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1946-49

1946

September 16, 1946

Branch Rickey speaks of plans for spring training for the Brooklyn Dodgers in California and Florida. "Mr. Rickey reported generally on his ideas for spring training. He is considering Florida, California, and two locations outside of the country. He went into considerable detail on the number of exhibition games and possible attendance. The matter was left in Mr. Rickey's hands." 1

1 ^ Minutes, Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors, September 16, 1946

1947

June 26, 1947

Dodger President Branch Rickey discusses spring training with the Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors. "Mr. Rickey reported on the spring training trip and went into great detail to show the economies of the operation at Pensacola over Havana.   He stated that he would have advice for the Board in the near future on 1948 spring training plans." 1

July 18, 1947

A report from Branch Rickey mentions the possibility of the Brooklyn Dodgers doing their spring training in the Dominican Republic. "Mr. Rickey reported that he was in receipt of a firm offer from the Dominican Republic which has invited the Brooklyn organization to train there. The offer is of such proportions that Mr. Rickey though it advisable to personally inspect the locals. He will leave on Monday, July 21st, and any member of the Board is welcome to accompany him." 2

October 15, 1947

Dodger President Branch Rickey discusses the spring training re-location of the Brooklyn Dodgers. "Mr. Rickey outlined the Corporation's tentative plans for the spring training, stating that the camp heretofore held at Pensacola would be moved to Vero Beach on term highly satisfactory. He then discussed the arrangement with the Dominican Republic where the Dodger and the Montreal teams will train during the month of April. Mr. Rickey mentioned that sites in California had been considered and were still under consideration for future years One that seemed to offer some possibilities was El Centro, California." 3

December 7, 1947

The Dodgers are looking ahead to the future with their spring training base in Vero Beach, Florida as reported by team President Branch Rickey. "The Vero Beach camp is presently being set up to be another edition of the school started at Sanford and continued last year at Pensacola. Based on the experience of these two camps, economies will be affected. The board was unanimous in endorsing the idea of such an understanding and agreed with Mr. Rickey's prediction of accelerated production. 4

December 19, 1947

Branch Rickey submits the potential lease of land for spring training from the city of Vero Beach to the Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors. The notes detail, "It is expected that a five year lease at $1.00 per year will result. The lease will be submitted to the Board for subsequent approval." 5

1 ^ Minutes, Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors, June 26, 1947

2 ^ Minutes, Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors, July 18, 1947

3 ^ Minutes, Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors, October 15, 1947

4 ^ Brooklyn Dodger Board of Director Notes, December 7, 1947

5 ^ Brooklyn Dodger Board of Director Notes, December 19, 1947

1948

February 22, 1948

Spring training is the first item of discussion for the Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors. "The Board considered the estimated cost of spring training and plans were analyzed. The President renewed his invitation to the Board members to visit and inspect the Trujillo (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) and Vero Beach camps, hoping that as a result of such visits, the Board will be in a position to adopt a fixed policy re spring training commitments for a five year period with a view to consolidating at Vero Beach, Florida. 1

February 25, 1948

The Sporting News reports that all gate receipts of exhibition games played at Dodgertown this spring will be given to the city of Vero Beach for the purpose of funds for athletic buildings. 2

March 1, 1948

The Dodgers' Fort Worth minor league club is among the first Dodger minor league clubs to open the first spring training in Dodgertown. 3

March 10, 1948

Tom Meany writes in The Sporting News of the innovative spring training camp to be run by the Brooklyn Dodgers in Vero Beach, Florida. "Mass production and the assembly line have come to baseball……And now comes Dodger Town, where at least 400 Brooklyn farmhands will be in action during the month…..Dodger Town is one of the most amazing set ups in the history of baseball….There are, at the moment, only three diamonds here, but it probable that more will be laid out. The citizens of Vero Beach have collaborated about 200 percent with the Dodgers, hopeful that Rickey will stick to his half promise to bring Dodgers and Montreal here to train in 1949." 4

Banners are raised at Dodgertown, the first spring training season ever held at the Vero Beach, Florida base. Among the banners were statements of "Winter Home of the Brooklyn Dodgers", "You Are Now Entering Dodger Town". Sign markers designed "Rickey Boulevard", "Durocher Trail", and "Flatbush Avenue." 5

March 14, 1948

The Fort Worth club of the Brooklyn Dodgers is scheduled to play the first games at Dodgertown against the Memphis minor league club. Carl Erskine, future Brooklyn Dodger, is on the Fort Worth roster and he would later pitch the first game at Holman Stadium in 1953. 6

