseball will be recalled again and again during Black History Month in 2018. It is a story worth retelling if for no other reason than such men as Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, and Roy Campanella became the spark for a larger civil rights movement. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, Jackie Robinson was “a pilgrim that walked in the lonesome byways toward the high road of Freedom. He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.”
From the beginning to the middle of the twentieth century, baseball shared a deep, symbiotic relationship with the railroad. Just as quickly as tracks spread across America in the nineteenth century, so too did the National Pastime. Teams were forming, and leagues—both professional and amateur—were organizing at a rapid pace, often with an eye to major railroad lines. As the sport grew, Major League teams needed to travel longer distances, and the only way to accomplish this, at the time, was by train.
Sadly, for fans of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game the 2016 version of the contest showed a dramatic decrease in interest when measured by the level of television viewership. Not only had the television audience dropped a full 29 percent from the 2015 game, but for the first time in 50 years that audience fell below 10 million to an all-time low of 8,707,000 viewers from a high of 36,330,000 in 1976.
The period from 1935 through 1962 encompassed a time when the Major League All-Star Game became an annual fixture of the American sports calendar, bringing together baseball’s best, brightest, and most beloved players each year. (World War II travel restrictions, however, prevented the game from taking placing in 1945.) It was also a time when the East-West Game at first flourished but then died as baseball—and the All-Star Game—became racially integrated.