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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