March 31, 1948

Field No. 2 is dedicated at Dodgertown as Jackie Robinson homers in the first inning and the Dodgers defeat the Montreal Royals, 5-4. Roy Campanella has his contract purchased by the Dodgers from Montreal and plays for the major league club. On the field that day for the Dodgers were future Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Arky Vaughan, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, and Pee Wee Reese. Playing first base for Montreal was Kevin Connors, later known as "The Rifleman," actor Chuck Connors. Among the dignitaries attending the game are Florida Governor Millard Caldwell and Baseball Commissioner Albert Chandler. 7

April 5, 1948

Dodger prospects are shown en masse on a cover of Life Magazine and then as part of a photo essay inside the magazine. The magazine cover was shot at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. 8

April 5, 1948

Two Dodger minor league players assisted in saving the life of a visitor to Vero Beach. George Bufflap and Robert Duchaney saw a tourist having problems with the current of the Atlantic Ocean. The two players went into the water and helped Juanita Bell of Cincinnati to a safety line. 9

April 14, 1948

Dodger minor league instructor Pepper Martin, the "Wild Horse of the Osage" and a member of the St. Louis Cardinals' "Gashouse Gang", signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers football team in the All-America Football Conference. Martin was to be signed as a kicking specialist, and the 44-year old instructor said, "I can still pass pretty good and I know I can still run." 10

April 14, 1948

Dodger President Branch Rickey stated his high opinion of former Dodger manager Burt Shotton at a luncheon in Vero Beach, Florida. Rickey said "In my experience, there have been two great managers in the history of baseball-John McGraw and Burt Shotton. Now McGraw is dead and that leaves Shotton standing alone." 11

April 19, 1948

Former Dodger manager Burt Shotton, spent Opening Day of the major league season watching three games at Dodgertown, the new Dodgers' spring training base. Shotton had managed the Dodgers to the 1947 National League Pennant after Leo Durocher had been suspended for the 1947 season. After his suspension ended, Durocher returned as the team's manager and Shotton did scouting duties for Branch Rickey. 12

April 21, 1948

Dodger President Branch Rickey said the average number of years for a player to make it to the majors is three and a half years to five years, but under the current Dodger method, one full year could be cut from development time. 13

May 5, 1948

Dodger minor league players on their way from Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida, to their regular season teams, assisted injured persons from a train accident. Players on the Sheboygan, Wisconsin and Cairo, Georgia, Dodger minor league teams provided rescue efforts when a train wrecked near Adamsville, Alabama. Players used sheets to pull an injured girl from one train and a group of injured persons were carried up with sheet tied together up the slope of a hill and then administered first aid until first responders could arrive. 14

July 14, 1948

Dodger catcher Roy Campanella discussed his 1948 spring training season and his excitement at being put on the major league club. "This spring Montreal trained at Santo Domingo with Brooklyn," said Campanella "And I played against the Dodgers every day, sometimes in the outfield, or at third, other times catching….But the real thrill happened April 1 at Vero Beach, Florida when I was shifted to the Brooklyn roster." 15

August 11, 1948

The Sporting News contains a photo of Vero Beach Mayor Merrill Barber signing a lease with other civic officials allowing the Dodgers a five year lease to have spring training at "Dodger Town" in Vero Beach. The lease also includes a five year option to continue training there. 16

August 11, 1948

General Douglas MacArthur expressed his wish for the Brooklyn Dodgers to play exhibition games in Japan in 1949. At this time, however, the Dodgers were expected to return to Vero Beach, Florida, where "The Vero Beach setup turned out to be such a huge success early this year that Branch Rickey immediately made plan to have the Flock (the Dodgers) train there in 1949." 17

December 1, 1948

J.G. Taylor Spink, publisher of The Sporting News, recounts a visit he made to Florida with Dodger manager Burt Shotton. Spink and Shotton drove 30 miles outside Vero Beach to a ranch. Shotton told Spink, "The man who owns this hideout regards it as his castle…..So would I, if I owned it. His name is Bud Holman, and he's given only one other key to this place. You'll be surprised to learn who has it….The man is waiting up at the house for us." In a few moments, Spink and Shotton came across Dodger president Branch Rickey sitting by the lake, hooking a worm on his fishing pole." 18

December 1, 1948

Dodger President Branch Rickey, making an inspection tour of the team's spring training facilities, discovered that half of the rooms on the base had been leased to others, likely creating a shortage of housing for Dodger players. However, the city of Vero Beach negotiated with the owner of the base to retain the Dodgers and show their appreciation of the business brought to the community. The Dodgers were then confident every player in spring training would have sufficient housing. 19

