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1955

January 19, 1955

Dan Daniel writes in The Sporting News on the front page of this edition of the newspaper, "The tremendous plant at Vero Beach provides a most interesting study in player education and farm system management. Several hundred players live there, some in service barracks conditions, others in cottages with their families….Numerous fields are in use all morning and all afternoon at Vero. When the main squad goes to Miami…there still are a lot of minor league players and accredited Dodgers at Vero, with coaches working under programs similar to those used by college football mentors in pre-season practice."  1  

February 2, 1955

The Dodgers enjoy an advantage in scouting and signing amateur free agents according to Bill Kerch, writing inThe Sporting News. "Brooklyn's biggest selling point is that it has at least two clubs in each classification and this, naturally, gives the rookies a chance of moving up in the system…Also, the fact that every club in the Brooklyn system goes to Spring Training at Vero Beach, Florida where the rookies mingle with such starts as Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, etc., is a tremendous selling point used by most Dodger scouts."  2  

February 18, 1955

The Brooklyn Dodgers and the City of Vero Beach agreed to a 21-year lease for Spring Training on the former Naval Air Station Base. The original lease was signed in 1952, and this extension carried a lease for 21 years with an option for an additional 21 years. A condition of the lease requires that proceeds from one game played at Dodgertown will be assigned to the city airport fund.  3

March 1, 1955

The Brooklyn Dodgers' first workout of the Spring Training season at Holman Stadium was accompanied by three high school bands. 4

March 2, 1955

United States Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson was a visitor to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. Wilson, with his wife, was presented with a Dodger hat as he greeted Walter O'Malley, Bud Holman and Dodger Manager Walter Alston. Wilson was the President of General Motors when President Eisenhower selected him for the Cabinet. Wilson's experience in the car industry earned him the nickname, "Engine Charlie."  5

March 8, 1955

Intra-squad games are meant to help teams get ready for exhibition games, but this intra-squad had a special moment. Eighteen-year old Don Drysdale made his debut pitching for the Dodger major league team run by coach Billy Herman. The "Hermans" defeated the "Pitlers (coach Jake Pitler), 8-1, but it was Drysdale who caught the attention. In the final inning, he retired the side in order. Dodger manager Walter Alston said, "I don't know how far away (Don) Drysdale is, but he certainly has the tools." Jackie Robinson was scheduled to face Drysdale in the ninth inning at the plate, but deferred to a pinch-hitter. Robinson said of Drysdale's fastball, "I'm not ready to look at that kind of stuff."  6

March 9, 1955

It wasn't all baseball played at Dodgertown. Roscoe McGowen writes of a doubles tennis match featuring Terry O'Malley, daughter of Walter O'Malley and a current secretary on the base with public relations chief Red Patterson playing Vice Presidents Buzzie Bavasi and Fresco Thompson. Bavasi and Thompson won the match, two games to one, but Patterson, Bavasi, and O'Malley were not through. The three then encouraged Peter O'Malley, Terry's brother, broadcaster Vince Scully, and sportswriter Jack Lang to participate in a three-on-three basketball game.  7

March 9, 1955

Roscoe McGowen writing in The Sporting News that Walter O'Malley broke into a press conference the media was having with Manager Walter Alston. O'Malley said, "I'd like to say our problem which has been defense, has been solved. Charles E. Wilson, Secretary of Defense will arrive at 12:30 and I want to take Alston down to meet him." McGowen wrote, "So the opening meeting was curtailed slightly in order that the manager of the Brooklyn team might meet the man who allegedly would solve all of the Dodgers' defense problems."  8

March 16, 1955

Walter O'Malley was seen at Dodgertown climbing a palm tree for the purpose of planting Cattleya orchids. The O'Malleys enjoyed their hobby of working with exotic orchids at their home, and orchids from their home in Amityville, New York, were among the flowers at Dodgertown. Walter O'Malley planted 50 of the Cattleya orchids on palm trees surrounding Holman Stadium in the hope they would blossom. Dodgertown was known as a place for plants and flowers with a list of flora as 300 hybrid hibiscus, 200 kumquat trees, 150 cocktail orange trees, 10 acres of fruit groves with pink and white grapefruit, tangelos, oranges, and tangerines, Australian pines, Mexican flame vines, bougainvillea and petunias. A Cymbedium (orchid) on the base has more than 150 blooms.  9

March 16, 1955

Dodger executive Red Patterson has had an impact at the poker game at Dodgertown. Roscoe McGowen writes that Walter O'Malley was a standard poker player, but has changed up on the game with wild cards. Patterson's method of choosing the wild card was to ask someone at the table the date of their birthday."  10