1 ^ Brooklyn Dodger Board of Director Notes, February 22, 1948

2 ^ The Sporting News, February 25, 1948

3 ^ The Sporting News, March 17, 1948

4 ^ Tom Meany, The Sporting News, March 10, 1948

5 ^ The Sporting News, March 10, 1948

6 ^ The Sporting News, March 3, 1948

7 ^ Roscoe McGowen, New York Times, April 1, 1948

8 ^ LIFE Magazine, April 5, 1948

9 ^ The Sporting News, April 14, 1948

10 ^ The Sporting News April 14, 1948

11 ^ Oscar Ruhl, The Sporting News, April 14, 1948

12 ^ The Sporting News, April 28, 1948

13 ^ The Sporting News, April 28, 1948

14 ^ Paul Rickart, The Sporting News, May 5, 1948

15 ^ Lester Bromberg, The Sporting News, July 14, 1948 The Sporting News, August 11, 1948

16 ^ The Sporting News, August 11, 1948

17 ^ The Sporting News, August 11, 1948

18 ^ J.G. Taylor Spink, The Sporting News, December 1, 1948

19 ^ The Sporting News, December 1, 1948

1949

January 12, 1949

It may be January, but the Dodgers are already thinking of spring training in Dodgertown. Writer Harold Burr talks of the details upcoming for spring training in Vero Beach, Florida. By mid-March, it is estimated that 450 minor league players will be developing skills for the season. To help them get ready, the Dodger organization would take advantage of three auditoriums, two housing barracks, apartments, clubhouses, and storage facilities. Players will have their own post office, a new swimming pool, a circulating library, and rooms for recreation. Burr continues, "All these will give Dodgertown-its trade name-the look of a small and thriving city." 1

March 2, 1949

Cartoonist Willard Mullin depicts a Brooklyn Bum on the back of a horse with the caption "Give a Man A Horse If He Can Ride." The Dodger caricature sits on the top of a horse that is labeled "Winter Book Favorite." There are four future Hall of Famers on the 1949 spring training club; Roy Campanella; Pee Wee Reese; Jackie Robinson, and Duke Snider. 2

March 5, 1949

Branch Rickey is interviewed by Dodger broadcaster Red Barber and discussed the value and use of Dodgertown. It is Rickey's hope to reduce the time it takes to develop a player for the major leagues. Rickey described Dodgertown as an "instruction school" staffed by men with the "teaching instinct" where "players learn more quickly than they would by the observation method, which is watching other players and trying to copy them. We are trying to reduce this game to a science." 3

March 7, 1949

The Brooklyn Dodgers considered the idea of purchasing land in Vero Beach, Florida. "At this point Mr. Bud Holman of Vero Beach was invited to enter the meeting. He told the Directors that he thought it was possible to acquire title to the real estate at Vero Beach. The Board questioned him as to the procedure, amount involved, and pertinent data, with the result that Mr. Holman was asked to look into it further and let Mr. Rickey know." 4

March 9, 1949

A Dodger minor league player in Dodgertown had a full schedule. All players received a document detailing wake-up times, breakfast service, morning lectures, warm-up and practice on the field, lunch and dinner times. However, it wasn't all work for players as Dodgertown provided croquet, shuffleboard, table tennis, current movies in the theatre three times a week, and amateur talent nights. 5

March 16, 1949

Cost estimates to run Dodgertown for the 1949 spring training increased to $225,000 from $40,000 in 1948. One reason for the expense increase was the two AAA teams, St. Paul and Montreal, did not train at Vero Beach in 1948. 6

March 16, 1949

Red Smith of the New York Herald Tribune writes of the Dodgertown daily schedule to develop players. "Anyone laboring under the misconception that baseball is still a game should visit the incredible factory called Dodgertown, a vast industrial plant which Branch Rickey built to turn out Dodgers on a stamping machine, so many per hour with every item cut to the same size and pattern." Smith wrote of the morning where players were awakened at 7 a.m. by police whistles. After breakfast, players receive their written schedules for the day. Smith also notes, "In Dodgertown…nothing is wasted. Faculty members use the old blue satin uniform the Dodgers formerly wore in night games and used coaches of the football Dodgers are pressed into service teaching baseball." 7