March 16, 1955

Jackie Robinson spoke with anticipation about the 1955 Brooklyn Dodger team. "There's more spirit on this ball club than I've ever seen before." Columnist Arthur Daley made a bold prediction of the 1955 Dodgers at the end of his column, "Wait 'til next year," they said hopefully in Flatbush at World Series time. "This is next year."  11

March 18, 1955

Every spring, there is a new baseball phenom and this spring it is a left hand pitcher, Sandy Koufax. However, in his game story, New York Times beat writer Roscoe McGowen reported, "Sandy Koufax, Brooklyn's $17,000 bonus righthander" made his debut tonight against the All-Stars, a group of Dodger minor league players. 12    In his first Spring Training in Dodgertown, Koufax had been inactive with a sore back. Dodger pitcher Joe Black gave Koufax advice on how to get ready in Spring Training and told Koufax "he would be foolish to pitch with a sore arm or back." Black said, "If he didn't do well he would be a bum-and an expensive bum." The wait was worth it for Sandy. In a night game at Holman Stadium, Koufax pitched two innings and fanned five and not one hitter batted a ball fair. McGowen wrote this understatement, "The kid (Koufax) showed a good fast ball and a fine curve." Also pitching for the Dodgers in the game that night Koufax started was 18-year old Don Drysdale. He followed Koufax in the game and all Drysdale did was strike out eight hitters in four innings, including three consecutive called third strikes against three different pinch-hitters."  13

March 22, 1955

They didn't call them the Bronx Bombers for no reason. On this date, the New York Yankees had 24 hits and scored 19 runs at Holman Stadium to defeat the Dodgers, 19-8. The day wasn't entirely lost. Don Drysdale entered the game in the fifth inning and allowed two runs in the three innings. New York Times writer Roscoe McGowen reported, "Strangely, the youngest pitcher in the game was the most impressive. He was 18-year old Don Drysdale." Drysdale retired the side in order in the fifth inning, started a double play grounder to stop the Yankees in the sixth inning and then yielded two runs in the seventh inning.  14

March 23, 1955

International News Service photographer Herb Scharfman borrowed a chimpanzee from McKee Jungle Gardens nearby and posed the animal in a Dodger uniform. The photo ran nationwide on the news service.  15

March 23, 1955

Walter O'Malley writes to an unhappy fan about the Dodgers' previous day loss to the New York Yankees when the Yankees swatted out 24 hits and scored 19 runs. O'Malley tells the fan "Spring Training is the time when rookies are to be given their opportunity." He goes to tell the fan that "I was tremendously impressed to see a boy just out of high school pitch as effectively as Don Drysdale did." Drysdale would win 209 games in his career as a Dodger and be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.  16

March 28, 1955

Sports Illustrated magazine runs a remarkable original piece of art by illustrator John Groth of a typical day in Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida in this issue. Groth was known for a technique as "speed line" where the art is accomplished by using rough, unpolished lines and he then completes the lines with watercolors. Groth has four works of his at the National Art Museum of Sport. His artistry is displayed through the entire painting. Players are seen everywhere in games on Fields No. 1 and No. 2, doing exercises, posing for photographers, pitchers warming up in the strings area, players practicing in the sliding pit area, and hitters facing "Iron Mike", the pitching machine in the batting cages. Groth also shows players testing their reflexes by throwing a baseball through a cradle like table that causes the toss to veer erratically. 17 The magazine made a gift of the artwork to Walter O'Malley. His reaction on seeing the painting at the Dodger offices was "I think (the) picture is a knockout!"  18 The painting even resided at Ebbets Field for one day in Walter O'Malley's office. A delivery receipt showed arrival of the artwork at Ebbets Field on May 4th, 1955, but the next day, Walter O'Malley wrote Matt Burns of the Dodger staff that "This painting is in my office at Ebbets Field. I would like to have it brought to my office at 215 Montague Street." 19 On May 31, 1955, O'Malley would write artist Groth to say "I want to thank you for the wonderful water color you did on Vero Beach which is now hanging in my private office at 215 Montague Street. We're mighty proud of Vero and I can assure you that no one ever caught the full spirit and scope of the camp more fully than you did in your painting. If you're ever over around our office, I surely wish you would drop in and see the place of honor accorded your painting." 20 O'Malley also would thank Sports Illustrated art editor James Snyder by saying, "I want you to know that I certainly appreciate the fine cartoon by John Groth which has been framed and sent to me. It has a place of honor in my office in Brooklyn. In fact, it commands a full wall. There is nothing the Dodgers are prouder of than our Vero Beach set-up, both as a Spring Training camp and as a Summer Boys camp and Mr. Groth has done a fine job of capturing the whole layout in a single cartoon. Around the Brooklyn office we have been getting a big kick out of picking out the various characters who are depicted in the cartoon and we all appreciate the fine job done by the artist. Many thanks for this fine gift."   21