March 16, 1949

Machines are used to let ballplayers have as much batting practice as they wish. At Dodgertown, players used a batting tee, a relatively new invention and three different types of pitching machines are available in the cages. There is a "bazooka" type that throws pitches without notice to the player, the "Iron Mike" and "Overhand Joe", a pitching machine that has an arm and delivers as if it was a live pitcher. Players were measured in the batting cage for their bat coverage of home plate and are able to see if they can hit the outside pitch effectively. 8

March 16, 1949

The Philadelphia Athletics defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-3 in 11 innings in a game at Dodgertown, the first time two major league clubs played an exhibition game there. The Dodgers had played the Montreal Royals in three games in Vero Beach in 1948, but were now going to face some major league competition. 2,579 fans attended the game and future Hall of Fame umpire Jocko Conlan worked the bases. 9

March 17, 1949

Former Dodger pitcher and future Hall of Fame pitcher Dazzy Vance paid a visit to Dodgertown. 10

March 19, 1949

Saturday night is amateur talent night in Dodgertown and one of the featured acts is a future noted television actor. The "Vero Beach Verities" is put on by Arthur Mann, assistant to Branch Rickey and featured Dodger players and personnel in their unique talents. Kevin Connors, later to be known as film and TV actor Chuck Connors, gave an insight to his future hopes when he performed "Casey at the Bat" with a humorous style that brought down the house. Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca sang in a quartet with former Dodger catcher Bobby Bragan, now a minor league manager, Arthur Mann, and a Dodger minor league player. Mann did his own impression of Branch Rickey lecturing on baseball with the help of a blackboard. Red Barber served as master of ceremonies. 11

March 19, 1949

In an intrasquad game at Dodgertown, Dodger manager Burt Shotton switched his entire infield by one base in a clockwise position. First baseman Gil Hodges went to play third base, second baseman Jackie Robinson moved from second base to first base, shortstop Pee Wee Reese went to second base, and third Billy Cox transferred to shortstop. Said Shotton of the unusual move, "I may want some of these guys to play a new position and I don't want them telling me they have never played it before." 12

March 23, 1949

The Sporting News photographs a day at the Dodgertown sliding pit. Two instructors stand on different sides of the sliding pit and hold a rope approximately two feet off the ground as a teaching device to help players slide low and right to the base. 13

March 23, 1949

A day of instruction is ongoing at Dodgertown in the 1949 spring training season. Red Smith of the New York Herald Tribune writes "Dodgertown is one part baseball factory, one part military reservation, and two parts baby farm." Smith also described the available devices for baseball instruction as "mechanical pitchers, stationary batting tees, a 60-yard sprint course, a hatful of stop-watches and a faculty of pencil bearing coaches. Workmen are laying sewer pipe for a mechanical retriever of fly balls. When a ball is fielded, it will be rolled through inclined pipes into baskets near the pitching machine." 14

March 23, 1949

Jess Collyer is an umpire at Dodgertown during spring training, but his regular job is director of recreation at a prison in Ossining, New York, otherwise known as "Sing Sing." When baseball games are played at the prison, Collyer said "We don't lose many baseballs. Whenever a foul goes over the wall, we have at least a dozen volunteer retrievers." 15

March 25, 1949

Florida state officials are expected to attend an exhibition game between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Dodger announcer Red Barber is the master of ceremonies for an on-field ceremony to feature Dodger manager Burt Shotton, Baseball Commissioner A.B. "Happy" Chandler and Al Simmons, 1953 Hall of Fame elected player, now a coach with the Athletics. 16

March 30, 1949

J.G. Taylor Spink, publisher of The Sporting News, follows Branch Rickey around a typical day at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. Spink details Rickey's day from the time he gets up at 6:00 a.m. until his day ends at nearly midnight when he gives orders for tomorrow's schedule. One phone call was taken by Rickey at 6:10 a.m. from Fred Haney, the Dodgers' AAA manager at Hollywood who was calling Rickey at 3:10 a.m. Hollywood time. Rickey commented on the early morning phone call with Haney. "What time do you get up to make calls like this?" asked Rickey to Haney. "I'm with Bob Cobb, (creator of the Cobb Salad, owner of the Brown Derby Restaurant and owner of the Hollywood team), "We haven't gone to bed yet." 17

April 1949

Dodger minor league players come to Dodgertown to work on their playing skills, but the Dodger minor league managers themselves were hoping one day to get to the big leagues. And in 1949, a sizeable number of Dodger minor league managers made their own mark in the major leagues. Walter Alston, the 1949 St. Paul AAA manager, would later manage the Dodgers to four World Championships and be elected to the Hall of Fame. The other AAA manager was Fred Haney in Hollywood, who in less than 10 seasons, manage the Milwaukee Braves to a 1957 World Championship. The AA manager, Bobby Bragan, would coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers and manage three teams in the major leagues. Ed Head once threw a no-hitter in his first start in the 1946 season against the Boston Braves and was to manage the Asheville club in the Tri-State League. The Miami team would be managed by John "Pepper" Martin, known as the "Wild Horse of the Osage" and a star of the 1931 World Championship St. Louis Cardinal team. George Scherger was to manage the Dodgers' minor league club in Trois Riviere in Canada in the Canadian American League and was a bench coach for Sparky Anderson and the Cincinnati Reds "Big Red Machine" in 1975 and 1976. Larry Shepard, manager of the Billings club in the Pioneer League, would later be a major league pitching coach and managed the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 1968 and 1969 seasons. Joe Hauser, the manager of the Sheboygan team in the Wisconsin State League, was known as "Unser Choe" and while he was a decent major league hitter, was known for his minor league home run feats. In 1930, Hauser hit 63 home runs for Baltimore in the International League and in 1933, hit 69 home runs for Minneapolis in the American Association.

May 4, 1949

A sign in the Dodger dining room said "Take all you want, but eat all you take" led to a $250,000 food bill for the 1949 spring training time. The bill was incurred to house and feed the Brooklyn Dodgers and players on 23 minor league clubs. Spencer Harris, director of Dodgertown, estimated their spring training costs would have been higher had the Dodgers run different camps for their minor league clubs across the country. Harris estimated Dodgertown supplied 1,200 meals a day for 55 days for a total of nearly 66,000 meals. Harris said proudly, "The minor leaguers were fed just as well as the Dodgers and I can safely say that no other organization can compare to ours when it came to preparing meals for variety and taste." Also, players could take advantage of oranges and grapefruit on the base and two large containers of orange juice were enjoyed by players. 18

October 19, 1949

An end of season report summarizes the effect of the Brooklyn Dodgers and their spring training camp in Vero Beach, Florida. "The balance of our ownership clubs trained at Vero Beach, Florida, using the facilities of the former Naval Air Base there. The cost of our organization's camp there, including improvements of a quasi-permanent nature, total $176,665.05. So successful was our experience at Vero Beach in 1948, especially in the field of special instruction, that the Brooklyn Club negotiated a lease with the City of Vero Beach, dated July 20th 1948 running for a period of five years with an option to renew for an additional five years, and covering our use of the Naval Air Base at Vero Beach for a rental of $5.00 for the term. We must maintain the buildings which we use, and carry proper insurances. The lease is also subject to a lease of the property to the City of Vero Beach from the United States Government providing for its return to the government in case of need. The Brooklyn club itself trained at Vero Beach, Florida for the first time in 1949 in company with all our ownership clubs except two in the far West. In all, 620 players participated in the training and instructional program, going from Vero Beach to each of the 28 clubs represented in the Brooklyn organization…The overall cost of spring training in 1949 was $172,454.47 as compared to $168,109.32 in 1948." 19

1 ^ Harold Burr, The Sporting News, January 12, 1949

2 ^ Willard Mullin, The Sporting News, March 2, 1949

3 ^ Red Barber, CBS Radio Network, "Club House", March 5, 1949

4 ^ Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors, March 7, 1949

5 ^ The Sporting News, March 9, 1949

6 ^ The Sporting News, March 16, 1949

7 ^ Red Smith, New York Herald Tribune, The Sporting News, March 16, 1949

8 ^ Red Smith, New York Herald Tribune, The Sporting News, March 16, 1949  

9 ^ Roscoe McGowen, New York Times, March 17, 1949

10 ^ Roscoe McGowen, New York Times, March 18, 1949

11 ^ Harold C. Burr, The Sporting News, March 30, 1949

12 ^ Roscoe McGowen, New York Times, March 19, 1949

13 ^ The Sporting News, March 23, 1949 

14 ^ Red Smith, New York Herald Tribune, The Sporting News, March 23, 1949

15 ^ The Sporting News, March 23, 1949

16 ^ Vero Beach Press-Journal, March 25, 1949

17 ^ J.G. Taylor Spink, The Sporting News, March 30, 1949

18 ^ Ben Gould, The Sporting News, May 4, 1949

19 ^ October 19, 1949 Brooklyn Dodger Organization End of Season Report

For more on the history of the Dodgers Spring Training visit walteromalley.com