March 30, 1955

The Brooklyn Dodgers announced in Vero Beach, Florida they will televise 25 games on the road this season. The addition of road games ran the Dodger total to televised games to 103 games that include one exhibition game. Walter O'Malley said, "We have arrived at a point at which we must adopt a positive attitude toward television and resist the negative attitude…..Our only thought is to make a move on solving this attendance problem. We can sell all our box seats, all our reserved seats, but those general admissions don't go."  22

May 3, 1955

Walter O'Malley speaks to the Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors of the progress of the Dodgertown Summer Camp for Boys. "He (O'Malley) then spoke of the summer boys' camp at Vero Beach and he was satisfied with the excellent facilities for a summer camp. The weather is good and the campers were very enthusiastic about it. This time a year ago the camp had 10 boys signed. This year there are 80. The Chairman expects that the total enrollment will be in the vicinity of 100 campers."  23

August 24, 1955

An editorial in The Sporting News gives credit to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida in the development of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodger team. "The Brooklyn management has put together a team which may be compared favorably with the most talented in the game's history. This did not just happen. It required years of expensive organization, fortunes spent in farm and scouting operations, as well as in the famous camp at Vero Beach."  24

October 4, 1955

Florida State Senator Merrill Barber of Vero Beach congratulates Walter O'Malley on October 4, 1955, the date of the Dodgers' first World Championship. Barber's telegram reads, "My sincerest congratulations, Irishman, to you and your associates and the entire Dodger squad. I know that all of Vero Beach joins with me in this expression of congratulations. We are all proud of you. Look forward to seeing you in Vero Beach in the near future." Other Vero Beach citizens who congratulate Walter O'Malley on this date are Vero Beach Mayor Elmer Bauer, Bob Curzon of the Vero Beach Press Journal, and Judge L.M. Merriman, E.G. Thatcher, executive secretary of the Vero Beach Chamber of Commerce.  25

October 5, 1955

Bud Holman had two huge honors in two days in October, 1955. The first one arrives on October 4 as the Dodgers defeat the New York Yankees, 2-0, in Game 7 for the Dodgers' first World Championship. The next day, Holman was honored by Eastern Air Lines where Chairman of the Board Eddie Rickenbacker awarded Holman with a platinum and diamond "Hat in the Ring" pin to recognize Holman's 25 years of service with Eastern. It was Holman who encouraged the Dodgers to make their Spring Training base in Vero Beach, Florida and Holman later served as a member of the team's Board of Directors."  26

1 ^ Dan Daniel, The Sporting News, January 19, 1955

2 ^ Bill Kerch, The Sporting News, February 2, 1955

3 ^ The Sporting News, March 2, 1955

4 ^ Roscoe McGowen, The Sporting News, March 9, 1955

5 ^ March 2, 1955, New York Herald Tribune

6 ^ Roscoe McGowen, New York Times, March 9, 1955

7 ^ Roscoe McGowen, The Sporting News, March 9, 1955

8 ^ Roscoe McGowen, The Sporting News, March 9, 1955  

9 ^ Roscoe McGowen, The Sporting News, March 16, 1955

10 ^ Roscoe McGowen, The Sporting News, March 16, 1955

11 ^ Arthur Daley, New York Times, March 16, 1955

12 ^ Roscoe McGowen, New York Times, March 18, 1955

13 ^ Roscoe McGowen, The Sporting News, March 30, 1955

14 ^ Roscoe McGowen, New York Times, March 22, 1955

15 ^ Walter O'Malley Correspondence to James "Art" Wilson, March 23, 1955

16 ^ Oscar Ruhl, The Sporting News, March 23, 1955

17 ^ Sports Illustrated, March 28, 1955

18 ^ Walter O'Malley to Red Patterson, Unknown date

19 ^ Walter O'Malley to Matt Burns, May 5, 1955

20 ^ Walter O'Malley to John Groth, May 31, 1955

21 ^ Walter O'Malley to James Snyder, May 31, 1955

22 ^ The Sporting News, March 30, 1955

23 ^ Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors, May 3, 1955

24 ^ The Sporting News, August 24, 1955

25 ^ Merrill Barber to Walter O'Malley, October 4, 1955

26 ^ The Sporting News, October 19, 1955

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